Review Date: 07/06/15
Visit Date: 07/03/15
The meyersandchangification of ethnic cuisine spreads to Boston's emerging Fort Point Channel neighborhood with chef Ming Tsai's Blue Dragon. From the outside (despite the A Street address, the front door is on Melcher Street), it looks more like a diner than the East-Meets-West theme (ingredients of one with the techniques of the other) the telegenic chef has been promoting for nearly two decades. The dishes look more to the gastropub playbook than the more refined cuisine at the chef's flagship Blue Ginger in Wellesley.
There's an open kitchen, the requisite reclaimed wood, a good mix of high-top and standard tables, a bar with roughly a dozen stools and a very made-to-look-lived-in feel. There's also a burger on the menu, and that's why I was here.
A super fresh seeded roll in the brioche family, courtesy of Iggy's in Cambridge, lends a slightly nutty flavor and a pliable, collapsible construction that grabs the burger nicely without ever getting in the way. It's hard to see any visual evidence of butter, but it felt and tasted buttered and griddled.
I have no doubt that the patty was griddled, having seen no grill marks, having tasted no grill flavor and (most importantly) having passed the griddle and witnessed a burger cooking on the way to the rest room. Flavorwise, the beef was more than pleasant, though with no extra flourishes. What it did have going for it—and I mean really going for it—was extreme gentleness owing to the grind, loose patty construction, restrained handling and skilled cooking. The outer surface got a perfect crusting while keeping the interior very moist and semi-juicy. Seasoning went undetected, but there was enough going on toppingswise that it didn't even matter.
Here's where things get really interesting. Mysterious, even.
The smoked Gouda got a slight melt and seemed generous enough, but I never noticed it. To say that
mushrooms don't rank highly among my favorite toppings would be a gross
(in more ways than one) understatement, but the shiitakes here added a nice complexity
along with a surprisingly positive texture (read: not slimy).
But what's that crispy thing above the cheese? It looks like bacon, but bacon's not listed as an ingredient, so I'm going to go with the teriyaki onions (the second burger photo is the one that most supports this theory). The disc of crispiness remained in place triumphantly through
handling and bites that encountered a brittle crackle. Said crackle felt like thinner, more well done
tempura, with deeply infused flavor right there with it. Whatever it was, I liked it. And a fried item inside a burger remaining crunchy all the way through and never grandstanding? I also respected it.
the teriyaki onions and tomato jam, it was tough to tell where one ended
and the other began, but there's a moistening element and a sweetness
that rival the cooked-down onions in the Back Bay Social Club signature burger.
The mix is arguably too sweet, but taken as part of the larger
ensemble, it works. In fact, the whole ensemble works.
Simple long fresh cut fries with a hint of skins left on got a double fry to make them doubly crisp. Solid without being noteworthy otherwise. A creamy and slightly spicy dipping sauce provided a nice alternative to ketchup. Hardly Asian, but I'm glad they don't feel like they have to make every item conform to an East-West motif.
Wontons and shu mai are competent but nothing you can't get better and cheaper in Chinatown or even in (gasp) the 'burbs.
The banh mi with roast pork, mortadella, spicy aioli and house pâté is the most traditional of several banh mi offerings. Though untraditional in the ratios (more meat, less pâté and vegetable presence) and the condiments (aioli trumping the less noticeable pickling flavors), it still succeeds as a sandwich. Part of what makes it is the Iggy's baguette, which is more substantial (and believe it or not, more authentic) than the airy and crumbly French bread you see at many of the banh mi joints.
Taro chips, served with the banh mi, are crisp, light, tasty and grease-free. If they sold 'em by the bag, I'd buy some.
Asian slaw, also served with the banh mi, is fairly bland.
Service is professional and knowledgeable.
The Bottom Line
There's obviously a lot more going on here than the burger, but the Dragon Burger is hardly an afterthought. This is the epitome of that rare toppings driven burger where the beef is so much more than just a vessel. The ingredients work well together and the beef patty cookery shows some serious talent in that kitchen.
USA Today review of Blue Dragon
Yelp reviews of Blue Dragon
Zomato reviews of Blue Dragon
Tabelog reviews of Blue Dragon
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