Located on Atlantic Avenue straddling Boston's business and seaport districts, Trade is a recent offspring of celebrity chef Jody Adams. I've been a longtime fan of her cooking and culinary vision, both at Rialto in Cambridge and at the more casual but short-lived Red Clay in Chestnut Hill. This one splits the difference in terms of cuisine. Trade's modern space that previously housed an art gallery has high ceilings, exposed riveted steel columns, wood paneled walls with secret doors (one of which is the rest room), comfy lounge chairs and a long bar perfect for solo diners.
Before the Burger
Pork Lettuce Wrap: Two immediate ups for this dish ($8). First, this small
plate listed on the menu as singular arrived as plural with two wraps (all
too often it's the other way around). Second, the "Southeast Asian chile sauce" wasn't your typical touristy bottled (or close to it) rendition but actually included a healthy dose of fish sauce (I'll leave nuoc cham and nuoc mam for the posers). The pickled vegetables did a nice job accenting without obscuring what turned out to be a surprisingly large cube of pork (around the size of a Chunky bar). Its crackly crust reminded me of something that would come off a whole hog. Inside, the meat wasn't quite whole hog tender but close enough, with some decent moistnessto boot. It almost looked like one of those deep fried cubed pieces of bread from the old Wesson commercials. Flavor was hoggy and oveny, relying on the accompaniments for most of the oomph, but they did their jobs nicely, making the whole a success.
This is a towering burger ($15), tall and narrow. The bun is in the Brioche family, with a shiny brown dome, fluffy texture and mid-range density (they vary so much these days). From what I could tell, based on my own and visual detective work passing another table, they grilled both halves and buttered only the top half. Much of this tall burger's height came from the height of the bun, meaning there was a lot of it. For me, a little too much of it.
What drew me to this burger initially were two things: Jody Adams and pancetta. They blend the pancetta (in the bacon family) into the patty, ideally infusing the beef with moistness from the fat, saltiness from the cure and another meaty flavor element. Instead, it looked like the pancetta was all on the top part of the patty, not really blended in.
Much of this tall burger's height came from the height of the patty, which didn't come close to reaching the perimeter of the bun. Usually the taller-rather-than-wider approach results in a juicier product, but not so this time. Not even close, unfortunately. I ordered my burger medium rare and it came out well done and then some. The meat was extremely dry, and aside from the top surface, flavor wasn't anything special.
Should I have sent it back, giving them "a chance to make it right"? Maybe, but given the choice between a dry, overcooked burger that I'm eating with my lunch companion and a re-do that I need to negotiate and receive long after my lunch companion is through eating, I'd rather just deal with the dry burger and move on. Based on the caliber of the restaurant and the quality of what else I ate and saw, I'm assuming that my burger was not representative. If I ordered it again, I'd fully expect it to be juicy, though I wouldn't expect much difference in the beef flavor.
Much of this tall burger's height came from the height of its myriad toppings. First, the cheese: they were out of cheddar (it was the day after a major holiday), so mozzarella was the understudy which I agreed to at the time of ordering. I'm not normally a mozzarella fan, but this was a good one: moist, creamy, slightly sour in a good way. More sourness came from some thin, high quality bread and butter pickles. A fancy pants lettuce (butter or Bibb) and sliced tomato were elements that I'd normally take out and eat separately, but after bisecting the burger, I decided to leave them in to fill the moisture void. Caramelized onions got a little lost in the mix. All of the toppings made sense and were presented well, though sourness was the prevailing theme.
The Fries (and such)
These were some very good fries: skin-on, crisp, well salted and slightly moist without feeling greasy.
Other Things I Tried
Salmon: My young bride's salmon entree ($19) looked fantastic (even better than the photo, actually) and the doneness was perfect, delivering crunch on the surface and and an extremely tender and moist interior. The aioli that came with it was thick, eggy, lemony and not getting much use, so I commandeered some for dipping—both the burger (via fork after ditching the bun on my second half) and the fries. It was marvelous stuff.
The Bottom Line
A cheese switch and a drastic overcooking didn't help this burger, but those are things that I chalk up to chance. The blandness of the beef, the bun imbalance and the awkward construction are a different story, making the Trade burger a disappointment anyway. Despite that, I still enjoyed Trade overall and would happily return to try some of the rest of the menu.
Yelp reviews of Trade
Urbanspoon reviews of Trade