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Burger Friday: Harriet Brasserie

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant reviews Updated: November 15, 2013 - 9:49 PM

The burger: A burger -- scratch that, a top-notch burger -- has been part of chef Fernando Silvo's menu at Harriet Brasserie from the day the Linden Hills restaurant opened in spring 2012. 

It's definitely the Chanel suit of burgers: Understated and uncomplicated, an instant classic. "It was never my intention to do something extraordinary," Silvo said. "It's just plain and simple. Everyone is doing so much with their burgers, and I tried to avoid that. Some people just want a straightforward burger, and that's what I'm giving them."

When a burger is this basic, the attention to detail has to be rigid and relentless. And it is. Like so many other smart chefs around town, Silvo is tapping the pasture-raised cattle raised at Peterson Limousin Farms in Osceola, Wis. His cut of choice is shoulder, in part because of its appealing fat-to-meat ratio. Silvo tempers the muscular meat's natural low-level gaminess by invoking a rudimentary cure, grinding it with just salt, pepper and bay leaves and slipping it into the refrigerator for a quietly transformative 24-hour stay. 

Each patty is flattened into a thick, rough-hewn thing, and then grilled, until the center is mouth-melting, fall-apart pink, and each boldly beefy bite streams juices (this is definitely a two-napkin burger). Holding it in your hands -- and yes, if there was ever a two-fisted burger, it's this one -- the Harriet burger feels so substantial, so solid, so right. Even as it disappears.

Beef this good requires little in the way of distracting embellishments, and Silvo wisely exercises topology restraint: a thin, melty and gently sharp slice of Cheddar, a criss-cross of crispy thick-sliced bacon and a small mound of onions and Hen of the Woods mushrooms that have been nurtured on the stove with a generous amount of butter and the barest, faintest traces of truffle. That's it. 

The effect is sublime, and I haven't even gotten to the bun, a golden, gleaming, egg-washed thing of delight. It somehow manages to be sturdy enough to hold up to the heavy-duty demands of that patty, yet it never veers into doughy ponderousness. 

Silvo said he auditioned countless contenders to play the role of hamburger bun, and nothing was doing it for him. Then a local fine-foods purveyor turned him onto a bun that the company orders from a New York City bakery. Bingo. "It's obviously not super-local, which goes against my philosophy," Silvo said. "But I can't lie. They can't be beat."

No wonder this monster sells. And sells. "Maybe more than I want it to," Silvo said with a laugh. "I don't want people to think that we're a burger joint. I like to see people eating something else, too."

Fries: Included, and a joy. Silvo goes to great pains to achieve french fry greatness, cutting, rinsing and drying the potatoes the day prior and double-frying them. His labor pays off. Only the most supremely disciplined among us could be content with just one. 

Price: $14. So worth it.

Address book: 2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2197. Open for brunch 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu. and 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Talk to me: Have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.com. 

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