30 Burgers in 30 Days [BONUS]: Preview of the Dork Burger at Mohawk Bend (Day 31)
[Missed an installment? Catch up with 30 Burgers in 30 Days in our meaty archive.]
When you've been eating burgers for 30 days, it's hard to go cold turkey. Or would that be cold beef? Though it's not slated to open until mid-to late-April, Mohawk Bend has already generated the requisite excitement and backlash.
The 10,000-square foot restaurant and bar, going into the old Ramona Theater on Sunset near Alvarado, is the latest venture for Tony Yanow, the man who transformed Tony's Darts Away into a hub for San Fernando Valley beer lovers. The taps at Mohawk Bend will flow freely, but it's the kitchen we're most interested in. It's helmed by two executive chefs, one known for her vegan and macrobiotic fare, the other a committed omnivore. Yet Sera Pelle and Randal St. Clair share a sensibility that allows them to collaborate on everything from house-made root beer to artichokes with red wine aoli.
75-80% of Mohawk Bend's menu will be vegetarian, and about two-thirds of that will be vegan. While the kitchen will be carefully divided into areas for cooking meat and areas for cooking vegetarian fare, the menu will be fully integrated, with fire-kissed vegetables sharing space with the dork burger, a mix of duck and pork. "It's bi-polar in the best possible way," St. Clair says.
Meat & Bun: The menu won't be finalized until the end of this week, but the dork burger, quite possibly LA's first, is a lock. Unlike the gooey, mammoth-looking dork burger at Seattle's Lunchbox Laboratory, Mohawk Blend's dork burger is a more manageable 7-oz. patty made from 50% pork shoulder and 50% lean duck breast mixed with Spanish chorizo. Why 7 ounces? Because 8 ounces felt too overwhelming and 6 felt too puny. Also, a dork burger loses less weight when it cooks than a comparably sized beef burger. The meat is cooked sous-vide at 55° (C) for about two hours then thrown onto the griddle to give it a nice sear. (If you've ever wondered how your favorite high-end burger joint ensures every burger hits a perfect medium rare, they're probably using a circulator.)
The bun is an oversized, house-made sourdough English muffin that should be perfect under Eggs Benedict or blackberry preserves. Springy and chewy, it also provides a solid framework for the burger and its toppings. We love sourdough, the more sour the better (Even Erick Schat's extra sourdough bread seems mild to us.) The tart, resilient bread jump-starts the mild, faintly gamey burger with its carefully layered toppings.
Toppings: This is where Pelle and St. Clair's ingenuity shines. The burger is stacked with elements precisely calibrated to add various textural and flavoring notes without overwhelming the burger. It seems easy, but it's a difficult balance to achieve. The dork burger is topped with vegan garlic mayo (which will also be on their veggie burger), slivers of fennel, flash-pickled paper-thin slices of apple, pickled onions, a slice of iceberg lettuce and a dollop of house-made ketchup with sweet, rich hints of hoisin.
Sides: Exceptionally thin, these shoestring fries get a jolt of flavor from togarashi salt, a blend that includes, among other spices, chile, citrus and black sesame seeds. Other sides might include seasonal "fire-kissed" vegetables (roasted and brushed with turmeric, cumin, sea salt and olive oil) or a Savoy cabbage and apple slaw.
The Upshot: The preview version of the burger is great. It's hearty and satisfying yet has a crisp cleanness to it, and the flavor combo is original. Now, if they can just pull it off on a nightly basis.
- Day 30: Rabbit Burgers at The Standard
- Day 29: Burgers & Fried Gnocchi at Osteria La Bucca
- Day 28: Hamburger Habit in West LA
- Day 27: Taylor's Prime Steak in Koreatown
- Day 26: Master Burger in Jefferson Park
- Day 25: Burgers & Burrata at Little Dom's in Los Feliz
- Day 24: Morton's The Strakhouse in downtown LA
- Day 23: Rustic Canyon Wine Bar in Santa Monica
- Day 22: Bar Bouchon in Beverly Hills
- Day 21: Stout in Hollywood
- Day 20: Mom's Burgers in Compton
- Day 19: Bill & Hiroko's in Van Nuys
- Day 18: Pacific Dining Car in Koreatown
- Day 17: Pie 'n Burger in Pasadena
- Day 16: Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks
- Day 15: Exotic Meats at Billy's Burgers
- Day 14: Ground & Pound at The Bucket
- Day 13: Bacon Heaven at The Oaks Gourmet Market
- Day 12: Lazy Ox Canteen
- Day 11: Cassell's in Koreatown
- Day 10: Burgers & Beer at The Bottle Room
- Day 9: Pretzel Buns at Hole In The Wall Burger Joint
- Day 8: Late Night Burgers at Eveleigh
- Day 7: Apple Pan Keeps on Truckin'
- Day 6: Perfection at Comme Ça
- Day 5: The Fix Is In
- Day 4: Fun with Buns at Rounds Premium Burgers
- Day 3: Whipped Cream & Other Delights at The Counter
- Day 2: Kimchi & Cultural Fusion at Kalbi Burger
- Day 1: Alcohol & Excess at GO Burger
Get the Squid Ink'd Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly food newsletter, which features top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips and a link to our print review.