Israeli native Uzi Wiseman has developed his deep passion for cooking from the age of 16. He traveled the globe from Africa to Southern India on an extended culinary trip for the better part of two years, eventually surfacing in Los Angeles for a three-month stint at the Peruvian-influenced sushi spot Nobu (it seems like these days Nobu serves as an incubator of promising, up-and-coming chefs) for an intensive internship. That's roughly the time when the owner of a mini mall in Sherman Oaks liked what Wiseman was doing and gave him free rein to open a restaurant concept of his choice in one of the vacant storefronts in his mini-mall.
Open barely three weeks, Psy Burger (short for psychedelic) is the culmination of Wiseman's desire to open a humble joint serving juicy, house-ground kosher burgers incorporating his worldly influences. The simple decor of the small space includes vibrant, eye-popping, colorful paintings of burgers on the spare white walls evocative of vintage Grateful Dead tie-dyed T-shirts. The sound system is tuned to mellow, progressive trance music, which goes curiously well with the burgers. His sous chef, Udi, assists him in the spotless, open kitchen. Due to kashrut kosher dietary laws, Psy Burger closes in the afternoon on Fridays and reopens in the late evening on Saturdays.
Psy's signature burger is the Extra Fat Burger. It features a delicious ratio of 60 percent ground chuck to 40 percent fat, topped with lettuce, tomato and an addictive truffle aioli, based primarily on a mélange of minutely minced shiitake, champignon, portobello and enoki mushrooms. The rich, rustic, hand-formed burger drips with each and every bite. Most kosher burgers around town are dry, desiccated affairs that seem to lack much in the way of flavor due to their predominantly religiously observant audience. But Wiseman's burgers are the opposite. He marinates roughly half of the house-ground beef for 24 hours in seasoned salt, spices and sugar to give the meat a juicy, flavorful punch, while the other half of the ground chuck is seasoned on the spot, resulting in a juicy, drippy burger. The menu recommends making it "PSY-style" by adding kosher lamb bacon, cured from lamb belly, and a fried egg to the mix. You would be wise to heed that advice.
The signature bun is the perfect addition to the drippy burger. It's soft on the inside and chewy on the outside, like a Philly pretzel. However, burgers can be served protein-style on a fresh salad. The menu also offers a variety of salads ranging from grilled vegetables to a Middle Eastern chopped salad composed of diced tomato, onions and fresh herbs.
Wiseman's seasoned kebab burger is just as flavorful as his signature burger. Its novel toppings include pickled lemon peel and a mild-mannered, tomato-based Moroccan sauce. Sides include the usual french fries, sweet potato fries or lacy, thinly battered onion rings. But the unique potatoes confit can't be missed. Tiny, skin-on potatoes are charred on the burger grill, cooked in a mixture of vegetable oils — canola, sesame, grapeseed and the obligatory olive oil — and then basted in a sauce loaded with garlic, sugar, soy sauce and fresh thyme. It's assuredly a playful nod to the French gastronomic classic: duck confit.
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Miso-glazed salmon, grilled spring chicken, deep-fried tilapia schnitzel, lamb burgers and that grade-school classic Sloppy Joe round out the short menu. Nothing stronger than near beer is offered. You'll just have to settle for Nesher Malt, a non-alcoholic malted soda imported from Israel, which is loaded with hops and malted barley. Psy Burger is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, serving up juicy burgers and those savory potatoes confit, which may make you skip your usual fast-food burger haunts.
15030 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (747) 264-0591.