El Matador, The Munchener - 6/10, Burger Wellington 2012

Parrilla-grilled Wairarapa beef patty with Kapiti aged cheddar, salad, housemade tomato relish and mustard, on an Arobake bun - $9.90

A good looking and unassuming burger
El Matador is a Buenos Aires style eatery - or so it says on their website.  I wouldn't know what a Buenos Aires style eatery was.  Unless I was in Buenos Aires.  And then if I walked into an eatery it would most likely be a Buenos Aires style one.

Walking into El Matador, you definitely knew you were not walking into a Kiwi cafe.  You were greeted by smoke (guessing from the BBQ).  And there was an entire butterflied lamb carcass hanging by the grill.  I have no idea what it was doing there.  Or what its function was.  I wonder if you could like point at a part of it, i.e. the rump and say "I'll have that portion please.  Medium rare if you don't mind".  However, it remained untouched throughout our visit so its purpose is still unknown.

In any case, this was my first time in El Matador and my first time in a Buenos Aires style eatery.  And joining me for the first time was my long time lunch partner Matt.  Now Matt was quite disappointed that he had missed out on all those earlier burgers (Although I did let him know what was happening and when we were going where.  It was his own fault he missed out).  He was actually lucky to sneak in to this outing as today was going to be a rest day for me.

The tomato relish only came on every second burger!!
Luckily, I did have a free hour today and so decided to take the trip to El Matador.  What intrigued me about this place was the price of the burger.  It was the only burger in the competition that cost less than $10.  In fact it was probably 50 percent cheaper than the next cheapest burger in the competition.

I have noted that burger prices have been relatively steep.  It is difficult to find many under $20, with many in the $25 - $29 price bracket.  At the end of the day people, it is a burger.  A burger was not designed to be expensive. Basically a slab of minced meat in a bun with some salad stuff and a few condiments. I know you can make an expensive one. But it doesn't necessarily translate into a tasty one.  The last two weeks has really tested my credit card.  Perhaps next year my selection criteria will be the 15 cheapest burgers in the competition.  The real challenge will be to deliver quality flavours with a price constraint.  Now that would separate the men from the boys.

So anyhows, at less than $10, our expectations weren't exactly high.  And on arrival, we could see how they had kept the price down.  It wasn't a large burger, and it wasn't accompanied by fancy bacon, jus, anchovie, prawns, pork belly or other gimmicky flavours.  It was just a solid meat pattie with lettuce, cheese and tomato, with mustard and a homemade relish.  Oh.  and apparently they only put the relish on every second burger.  And you don't get fries with that.

The focus was on the pattie, which was nicely cooked.
Man was Matt disappointed about not getting the relish.  It was all he could think about as he devoured that meaty morsel - with no relish.  When I questioned him afterwards about what made the burger stand out he couldn't think of anything.  When I questioned him on what was bad about the burger he couldn't think of anything.  All he could offer up was the fact that he didn't have relish on his burger.  Mate!!  Glad he wasn't  at the other tastings.  Tits on a bull in terms of helping me write up the review...

So what did i think?  The pattie was flavourful and had a nice texture.  There were some herbs, onion and spices blended into the pattie and it was cooked to a nice medium bordering on medium rare.  And it was a good sized pattie relative to the bun.  The rest was just the support crew.

The relish didn't really stand out, so Matt wasn't really missing out on too much.  In fact, there was no distinctiveness or features to the burger that made it stand out.  It wasn't too messy.  It wasn't too dry.  It wasn't too big or too small.  Not sweet.  Not earthy. Not bad. Not outstanding.  Perhaps Matt was spot on with his assessment and did know what he wasn't talking about??

There was nothing to criticise, yet nothing to rave about either.  At the end of the day, it was the $10 Munchener from El Matador, a Buenos Aires style eatery - with a smoky atmosphere and a raw lamb carcass hanging above the counter...

The burger.  The price point.  The atmosphere.  Six out of ten seems appropriate.

PS Matt has since advised me that his the suit he wore to lunch has made his wardrobe smell like a seedy Buenos Aires Cafe.


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