Rembrandt's 2: Modern Art
Our former reader (yes, we had one) John e-mailed me saying Rembrandt's in Fairmount, one of the first places we reviewed, no longer had the delightfully bigoted Paesano Burger. After send this e-mail we never heard from him again, either because he was pulled into the deep blue nether by the twisting arms of Great Cthulhu or because he got mad that we didn't like Good Dog (I choose to believe the former). In its place is now the Rogue Burger, which is a similar concoction with a slightly different spice mix and an egg on top.
We planned on trying the Italian Slander Part Deux until we noticed it was joined by a slew of other burgers. There was now a Rembrandt Burger made entirely of chubby 18th century women, a lamb burger and a turkey burger. The new offerings didn't strike us as exceptional, until we saw the last one on the menu. It was so intriguing, so mysterious, so unassumingly named that our curiosity got the better of us and we simply had to know what inspired its unusual title.
The Burger: The 21 Day Dry Aged Beef Burger really doesn't need anything else in the description to make me want to eat it. But it adds pork bell, dijon mustard, black truffle mayo and an onion sprout salad because overkill is the best way to kill. That or defenestration.
Kyle: When the menu called for pork belly, I expected a few strips, maybe some tiny cubes of meat. To say I was slightly incorrect would be slightly incorrect. Sitting on top of our barely-legal burger was an entire baby worth of pork. Pornographers wish they could get this kind of meat on film.
Pork belly, for the unlearned, is used to make everything good in the world: bacon, penicillin, David Bowie songs and female orgasms are all products of the pork. In its unrefined state it looks like something straight out of Hellraiser, a skin lasagna consisting mostly of fat. In most dishes it's diced, like pancetta, or sliced, like bacon. Aside from a specialty store meat counter, I've never seen it in anything resembling its natural state until we were at Rembrandt's.
The meat brick on top of the burger was delicate yet strong, with a pure pork flavor absent any gimmicks aside from the gimmick of putting a brick of pork on a burger. Sinking your teeth into pork so tender it parts like a fine mousse is sublime, and the juicy, fatty flavor is outstanding. With a texture closer to foie gras than any pig, it was the best pork belly I've ever tasted, and among the finest pork products to pass my lips.
Dry-aging is, arguably, the optimal treatment for beef, allowing the rub to sink in and take hold over the flesh like the catholic church. If the spices are too strong or the meat too bland, you end up with cafeteria-worth salisbury steak, but when the ingredients are truly choice it's unlike anything else. Rembrandt's cow is of superior quality, juicy and fatty without losing the rich beef flavor and maintaining a finely ground texture. The dry-aging process imparts a peppery, incomparable savoriness to the already mouth-watering and substatial burger. It did leave the burger slightly drier than is normal, but this in no way detracted from the experience.
In place of the typical LTO, there was an onion sprout salad with black truffle mayo, offering sweet and hot hints to the proceedings. I detected hints of lemongrass and horseradish in the mix, which proved excellent complements to what is already the greatest flavor on earth. Sprouts are a nonfood, like lettuce or Tastykakes, with no real purpose or benefit to our diet, but in this dish they provided a pleasant texture which was more than enough. And, honestly, there's nothing you could put truffle mayo on that I won't eat. The dijon aioli contributed additional sweetness and, while not necessary, was nice.
The worst part of the meal were the fries, which were excellent. I only say this because I miss the balsamic-drenched frites from their old burger. This isn't a legitimate complaint. I'm just a punk.
I'm firmly of the belief that everything in the world is bad, and that things can only get worse. Whenever I hear something has changed, my assumption is that it wasn't beneficial. Rembrandt's new burger is the first time I can remember something changing for the better. If you can think of any other changes in the past few years that were an improvement, I'd love to hear them, but until then this is a world first. Rembrandt's used to make one of the better burgers in Philadelphia. Now it makes one of the best. Rating: 9/10.
Laurence: A sad truth. The only thing I know about Rembrandt besides the fact that he opened a bar/restaurant in Fairmount in the 1800s is that he painted pictures. I think usually he painted tits and stuff. So I looked up his life a little more. It turns out Rembrandt was also a burger fanatic and a drunk. I think Kyle is really Rembrandt in disguise.
Apparently Rembrandt painted all his canvasses with burger ingredients. The prevailing theory, which is supported by sections of Rembrandt’s personal journals, is that he ate burgers to inspire him to paint. Each of his periods can be tied to a specific series of ingredients in specific proportion. It was through advances in spectrograph sciences that preservationists at the Philadelphia Museum of Art were able to look at the burger ingredients used to paint all of Rembrandt’s works and were able to recreate all the various burger recipes he enjoyed based on the chemical composition and concentration of the pigments. Further, the series of paintings and time period thought by most scholars to be his height of Rembrandt’s creativity and talent can be associated with a single burger recipe.
We asked our waitress at why they had decided to rearrange the burger offerings and she explained that the chef had been hard at work tweaking flavors to create the best burger possible. This burger is based on Rembrandt’s finest achievements and is a partnership with the PMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
I can say this much. I love art. This burger had us talking excitedly in anticipation for a long time before we actually had the pleasure of eating it. The anticipation, in contrast to most other things I am excited about on earth, was worthwhile. Every part of this burger is phenomenal.
The bun was high-end brioche. Common as brioche is here, it is still an excellent choice for a bun and there's a reason it's become common. The reason being that it tastes amazing.
The sauces, a collection of flavors that delicately blended and added a delightful sharpness to the meal, would have been happily consumed by me if they came in a pint glass. Adding truffle mayo to this burger is like displaying the Hope Diamond on a Faberge egg pedestal. It's so delightfully excessive that I couldn't help but be awed. The radishes and sprouts added a minimal crunch and a nice change of texture while remaining subservient to the master. It was a wonderful take on adding greens to a burger without having a bizarre lettuce fringing the meat. The flavors imparted were bright and clean.
But this entire exhibit is stolen by the two deserving stars. The dry-aged beef is as good as meat comes. The flavor and savoriness of each bite is alone worth the full price of admission. Seared and glistening with fatty drippings, there few burgers that look as appetizing, or as large. This burger is a monster. And it's made more monstrous by the pork belly on top, which could have been a meal unto itself. Rembrandt’s takes nothing but the nuclear option with this topping. It's a slab of pork, crisped and marbled with fat. It's bad for you in every way you can imagine except how it feels in your mouth. You asked for it. Rembrandt’s delivered. Shed tears of joy. The fatty pork gave a lot of the moisture back to the beef that had been lost in the drying and aging. The salty flavor is everything you could hope for and the blend of the flavors, is nearly perfect. Even in epic proportions the flavors on this burger meld like they were being grasped by a Vulcan. In all I had only one complaint and that was just how much fat there was on the pork belly. That much fat is not unexpected, and not a problem but I made the mistake of really dissecting it. You're not supposed to do this. Just put the bun on and start eating. Don't analyze the components. I did recognize that I was consuming several gobs of rendered fat and this gave me pause. A pause that could be measured in nanoseconds but a pause nonetheless.
Rembrandt’s has just established himself as the greatest artist in history as well as one of history's greatest burger geniuses. We can be proud to live in a city that takes high art so seriously. Rating: 9/10.
Pork belly should be added to everything.