But back to the burger. Served with just caramelized onions, cheese is not an option, and keep the ketchup away. The onions and aged beef supply plenty of umami and ketchup would nudge the beef somewhat away from center stage, where it belongs. (They do offer cheese on their less expensive Minetta Burger, which I hear is quite good in its own right, but it's the dry aged beef you want. I assumed I would eventually try both, but I find it hard to imagine not ordering the Black Label every future time. Perhaps I'll try a bite of the Minetta Burger if a future companion orders one.)
The Black Label is different enough from other burgers that it took a couple bites for me to fully wrap my head around. Even though I knew the burger contained aged beef, the extreme level of dry-aged mineral funk which it so familiar when diving into a steak at Peter Luger's was still surprising. After those first two bites when I had processed the deliciousness of this heavenly patty and recalibrated my expectations I was loving every morsel and could not get enough. I fear I have been spoiled for future burgers. In fact, I had a burger yesterday for lunch at Balthazar, another McNally restaurant which actually shares Executive Chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr with Minetta, and the burger there was disappointing this time. This does not bode well for future burgers of a normal pedigree.
Even the Black Label's bun is something special; it is an ethereal creation that just barely restrains the power of the beef. In the picture above it may look too substantial, but once the ample juices from the burger interact with the bun it proves to be the perfect foil for the meat, a light but somehow sturdy enough shell to add a contrasting texture and provide a delivery system for the burger. And once you've had a few bites of the burger, its intoxicating tangy aroma envelops you with each bite. The fries are pretty great as well.
François slings a mean cocktail.
Now my dilemma, in addition to the Black Label Burger's greatness, I've also read that the Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf for two (with Roasted Marrow Bones!) is perhaps the greatest piece of meat in the city. I had discounted this as hyperbole, but now that the burger has shown itself to be worthy of all the praise, should I really now ignore this other dish?
Here's my guess on approximate proportions for François' drink, I don't have grapefruit right now to test, but I'll update if I get around to verifying this works:
Dry shake, shake, and double strain; Flamed Orange twist to garnish
- ¾ oz Cognac
- ¾ oz Coruba
- ½ oz Grapefruit Juice
- ¼ oz Lemon Juice
- (scant*) ½ oz Light Agave Nectar
- 1 oz Egg White
- 2 dashes Grapefruit bitters
*UPDATE: I got a grapefruit and tried out my guesstimated recipe above, and it worked pretty well, perhaps a tad too sweet, so use a bit less than ½ oz Agave, and it's quite a fine drink: