Almost as soon as I returned from Sydney fresh with the disappointment of not having eaten Plan B's Famous $10 Wagyu Burger while I was there, I was surprised by a full colour page ad of Burgerfuel's new Wagyu burger!
Burgerfuel is a New Zealand originated slightly upmarket burger chain. Motorhead themed, they feature burgers with such names as Bacon Backfire and Studnut Stilton. While pricey (the burgers range from $7.90 for the plain burger up to $11.90 for the Bastard - a phenomenal creation including beetroot, mango, avocado and bacon. Burgerfuel really took off when it hit, as people were starting to look for tastier alternatives to McDonalds and Burger King, and many had the money to afford it.
The mention of Wagyu beef in a burger brought back memories of the Plan B special on a previous occassion - the coarse-ground 500 day grain fed beef melting in the mouth and luxurious on the palate. I wanted that experience again.
The Burgerfuel Serving Counter.
Tasty Refreshments - L&P and Lemon Lime Bitters.
Doofers are a Burgerfuel trademark creation - a small piece of card that can be folded in to the ultimate burger eating utensil - eat a burger with your hands, but without getting mess and sauces everywhere! Perfect!
Folded Doofer - Side View.
Three MASSIVE Burgers mmm...
Yes, yes, I know it seems a little opulent, but I ordered a standard cheeseburger to go with C and I's Wagyu burgers, just for comparison. As we shall see, my foresight is unfathomable..
Wagyu Burger Autopsy Shot.
The 1/3 pound ground wagyu beef patty is supplemented by melted swiss cheese, caramelised onion, horseradish sour cream, salad and relish, all served on a smaller-than-standard bun.
The beef patty - griddle-cooked to well done and with a noticeable though not crunchy char on the outside has a clean beef taste at first. Though somewhat obscured by the condiments, I can make out tiny traces of the famed Wagyu intramuscular fat, though there is barely any. The grind is uniform, and very fine, though thankfully not too densely packed, leaving a coarse and chewable texture in the mouth. Though the flavour is very slightly reminiscent of the signature nutty Wagyu taste, and the fat imparts a oily mouth coating, I don't get a beef experience that differs from the norm - the flavour, though tasty, is still too much clean chuck beef, and could easily be confused for this were it not for the 'Special 1' stamp on the burger bag.
The horseradish sour cream dressing is a wasabi-tinged creamy dressing and combines well with the sweet and sticky caramelised onions to form a great foil for the grunty beef. I had at first worried that the combined might of the 3 sauces might have overpowered the delicate Wagyu taste - though as there was none of that taste to begin with, and they seem to have left out the relish, the balance was just about right.
Salad, in Burgerful terms, consists of iceberg lettuce, tomato and red onion rings - all are fresh and crispy as always, and impart a little juiciness to the burger.
I love the fact that this burger is served on a 'Lightweight' bun, as the regular Burgerfuel buns are large and much too bready - always offputting the beef/bun ratio that is critical for a good burger. However, it being lightweight does not serve to alleviate it from the usual Burgerfuel bun misery - it is tasteless and vaguely wholemealy, and with a regular medium whole structure that makes it just average for holding the thing together.
1/3 Pounder with Cheese Burger Autopsy Shot.
The 1/3 Pounder with Cheese consists of the 1/3 pound beef patty, melted cheddar, bread & butter pickles, dijon mustard, relish and aioli on the standard sized bun.
I was glad that I bought this, so I could compare the taste of the beef from each. When eaten side-by-side there was a noticeable difference firstly in the texture of the patty. The standard patty was very mealy and uniform, and a mellow grey-brown colour - the hallmarks of a pre-formed, machine-made, and possibly pre-frozen patty (though I'm sure I read somewhere that Burgerfuel patties are always fresh, not frozen). Asides from this textural wasteland, the beef flavour itself was muted, and somewhat underwhelming. This as opposed to the Wagyu patty, which had a coarser grind, was less uniform, a little fattier, and generally more 'fresh' tasting. Though it wouldn't be easy to pick if you blind-tasted the patties on separate occassions, tasting side-by-side made the Wagyu flavour stand out just the tiniest bit.
The Doofer in Action!
Yes, as expected, the Burgerfuel Wagyu burger was a big disappointment. Burgerfuel CEO Josef Roberts was quoted in the NZ Herald as saying he didn't know what grade of beef it was, but it was definitely "100% Wagyu".
And this really brings us to the debate on what can really be considered Wagyu. The meat for Burgerfuel's Wagyu patty is souurced from Australian growers (of which there are only a handful). I suspect they are taking the offcuts and low grade beef ends, as the flavour is not outstanding at all. Firstlight Wagyu growers in New Zealand considers anything below a marble grade of 4 as not making the grade - this is probably the type of meat that goes into these burgers.
Japan is considering getting G1 status for its purebred Wagyu beef, to protect not only the growers and the cattle's sanctity, but also unsuspecting consumers from eating below-the-grade beef that is flamboyantly named as 'Wagyu'. You can read more about the Wagyu trend in this outstanding editorial from The Age here.
187 Parnell Rd
+64 9 377 3345