I just had the best hamburger I’ve ever had outside of the U.S. No, seriously. Let me explain. If there is one thing we Americans know, it’s hamburgers. Cooked on a grill in summertime or on the stove in winter, a hamburger is one thing most Americans spend plenty of time in their life eating. From coast to coast, it’s one thing you will find on most menus-whether covered in guacamole and bacon, truffles and caramelized onions or topped with a slice of cheddar-hamburgers (henceforth known as a burgers) are a part of our collective contribution to the world of food.
Now, being the good American jente (girl) that I am, while living in Europe, I’ve missed hamburgers more than any other American fare outside of tamales (oh wait-those are Mexican), Captain Crunch cereal or anything from Trader Joes own food product line. So when I say I found something worth noting, I’m serious. I’m not only serious; I’m giddy, happy and about to burst with BBQ sauce. Tell all your American and “I’ve once live in America” friends to head to Renaa Matbaren in Stavanger, Norway for le best (BBQ) burger to be had in all of Norway.
Now lets’ begin with what makes a good burger-and especially why I will be heading back to Renaa sometime soon. A good burger is comprised of a well-seasoned and formed burger that’s never been nor ever will be frozen (grrrrrr…..to all of the frozen burgers out there), a toasted bun (crunch is what we are going for here) and if desired, toppings that could stand alone on their own but do much, much better when laid a top that all important burger patty.
So why was Renaa’s burger so good? First and foremost, the burger patty wasn’t the size of a flying saucer. Most places get it wrong because they try to give you too much meat in order to either 1) disguise the poor quality of the meat, 2) stuff/overfed you so you feel ‘satisfied’ aka bloated and don’t want to eat anything else on their menu or 3) they just don’t know what they are doing.
Second thing I liked about the burger patty was that it was cooked properly. It was thoroughly cooked, but slightly (and I do mean slightly) pink in the middle. When my knife first hit the meat, all I could see was juice and “saftig”-ness flowing out. Like a river. However, the meat wasn’t dried out and the patty wasn’t crumbling to bits. What does this all mean? It means that the meat they used wasn’t too lean (the patty would have been dry) or too fatty (the patty would have crumbled).
Speaking of the meat itself, the third thing I liked about the burger patty at Renaa was that the meat wasn’t over-seasoned: it wasn’t too salty, too peppery or too “spicy”. The patty wasn’t spicy at all in fact-which in my opinion is how a burger patty should be-a tasty blank canvas on its own, only enhanced by the brush strokes of toppings, the bun and accompaniments such as fries or salad. A burger patty should “stand alone” and let the eater know what it is all about. I’ve always liked the strong and silent types-and I like my beef patties just the same. Perfectly seasoned and ready to play hokey pokey with my toppings of choice or stand on its own.
This burger is also on my repeat list because the toppings while great on the burger didn’t overpower the other flavors in the dish. The BBQ sauce added some kick but wasn’t too smoky, sweet or spicy-something in the middle of all three. The cheese added flavor and not grease like most cheeses do. The bacon while not my favorite brand i.e. Idsoe’s smoked thick cut (well I think it wasn’t unless they sliced it thinly), was crispy and added a savory taste and texture to the burger.
Last and most definitely not least was the burger bun. OMG. Let me just tell you, who ever thought of toasting the bun in that huge coal oven in the back is a genius. When was the last time I had grill marks, actual grill marks-from-a-grill on a hamburger bun in Europe? Um NEVER. Hello folkens, get with the program! Grill marks are not only good but add texture, help support the patty and toppings PLUS make the burger more of a dish to be enjoyed than a simple sandwich eaten to satisfy hunger. If those European cooks and chefs of you out there learn anything from your American counterparts it is this-TOAST YOUR HAMBURGER BUNS ON A GRILL. I’m only saying it once-but I do hope you get the point.
I took some snaps of the table settings and meal at Renaa, but don’t laugh because I grabbed these with my mobile (cell phone) camera and we all know Steve Jobs hasn’t always been brilliant in the camera phone dept.
Dessert-“Smash” (a Norwegian sweet made of Bugles) sandwich and chocolate truffle, then topped with popcorn and Coca Cola sauce. Not the fireworks I was told it was, but worth a try for the “wow this is different” effect.