It’s a long wait, but the 100-ingredient gourmet burgers and five-hour bone marrow fries are among the best in town.
*Featured in Crave’s November 2016 issue
Text by Tiffany Chan, photos by Samantha Sin
There are burgers, and then there are burgers. In pursuit of his perfect rendition, Andrew Marshall – aka Chi Sin Burgers (chi sin is Cantonese for crazy) – has dedicated years to the craft. Having been in and out of the F&B industry for 30 years, Marshall had the idea to introduce gourmet burgers years ago, but had neither the money nor resources. After a series of pop-ups, he settled on a small but viable space in Sai Ying Pun.
A modest restaurant with just 15 seats, Electric Ave is tucked away in an alley off First Street and is recognisable by its graffiti-clad wall. On a stifling Saturday afternoon, as the lunchtime crowd began to wane, we waited (impatiently) for 25 minutes for our burgers and skinny rosemary fries, watching Marshall working in his closet-sized open kitchen, our hair catching the smoke from the sizzling patties, our stomachs growling. When the food arrives, almost all is forgiven, because the buns are plump, the patty juicy, and condiments punchy.
Flooded with adrenaline from the kitchen, Marshall approaches every table and explains – with a passion so intense it’s hard to believe he is talking about burgers – why it takes so long. Everything is handmade as far as possible, from the hand-shaped beef patty, seasoned with bone marrow and home-dried portobello and porcini, to the 10-ingredient onion confit. His beef burger boasts more than 100 ingredients and – astonishingly – requires a two-day prep and cook time. “Now you know why they call me Chi Sin,” he quips.
His fries are also the result of a laborious, five-hour process. Potatoes (yes, real potatoes) are peeled, cut into various shapes, soaked in water with pH9 to get rid of the starch, dried with a fan, chilled almost to freezing point, then fried in hot oil and drizzled in rendered bone marrow. Even the ketchup is homemade; Marshall simmers a dozen ingredients for five hours until they are reduced to a chunky jam with a warm, spicy tang.
“Some people think that what makes a burger very good is just its taste,” he says. “And then there’s a burger you actually care about. We make everything – the sauces, chips, ketchup, onion confit, tomato jam – from scratch. The burger, you see, is being cooked, not assembled.”
It is a laudable effort, but at what point is more, just more?
“If I wanted to be the cheese and bacon kind of guy, I could. But I don’t want to be. We have a chef behind the burger, not just some guy who’s assembling raw ingredients together,” he says. “A lot of people think I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing – for burgers, essentially.”
1. Classic Aussie Beef Burger
Gourmet burgers tend to be inconveniently mountainous. Marshall’s rendition, however, is juicy and plump while maintaining structural integrity. The Australian black Angus patty is juicy, but could be beefier. And yet even without the bacon, the burger is surprisingly punchy with the homemade onion confit and tomato jam. We could forgive the lack of fresh tomatoes, which are often too wet anyway. Would we have been able to taste the 100 ingredients in the burger if we didn’t know they were there? No, but it was an excellent burger nonetheless.
2. Creamy Haché Chicken Burger
Frankly, we’ve never had a great chicken burger that wasn’t breaded and deep-fried, so we were pleasantly surprised to find the haché chicken burger was delicious. Marshall roughly cuts the chicken breast and re-forms it into a patty in a ring mould. Because it’s no longer one piece, the patty doesn’t stretch but stays rather loose. Dressed in a silky, creamy sauce with slivers of sticky onion, star anise and coriander, it seems to be a healthier option but without compromising on flavour. The bed of arugula adds freshness so it never feels too heavy.
3. Chicken Carbonara Burger
Marshall calls this a “beast of a burger”, and for good reason. In many ways, it is similar to the creamy haché chicken burger, but much more decadent. The patty is slathered in rich, cream-based carbonara sauce, studded with pieces of smoked pancetta, and topped with a fried egg that is cooked, but still runny. It’s a monstrous creation, packed with flavour: peppery, spicy, smoky, umami. While not easy to eat (our fingers slipped and dripped with cream and egg yolk), we relished every bite.
4. Five-hour Chips with Bone Marrow
Marshall spent at least six months getting his chips exactly right, finally settling on a five-hour process that includes soaking, drying, freezing and frying. The chips are hand-cut into a variety of shapes and sizes, offering both chunky, fluffy wedges and small ends crisped until almost burned. We could smell the fatty, aromatic bone marrow from afar, and when the chips arrive, they are hot and crispy outside and endlessly fluffy inside. Delicious.
5. Chilli Con Carne Fries
In his rendition of the classic chilli, Marshall dissolves a bit of Marmite in water to use as a stock, adds dark Japanese chocolate, and a splash of Guinness for depth. The skinny fries are drowned in the chilli, which is topped with a pool of sour cream, grated cheddar, fresh coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime. We liked the complexity of the chilli, but given the sourness of the cream, we found the acidity of the lime threw it off balance. We would have preferred more cheese to hold the hot fries and chilli together.
LG/F Tai Yik House, 27-29 First Street, Sai Ying Pun
Tel: 2858 8883