This evening I was one of six food writers and reviewers invited down the “Hard Rock Vancouver” (which is actually located in Coquitlam) for their newest feature: “Battle of the Burgers”. This would be the first of many competitions to breathe some new interest into the casino’s food program. It first launched on May 1st, 2019; inviting guests in to try one of six creative, limited edition burgers. Six burgers dreamt up by “Hard Rock’s” in house chefs and staff, and our group had the job of judging them all. We were also the very first to learn about this competition and to try it for ourselves.
But you too can try these new burgers over the course of May (ends May 31st). And based on customer’s purchases and votes, the winning burger will find a permanent spot on the “Asylum’s Lounge’s” (within Hard Rock) menu. For every burger ordered a vote is placed, and the customer gets a ballot. The ballot enters them into a draw to win free burgers for a year. (One per day, 356 possible burgers in a year). Similarly, there too is an incentive for the chefs who has their burger chosen as the winner.
Each burger is created by one of the very multicultural members of the kitchen. It serves as a good way to get them engaged and allows them to showcase their food on a plate. Each burger is named after a song or artist, a fact that is included on the burger’s bio, along with where its creator was born, and their favourite singer/performer.
Our judging was based on presentation, taste, and creativity. I mainly focused on the latter. I was searching for a burger that didn’t taste like any of the many others I have had. What were the chefs doing to take this their own.
The “Viva Las Vegas Burger” showcased Chef Fernanda’s mixed heritage and the familiar flavours she grew up with. This is a beef burger with chimichurri mayo, onion salsa, Italian sausage, pineapple bacon jam, kale, tomato, and mozzarella cheese; all on an onion bun. The zesty sausage was the stand out for this. Its heated flavour was well balanced by the tangy mayo and the refreshing salsa. A favourite amongst the judges. And although the menu lists it, there actually wasn’t any kale in this burger, but instead plenty of peppery arugula.
The “We Jammin’ Spam Burger” was my favourite, spam isn’t new to the game, but all that topped it was new to me. Chef Krisken from the Philippines, was inspired by his love of Bob Marley and surfing in this one. This gave you every flavour from salty and sweet to umami and bitter. Fun for the mouth and a winner for spam enthusiasts. Grilled spam, grilled pineapple, jalapeño jam, Japanese mayo, yaki nori, and cheddar cheese, on a onion burger. The use of spam was a flashback to my childhood. Here, the salty meat product was paired with familiar flavours. It had a Japanese feel with the crispy seaweed and sweet and creamy mayo; and a tropical flair with the juicy grilled pineapple. Our judge’s panel agreed that this was great, but it would have been made better with a fried sunny side up egg.
With the “Guinness in the Jar” I was looking for more of that classic dark and stormy beer to come through. You certainly smelled it when it arrived; in the form of a warming, beefy stew. White cheddar, Guinness braised onion, butter lettuce, tomato, and Guinness aioli on a brioche bun. Our chef creator for this one was Mark from Ireland. And his stewed onions in Guinness was the focal point of this burger. There was plenty topping the tasty beef patty, finished with the classic pairing of cheddar. Overall, a hearty and warming burger, and probably the best to pair with a pint.
The “Black & Blue Beatles Burger” is for those that love blue cheese, and I do. Although I wish it gave me something new to enjoy with it. Like some grilled peaches for some sweetness, or even some hot wing sauce, to play off that popular combination. Blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumble, cracked black pepper, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on beef patty, between a brioche bun. Here, the Chef Kulwinder did not fall on her background, but instead crafted a burger from what she liked and what she has found success in, in the past. Once again I did like the flavour and all the cheese, but tonight I was searching for something unique. Here, a mango chutney for sweetness and a nod to the Chef would have been nice. These were the creative twists that I was looking for. Next, I would suggest separating the battered and fried pickle spear that topped the burger, from the actual burger. Pickles and the blue cheese don’t jibe, both are very strong flavours that leave you craving something fresh and sweet to balance them out with. I learned the hard way and had a battle in my mouth.
The “Burger of the Stars” is by Chef Antonia from Venezuela. She tapped into her Mediterranean heritage for this, also pulling from Spanish and Latin cuisine. An olive tapenade mayo with smoked paprika, roasted red pepper, goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on brioche bun. The roasted pepper was plentiful and most pronounced, where I wish I had more from the olive mayo, to give it more depth. A tasty burger, but there wasn’t anything to set this one apart.
“Burger for the Weekend” is the brain child of one of the casino’s promotions manager. He went for chicken as his protein and focused on building a healthier burger. Our judging table was surprised by how much we liked this, especially considering there wasn’t a chef behind its conception. Johnny D simply had something similar in Hawaii and wanted to recreate it for “Hard Rock”. I liked the use of chicken to better highlight the array of toppings. I just wished that it was charred and jerked in rub for more of a blackened chicken flavour. This would have gotten along even better with the sweet chilli and the creamy avocado standouts. Here, I also wanted more sweet chilli sauce, and a thicker consistency, like spread for a stickier texture. Grilled chicken in a sweet chilli sauce with mayo, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, avocado, and cheddar; all on a brioche bun.
There you have it, six all new burgers eagerly awaiting your approval. So head down to “Hard Rock’s Asylum” to try them all, and vote for your favourite for a chance to win a black burger card and the ability to dine on burgers for a year! This is only around for the month of May so hurry down soon. And I suggest timing your visit for a weekend of live music, to fully enjoy the “Hard Rock” experience. Don’t deny your cravings.
HARD ROCK CASINO
2080 United Boulevard, Coquitlam BC, V3K6W3