Ever since I conceived of the notion of a to-eat list, Comme Ça (pronounced comb-eh sah) has resided on that list. The reason is because once upon a time, Jane Sigal of the New York Times called The Comme Ça Burger “perfect.” That is no small claim and no small publication. But how would it fare against my unvegan palette? Would it crumble to the ground and beg for mercy like the Father’s Office Burger or would it leaving me begging for more like Umami Burger? I hoped it would be the latter.
Comme Ça is not your average everyday restaurant. The prices aren’t out of control, but a burger for 17 greenbacks isn’t something you just choose to eat in passing. Hence, my mom treated me and my girlfriend to dinner at Comme Ã‡a on the most important occasion of all – my birthday. And because it was my birthday, I didn’t just jump right to the burger. Instead, I started out with some Soupe A L’Oignon Gratinee, which is fancy French-speak for French Onion Soup, because it looked so damn good at the table next to us. I wanted to order it Al Michaels-style (aka “hold the onions”), but opted to split it with the girlfriend and eat around those onions. Despite said onions, this was a good choice. The gruyere cheese melted over the top alone would have been enough to make it worthwhile, but the delicious gooey croutons and flavorful broth served as a great warm up to the reason I was there.
After all this time, it was finally mine. The menu claimed that it was made with angus beef, cheddar, dressing and carried a side of pommes frites (fries for the riff raff), but I didn’t want to take any chances. I asked our waitress if it contained anything else, and as she described some sort of strange cole slaw-like concoction I had to ask her to forgo it. She insisted I at least take it on the side and I did to humor her. Luckily, that side meant it was off in its own little pan and made no contact with my meat unless I willed it. I ordered the burger medium rare and it turned out to be as medium rare a burger I had ever seen. Totally brown on the outside, mere millimeters inside the burger, the beef turned into a dark pink color. But amazingly, there was nothing raw about the burger.
Comma Ça’s burgerizing method involves searing the burger to get the outside brown and then tossing it in the oven to get the inside cooked, but still retaining the peak of flavor and juiciness. Their method is amazing at producing awesome patties, yet for all the goodness of the patty, I couldn’t help but expect more. All this talk about a burger topped with ordinary cheddar and a pretty good bun? Don’t get me wrong…I like simplicity, but if I (or the person who happens to be taking me out to dinner) drop 17 bucks on a burger, it had better be spectacular. Comme Ça produced a damn good cheeseburger, but in the end it wasn’t a lot more than a cheeseburger.
The pommes frites were a pretty good companion to the burger, though. Then, to top it all off, the waitress brought me out some free birthday dessert. This was their Chocolate Pot De Creme, which loosely translates to something chocolatey with fresh whipped cream. I may not be a big chocolate man, but this dessert was light, creamy and a deliciously sweet way to end my birthday meal.
So, was the Comme Ça burger a victim of overhype? Are there just too many amazing burgers in LA? Was I simply depressed because it was my birthday (aka the day I realize I have one fewer year to live)? There are oh so many questions to ask, and yet the truth is that Comme Ça can still produce a damn good burger. They’ve nailed down a perfect cooking method and although the toppings could use a bit of inspiration, there is certainly very little to complain about. After all, Comme Ça means “like that” in French and I sure did.