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September 27, 2009

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Burgers 'n' steaks in flash new joint

A classic burger joint is rapidly getting on its feet in the convoluted, large scale and often incomprehensible Aladdin's Cave known as Tian Zi Fang precinct.

Bounded by Jianguo, Taikang, Sinan and Ruijin No. 2 roads, this rectangular block of upstairs-downstairs, corners, lanes and alleyways hosting innumerable configurations of consumer outlets defies simple description.

Frustrating in the extreme if you can't find the target destination, it is also fascinating for its distinctively unplanned, erratically shaped modes and nodes from which merchants sell food and wine, trinkets and toys and clothes and jewelry with a relaxed and buoyant bonhomie.

New York Style Steak and Burger is housed at the end of a cul de sac in a converted 160-year-old three-story former residence that looks and feels its start of September opening, with freshly painted walls, the smell of new wood and unblemished starched cloths.

Large mirrors magnify a narrow space, and a wooden staircase reaches through to the third floor where a sunroof area sits off from a quasi atrium.

Tableware is simple white and the glassware standard classic. The mood is relaxed and almost mellow.

True to its name, meat is the focus of the kitchen's two-page discourse and it's offered in the form of burgers - average price 45 yuan (US$6.59) - or steaks, which range from 99 to 208 yuan. Supplementing a small selection are appetizers, soups and salad and dinner specials.

All burgers come with a choice of homemade mashed potatoes or fries which is an optional starch overload on top of the genuine, thick bread buns sandwiching the beef.

The simplicity of the burger dishes allows the meat to speak for itself and with most varieties under 50 yuan they're vying for the best value in town of their ilk.

The Devil's Burger (48 yuan) is a half pound (226 grams) of beef with melted cheese and onion rings on top accompanied by lettuce and tomato with a spicy lime mayonnaise.

A Bacon Mushroom Burger (48 yuan) is more substantive with strips of bacon, roasted mushrooms and Swiss cheese with the standard lettuce and tomato sides. It is high quality beef cooked to suit your taste, in this case medium to well done.

An onion stack (25 yuan) appetizer - a towering pile of fried, sliced onion rings dusted in cumin and paprika flour - can be added to the main course if you're feeling especially peckish.

In keeping with the good value theme, drinks by the glass aren't super expensive. A California Stone Valley chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon is 30 yuan or 100 yuan a bottle and a Heineken beer 30 yuan. The dessert range is limited to a choice of two - apple pie or New York cheesecake - at 45 yuan each.

The staff are attentive, knowledgeable and friendly - Assistant Manager Susan Wang Qi learned the trade at Mesa & Manifesto on Julu Road - and the kitchen's output is delivered via a natty food chute.

If a post prandial wander is on the cards, check out Adolfo Cadiz's compact Chile Wines Store (No. 23, Lane 248) where he stocks the best of that country's expansive styles then stop by Franck Li's Vin et Chocolat (No. 45, Lane 274) for a rich sugar fix.


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