Taste 12.05.19

Sardine Factory

Upscale restaurants tend to go all out when it comes to signature burgers, maybe a smear of foie gras, some cave-aged cheddar, a patty from hand-minced Kobe and so on. So you expect the Sardine Factory to go big, as well.

But “The Factory Burger” is surprisingly understated – ground short rib and sirloin, a more brazen cheddar in place of timid American and arugula instead of lettuce, but still a recognizable burger.

Chef Bert Cutino’s team places the emphasis on husky red meat. There’s a rough-hewn earthiness and dusky minerality, reminiscent of something off a chuckwagon. There is only a modest char, so a faint bittersweet note drifts in, complementing a touch of pepper. With the accoutrements – onions, tomatoes, pickles and ambrosia sauce – a chorus ranging from tangy and sweet to guttural and raspy plays, but it swells in the background. To add more would be to overshadow the patty.

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This is just a regular burger, one that mocks the pretentious creations over-decorated with fancy toppings. The Factory Burger reminds us it’s the meaty savor of the all-American burger that calls to us, not the frills.

SARDINE FACTORY 701 Wave St., Monterey. 373-3775, sardinefactory.com

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