Seldom, I imagine, do inaugural blog entries begin with odes to mothers-in-law, but in this case, that gesture would only be fitting. My mother-in-law is the inspiration for this entry on coffee in less than expected circumstances.
My mother-in-law, who worries about my physical health and sanity (for good reason), thinks that I drink too much coffee and should cut back for my own good. Therefore, the correlation between the topic of this entry and her is hamburgers...
Hamburgers? Yes, that subject might strike anyone as a bit strange. My mother-in-law is not American. She did not grow up eating hamburgers (far from it, she had to live in a decisively anti-American/Western political and social environment). Yet, she is a burger gourmand, pairing passion with good taste and enjoying every well-prepared burger with relish, figuratively and sometimes literally.
Today, I tried to acquire a Mother's Day gift that she would actually enjoy, namely, a gift certificate to her current favorite burger joint: Burgeroom. I don't want to turn this blog into either a customary restaurant review site or an advertising venue. However, since most readers will probably not be from Hong Kong, where I am based for the indefinite long-term, some of my blog entries may seem to be (inadvertently) fulfilling those functions. [http://www.burgeroom.com/]
I live in Kowloon, which is like the middle child of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, sandwiched in between Hong Kong Island (separated by Victoria Harbor) and the New Territories. Therefore, I am still good at getting lost when it comes to finding a new place on the Island (and New Territories is so colossal and amazing that I probably won't start exploring it until year 2 of my residence here). I like getting lost, since once I do, I at least know my way around that given area. To reach Burgeroom, on Caroline Hill Road, I had to go the wrong ways three times. Two weeks ago, I walked too far on the south bend of the road, inadvertently trotting all the way up to Hong Kong Stadium. Yesterday, I tried following the signs towards the northern bend, but circled around Leighton Road twice before I finally saw the public park sign indicating the right direction.
My mother-in-law is a sophisticated person, so I erroneously imagined that Burgeroom would be located on the clean, ritzy part of Caroline Hill Road. The restaurant is in fact on a strip of the road which shows its age and lack of recent repair. The whole block has several small restaurants, as well as some local convenience stores (not 7-Eleven, Circle K, and other chains) and mid-scale boutiques. Once I found Burgeroom, I realized the inspiration for this blog entry. The sign advertised "burgers - coffee."
I consider my own tastes to be rather unconventional, so I occasionally drink coffee with my burgers. However I never thought that a burger joint could actually promote its wares with coffee. Burgeroom is very small, with space for about ten tables. All customers must be comfortable sitting cheek to cheek with one another, and ideally, be slender enough to slink through the centimeters-wide aisles. One enters to see large billboards with the menus hanging above the counter and a refrigerated cabinet for the cold bottled and canned soft drinks as well as some alcoholic beverages such as Boddingtons Pale Ale and Stella Artois beer.
Sodas and beers with burgers -- very natural. Coffee with a slab of meat/portobello mushroom/foie gras/fish/chicken and bacon (the menu is very eclectic) -- not sure. I was disappointed that Burgeroom does not sell gift certificates, in fact the counter manager was bemused by my inquiry. That failed mission aside, I decided to answer my own question -- can both the burger and coffee be delicious, and more importantly, be appetizing together?
Hong Kong is already seasonably warm, almost approaching "air-conditioning 24-7" temperatures. As such, I ordered an iced coffee to go with my tea-set (available 2:30-6:30pm) of a mini classic burger and potato wedges. I sat down at one of the two-people tables and waited for five minutes, looking around at the families and friend-tribes around me.
The mini burger, the bun top being slightly smaller than a CD, contained a patty made of ground mealy beef. The taste reminded me of meatloaf, but a bit drier, like vegetarian meat crumbles. The lettuce and tomato rounding out the sandwich were fresh and slightly moist, indicating that they were washed and for the tomato slices, freshly cut. The potato wedges were roasted to a medium orange color and lightly seasoned with a salt-pepper mix, probably embellished with some paprika or mixed-spice salt.
The coffee, an Illy blend with milk, was quite surprising. I will not say that it was remarkable, as the cold coffees (caffe freddos) in Italy are (will post on that topic another time), but it was a mild drink with distinct and consistent coffee flavor. I asked for a little milk in it, which I normally do not do, and found that the milk eased the bitter edge just enough so that the coffee did not influence the taste of the burger and wedges. The coffee was brewed heavily enough that I could not slurp it down as I was eating, as I do with sodas and juices. I finished 1/3 of the cup with the meal and took the rest with me to continue my errands around Causeway Bay.