K440 dispatched Jeff Mudrick, creator of Phnom Penh’s best known gourmet burger, to ‘Mike’s’ to review Phnom Penh’s best known generic burger.
The conversation with the editor of this fine journal went something like this:
K440: “You know hamburgers. Do a review of Mike’s, ok?”
Me: “Well, I sell burgers; people will perceive a conflict of interest.”
K440: “Just four or five hundred words. You can figure it out. Thanks.”
Me: “Hmmm. Well ok, I’ll do that. Thank you Peter”.
How many times do you encounter someone who says the equivalent of “Bob’s: best Mexican food in Eastern Lithuania. ‘Nuff said.” Whether the “’nuff said” is explicit or implied is immaterial; the statement itself raises so many issues that, for me anyway, unless the statement appears in the context of a detailed review, I reject such proclamations as meaningless straight away.
The hamburger, to focus on the subject at hand is many things to many people. Here are my two favorite hamburgers (notice I’m not saying best):
First, the In-N-Out Burger:
Second, the Father’s Office Burger:
Is one better than the other? They have so little in common other than tasting great that I can’t say. They both get five stars. And that’s why I have no problem offering my thoughts on Mike’s burger.
I went to Mike’s for the first time just a couple months after he started to get some buzz about this burger. I went with a fellow publican, also an American with some burgering credentials. We bit into the burger and evaluated the feel and flavors, we took it apart and tasted just the meat on its own. We came to the joint conclusion that while it was a pretty good burger experience because of the fresh lettuce, tomato and nice bun, it was overrated, especially the meat which was all but tasteless. It was a good burger because it was brilliantly packaged more than anything else.
I went back to Mike’s this week. Either the burger has gotten better, his quality control has improved or I just got lucky because this time the burger was a winner all around. The packaging isn’t quite as neat as it was, the leaves of iceberg formerly were torn to just fit the bun, now they were all flying all over the place. Indeed the whole burger (mine was the double-cheese burger) was a bit of a mess, cheese a-drippin’, lettuce and grilled onions a-fallin’, the bun coming apart around kilometer 6 of this 10k burger run.
This, in my mind, is not particularly a problem because it tasted great. While the patty was well done as all fast food burgers are by definition, and formed in a mold rather than by hand, it had some real flavor to it. Which if you know anything about the effects of compression and high temperature on ground beef flavor is a pretty damn good trick. Kudos to Mike for pulling that off.
Truth is, I devoured the burger like there was no tomorrow and that pretty much sums up how I feel now about Mike’s. In her article on Mike’s for my favorite food journal Serious Eats, the reviewer ends appropriately with the question, “would we be regulars at Mike’s if it was down the street from any of our non-expat lives”. Her answer was “absolutely” and I concur.
Mike’s Burger House
Sokimex Station, Russian Blvd, Phnom Penh
10am – 10pm