People of France, we are not the enemy. You know this. Yet you’ve torpedoed our greatest port city with a weapon most mouthwatering. So overpowering is the KOBE BEEF HAMBURGER, $14, at Voilà! Bistrot in Madison Valley, so tantalizing its juicy goodness, that our own citizenry—witness to millions of backyard barbecues in which the American burger is a totem of national pride—has come to question its loyalties. The seduction starts the moment one marches through the doorway—all-American senses scrambled by the shadow play of candlelight on mustard walls. Things get more compromising as one of your countrymen (androgynous, black-clad) pours a Kronenberg 1664 in a glass, bubbles rising to the surface like lost balloons at a carnival, and delivers the package: a toasted bun cradling a hot slab of Wagyu meat topped with caramelized onions and smothered in brie. The flavors storm the Bastille of our palate and commingle so expertly that one can hardly tell beef from bread, onion from brie, good from evil. The taste buds fire a treacherous message to the brain: Forget the Pledge of Allegiance, burn your passport, and shout, Vive la France! This burger is a violation. There should be a United Nations sanction. A call to our allies…. But first, one more bite. Voilà! Bistrot, 2805 E Madison St, Madison Valley, 206-322-5460; www.voilabistrot.com
With a few subtle tweaks—and without sacrificing its wholesome, everyman qualities in favor of highfalutin gourmet flash—here’s how to elevate the standard backyard burger to an exercise in bovine transcendentalism:
1. Use good beef. A basic yet alarmingly often-overlooked element. Try something sourced locally, like Oregon Country Natural Beef, that chars up nicely over an open flame but manages to stay juicy in the process.
2. Use good cheese. Also criminally neglected, but no less important. Melted Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar is a tasty option with a unique consistency. Instead of forming a rubbery yellow dairy helmet over the patty like your conventional Kraft American Single does, the sharp white cheddar softens and separates into an almost brielike consistency.
3. Use good buns. For once in your life put down the Bunny Bread and try something with honest-to-Giada flavor. Dahlia Bakery gives its burger buns a subtle, smoky-sweet taste by baking roasted onions into (instead of onto) them.
Or, know what? You could just leave the grill covered and drop into Palace Kitchen to get all of the above in the PALACE BURGER ROYALE, $14—accompanied by a tangle of crunchychewygreasy fries—without having to strike a match. Yeah, just do that. Palace Kitchen, 2030 Fifth Ave, Belltown, 206-448-2001; www.tomdouglas.com