L'Oursin, the Central District bistro with life-changing arctic char tartare and an even better wine list, now makes burgers. But only on Monday night, and only for seats at the bar.
For higher-end restaurants like L'Oursin, burgers can be a tricky addition to the menu. When owners JJ Proville and Zac Overman opened their seafood focused bistro, they intentionally sidestepped tres basic bistro stalwarts like steak frites in favor of Proville's Northwest-inflected creations like seafood soup en croute, or that tartare I won't shut up about. Proville says they also want to balance out the restaurant's tasting menus with a less fancy alternative. But the burger is also a helpful reminder that L'Oursin's bar exists, and is an insanely charming place to drink, between the marquee-lit French vibe and Kathryn Olson's natural wine list (I'd come in just to read the tasting notes).
Proville says his burger pays a bit of tribute to Fort Defiance, the Brooklyn restaurant where he and Overman first met—"we wanted more of an East Coast style, a smaller burger with a really soft, fluffy bun." L'Oursin's patties are smashed, with an actual brick wrapped in foil. Mostly, though, this burger feels French; the cheese is raclette, the pickles are cornichon. Some experiments inspired by East Coast favorite Martin's Potato Rolls yielded soft buns made with mashed potatoes and colored with just a bit of turmeric.
"It's not about being a giant burger with a whole bunch of fries next to it," says Proville. "It's a small, little jewel."
Best of all, he points out, his jewel shines especially bright with a light, funky red from that natural wine list.
Every Monday, L'Oursin will make 20-30-ish of these burgers, so head in on the early side to guarantee a raclette-topped smashed patty and pillowy bun.