Sunday, August 03, 2014

Review: Three Buns

Three Buns by Potato Head Folk is located on Keong Saik Rd. It's set up as a corner diner with a hip-casual vibe. The original old-school floor tiles and white (new) retro-style grills contribute to the atmosphere and the latter allow us to peer into the kitchen. Wafts of grilling meat tantalise us as we are sitting outside on this thankfully cool night. There is an hour-long wait for seating in the air-conditioned upstairs on a Thursday evening at 9pm.

The Concept
I like the menu already. It speaks of a deep understanding of what a burger diner is about, namely, no frills but good, hearty and satisfying meal. The Middle-East and Levant do the best lamb dishes in the world, so it was a delight to see their influence on the lamb burger. And you can't get more iconic than "buttermilk-fried chicken" from the American South. The cheese-fritter burger is a little unusual, something falafel-based would have worked here, but perhaps they wanted to go more "hearty" and less "vegan". Nevertheless, a gutsy fried cheese has its roots in halloumi and I would be curious to see the type of cheese used in the cheese fritter burger.

The three beef burgers give a choice between a classic (always the toughest to get right), spicy and crazy meat-lovers. It seems one can't have fast-food without a meat-lovers choice nowadays. The two mayonnaises are very intriguing: den miso and dashi flavours.

When sitting outside it is counter-ordering but table delivery. It's a very casual, sit-around, after-work kinda vibe.

The Food
We had the Baby Huey (the classic burger) and the Burning Man (spicy with jalapenos). The 150g beef patties were hearty, "burgery", beefy but could have done with a little more char. I didn't get much of the golden beef dripping taste. They were juicy with just a hint of pink in the middle; a dangerous zone food safety-wise for minced meat products, but well, it's by Potato Head Folk so you'd assume top-notch food hygiene in the kitchen.

The Baby Huey lived up to its classic reputation. It captured the essence of what a burger is meant to be. The spiced mayo had pleasing smoky bacon-like bits in it and the tomato was refreshing. The onion relish had just the right amount of tartness to keep the burger from being too heavy.

The Burning Man was overpowered by the dashi mayonnaise, which albeit delicious, saturates all taste receptors in one's tongue. No hint of the roasted jalapeno relish and smoked cheese could be detected. These disappeared into a delicious and creamy ur-paste that could have been flavoured with stock powder.

We also ordered housecut fries, which were double-cooked, crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. They had an earthy potato taste, and were pleasantly salted and not greasy. These are rustic potato chips, not shoestring but almost English-style. They were unpeeled, which contributed to the great potato flavour. We also requested samples of the mayonnaises but although the counter staff made a pretence of registering our order on what looked like an incredibly complicated cash register, these samples never arrived. I guess it's too casual a vibe to care about customization of orders, even though each burger costs a minimum of $20.

The homemade tomato sauce is rich in clover honey overtones which masked the tomato taste. Perhaps I am biased but for me, none can come close to the gold standard in tomato sauce that is Heinz Tomato Ketchup. The homemade chilli sauce is heavy on the cumin and tastes like a pureed salsa.

The homemade cola was nice but the cocktail was a little stingy on the rum. These arrived in oh-so-hip-and-casual paper cups and were not mixed before pouring into the cellulose receptacle, hence a molecule thick layer of rum lay on the surface. At $14 for a cocktail you would think a quick shake or stir would be in order.

The Experience
It is very hip indeed. The service staff treat you with respect, that is, they're pretty cool and they don't pretend to smile if they don't feel like it. That's not to say they're unfriendly, but there's none of that saccharine "Have a Nice Day" obsequiousness that permeates American service culture. No, here they listlessly take your order and look you in the eye, daring you to ask for a customization, which they pretend to acknowledge, but then, since it's, y'know, a casual diner and all (did I mention $20 or more per burger), they promptly ignore. I felt rude to remind them because they did look so tired (and unfriendly) at the end of a day. Perhaps the ubercool (and very loud) music wore down their nerves as we had to shout our orders to the staff.

Perhaps it was telling that the only people eating burgers were Caucausian folk. All the Asian faces I say were clustered together sharing a large plate of poutine-type fries. They were well aware of how expensive this joint is.

The cost for two burgers, one side of fries, one cocktail and one non-alcoholic drink: $80.


A perfectly equivalent burger, but unfortunately not by Potato Head Folk, would be Fatboy's Burger at half the price. Fatboy's also serve their drinks in old-fashioned glasses, allow you to build-your-own-burger and, quelle horreur, have table service.

You would not go to Three Buns for the burgers, but hey, if you were already here at Potato Head Folk, did I mention Potato Head Folk, drinking fashionably casual cocktails in paper cups, perhaps you'd be inclined to purchase an overpriced burger. The taste doesn't disappoint, but the expense would be well-counted as a premium for a Potato Head Folk night out.

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