1018 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
3229 Helms Avenue
Culver City, CA 90034
Chef Sang Yoon
Evenings only Monday through Friday
Open at Noon on weekends
(No reservations; no table service)
Last tried: June 2009
Previously tried: May 2008
Whenever I hear the claim "best burger" uttered, it is almost always a hyperbole that is bound to disappoint, to the point where the concept of the "best burger" has become almost as mythical as leprechaun gold at the end of a rainbow. With the Office Burger at Father's Office in Santa Monica, however, I have hit the jackpot.
Juicy ground beef-- and I mean juicy, with glistening meat juice droplets visible with each bite-- on a chewy roll, smothered with a bacon-onion compote, caramelized to the point where it looks like thick dark fudge, and topped with a surprisingly mild and delicate yet rich combination of melted gruyere and Maytag blue cheese, accented by vibrantly green fresh baby arugula. This burger is absolutely to die for and completely deserving of the title of "Best Burger." I first heard about this burger on Daniel Boulud's television series, After Hours, and no offense to the great chef's legendary foie gras stuffed burger at db Bistro Moderne, the Office Burger wins hands down.
One minor thing I found curious is that Chef Sang Yoon, creator of this mind-blowing burger, does not mandate how the burger should be cooked. The place is well known for its no substitutions policy. After tasting the Office Burger, I can see why he permits no permutations (so people with dairy issues are either flat out of luck or have to deal with their own digestive consequences later). I tend to like opinionated chefs who know what they are talking about, especially so dead on, so the FO policy did not bother me, but I did find it curious that the same dictatorial policy does not apply to how the burgers are cooked.
As to other dishes, I tried the grilled asparagus with crispy serrano ham and crumbled hard-boiled egg in a sherry reduction. The sauce was a shade too sweet for my taste, but it did balance out the saltiness of the fried bacony ham and creaminess of the egg with parmesan shavings. The asparagus had great flavor, brought out by the perfect grilling, but the thick variety would have worked better instead of the pencils, which became a bit lost under all of the other elements of the dish.
Do not miss the matchstick fries with garlicy aioli to complement the phenomenal burger (not dried and crunchy like most matchsticks but crisply thin with soft fluffy potato innards). No ketchup or salt anywhere, but trust me, you will not need or miss them. In addition, although I personally prefer wine with my burger (a dry rose works really well with the Office Burger), there are over 30 different artisanal beers available on tap, and the servers/bartenders double as beer sommeliers. At 4pm on Friday, there was a line down the block waiting for the doors to open. I see why people would drive over twenty miles across Los Angeles, fighting the traffic and the crowds, to get a taste of this burger.