10 Arts: As Seen on TV!
I don't watch reality TV. I also don't watch the opposite of reality TV (Fantasy TV? Theoretical TV? Unreal TV?). I don't have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, I don't actually know what Lady Gaga is and I'm very confused when people say that John Locke is a smoke monster. For the past few years I've been on something of a self-imposed media exile, which aside from missing out on the benefits of social networking and not knowing what the hell happened to music, means I've missed a lot of popular talking points. Consequently, when everyone was freaking out about 10 Arts chef Jennifer Carroll appearing on last season's Top Chef, I had no idea what was going on.
It wasn't until recently that I gave Carroll or 10 Arts a single thought, when my lady friend Vanessa showed me an article from the November 2009 issue of Philadelphia Magazine about the best burgers in the city. We'd already been to four of their top five, having visited Rouge, Pub and Kitchen, Butcher & Singer and Village Whiskey, so we were naturally excited to round out Philly Mag's top choices and compare our infinitely more awesome reviews to theirs. You might think it silly that we're competing with a print magazine, but when's the last time you read Philadelphia Magazine (or, really, any print magazine)? When's the last time you read our site? Point: Burgerdelphia.
I'd avoided 10 Arts, or as it is officially named, 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge by ERIC RIPERT, because it seemed everyone was dying to go there more for the Carroll's celebrity than her culinary abilities. Walking in, I must admit I regretted not going sooner. Opened just over two years ago by caps lock-loving ERIC RIPERT and sitting in the lobby of the swanky Ritz-Carlton, 10 Arts is simultaneously one of the sexiest and least intimate restaurants in the city. Deep and luscious shades of red adorn the entire dining area, with sinuous floor-to-ceiling curtains dripping languidly over the rose-tinted windows, while beautifully sculpted marble pillars and crystal chandeliers support the romantic atmosphere. This sensual scene is compromised by the fact that the restaurant is plopped in the middle of the Ritz-Carlton's lobby, without walls, nullifying any sense of intimacy or privacy. Picture the orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut, or remember the first time you watched a movie with a sex scene while your mom was in the room, and you'll get the idea.
The Burger: The Classic Sirloin Burger has the quintessential burger toppings, featuring cheddar, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard, all of which you have in your fridge. What lets them charge $16 are the use of sirloin beef in the burger and a challah roll for the bun.
Kyle: 10 Arts' beer selection is sub-par. This concludes the negative remarks section of the review.
Everything here smacks of deliberate professionalism. When we ordered our burgers, the waitress asked if we'd like fries or side salads, and before we could draw swords for daring to imply that we are grazers, she said, "You have to get the french fries." We knew then that we were dealing with pros. And it turns out that, aside from the obvious, there's an excellent reason she insisted we get the fries: they're some of the best in the city, golden and crunchy with a mix of oregano, rosemary and paprika seasoning.
We've had sirloin before, and I think I find myself favoring it above regular beef and even kobe. Kobe is more popular and highly regarded these days, but its taste is inarguably subtle, while sirloin presents an opposing richness that I prefer. 10 Arts sirloin patty dwarfs the other two in terms of quality, cooked perfectly and dripping with blood and flavor and cholesterol. This burger tastes very strongly of sirloin steak and has a mouthfeel to match; although ground up, the consistency remains similar, and the aroma envelops your tongue in a way that would be overpowering if it wasn't so damn delicious.
The fresh-baked challah roll was sweet, buttery and fluffy. Of equal quality were the vegetables, crisp and fresh. My only legitimate complaint is that, like some other awesome places, 10 Arts has decided to relegate this offering to lunch only. Why anyone would want there to be less awesome in the world, I don't know. What I do know is I'm glad Philadelphia Magazine included it in their review, because if there's one thing print magazines do, it's give the internet ideas to steal. New media FTW*. Rating: 8/10.
*"But Kyle," you may ask, "why did you start your review out complaining about how much you hate new media, then end it complaining about how much you hate old media?" Here's the thing about that: I hate you too.
Laurence: Among other inappropriate things I've always wanted to do is have a meal in the Pantheon in Rome. It's an astounding building and remains in nearly perfect condition even though it is pushing it's 2,000th birthday. What meal could you eat in the temple to the gods and the achievements of man that would do it justice? I have two words for you: “bur ger.” The burger is perhaps the most structurally sound of all meals and one of the oldest, and with its founding going back to the birth of America, it is almost as old as the Pantheon.
Sadly the Carabinieri shot the last guy who tried to eat a burger in the Pantheon so I may never get a chance. Luckily there's 10 Arts. The palatial interior of the Ritz-Carlton, with its massive columns and domed ceiling, is the next best thing to an ancient Roman building, a lot closer, and so much prettier because it doesn't look all old and stuff.
I find it slightly intimidating ordering a burger in such a high class establishment as 10 Arts but I assume if the proprietors put it on the menu, they must take it seriously. That assumption doesn't always work in my favor but I feel a menu is like a contract of sorts. A chef fills in the list with foods that he prepared well. It shouldn't be on the menu if it can't be prepared well, and no restaurant should have 50 dishes on the menu. Exhibit A.
At 10 Arts, the burger is the real deal. Someone likes burgers and takes them seriously up there. (And by "up there" I mean in the holy light pouring in from the skylights in the dome, which is where I assume the chefs work.) When the artfully prepared tower of meat and bread arrived it was tender, perfectly prepared and incredibly flavorful. The ground sirloin was wonderful on all fronts, and I take it as a sign of extra attention that my request for medium-well did not end up at either of the extremes that it is apt to.
The tomato and lettuce were refreshingly crisp. The classic flavors of ketchup and mustard that topped the burger were supplied in limited quantity, adding flavor but blending well and not overpowering the other flavors, unlike some other establishments.
The fries, too, were very nice, though spiced slightly too much for my taste. The taste is unlike any other fries I've had. I appreciated the newness and the desire to expand outside the limits of potato convention. I had no qualms about eating them all, though they were not my favorite.
The only problem you'll face going after this burger is it's lunchtime-only availability. I think you can work around that. After all, eating a burger in the building mimicking a Roman temple can be considered a religious experience, and if there's one thing this county was founded on, it's the right to practice any crazy thing you want and call it your religion. Rating 8/10.
When we sell this site to Rupert Murdoch, we'll be at 10 Arts every Monday. You should sell something to him, like some blood or a heart, so that you can join us.