Of course I love a good burger, it’s world heritage food and every earthling can fall in love with a good one. But spare me the button press made fast food burgers that come with buns that looked run-over by a truck, shrivelled and with the nasty patty still inside. I first had my Shake Shack burger over 10 years ago in New York City with Ed Levine, the founder of makan website Serious Eats. I remember vividly just how that burger struck me. I saw the elbow grease production kitchen in the middle of their flagship Madison Square Park shack and I knew their burgers are not slick production line, stack and go kind of sandwiches. So, when they opened in the Jewel, I had to do a comparison, since I was slated for a trip up to the Big Apple.
But first, that outlet in the Jewel at Changi Airport. It was a good 1.5 hours from queue to the first bite on a meh Monday morning. I was there an hour before they opened at 10am and the first in line were some off duty army kids, by 7.45am that morning. First thing I had was the Shroom Burger ($10.80), a deep fried Portobello cheese patty with tomatoes and lettuce sitting between a soft fluffy sweetish bun. It was juicy as I remember. And the thing that struck was, the whole burger looks like what they showed you in the promo pictures. That is honesty and not many or any other burger giants do that (not even hawkers), just note when you next tuck in. Five millimetres into the Shroom patty and I felt the texture, aroma and flavour of the Portobellos and the fresh tomatoes and lettuce was a bonus. The version in Madison Square Park, was the same except of one detail, the Shroom patty, was drier than in remember, all else was spot on. Next in queue was the Smoke Shack ($10.90) a cheeseburger with Applewood smoked bacon. At Jewel, this came airy, loose, crispy, shiny, meaty and beckoning, with all those drippy cheese daring you. The one in New York, looked a lot less proud but was as chomping good. Of course I had to try the good ol’ ShackBurger ($9.20) a classic cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato. Both were as good but I found the Changi version a smidgen juicier.
It’ll be amiss if you missed their iconic shakes, and they don’t disappoint. I took three sips (I normally approve by the second) of the Common Man Coffee shake because it deserved my time with it. A tad sweet for the siu dai kopi lover here, but it was a dense sweet treat, albeit occasionally for me. Skip the pandan shake, although a tribute to Singapore’s palate, it felt too flavour-additive perfect, sort of like a Yakun kaya turned into a milk shake.
A burger brand with over 160 outlet done this well, is a thinking man’s burger. Go for the good stuff and if you are in New York, do devour one of the best there, the Suprema Burger (U$19), at Suprema Provisions café, run by ex-Bourdain Market maverick Stephen Werther. The patty alone is made with Short Ribs, Brisket and Porterhouse corners, I’ll say no more.
Shake Shack at Jewel, Changi Airport
#02-256, 10am-10pm daily
Shake Shack, New York City,
Madison Square Park
Suprema Provsions, 305, Bleecker Street, New York City
5pm-11pm (Monday to Wednesday)
11am-12am (Friday and Saturday)