The New BurGR King

Gordon Ramsay’s most casual Strip concept might just be his most exciting

With the opening of Gordon Ramsay BurGR at Planet Hollywood, the British chef completes his Las Vegas trilogy of restaurants. It’s ironic that he is now entitled to the mantle of Best Burger on the Strip. Bradley Ogden, the tenant that got 86’d at Caesars Palace to make room for his Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, was the former champion.

Max’s menu picks

Beer-battered Maui onion rings, $9.
Soba noodle chicken salad, $13.
Euro Burger, $16.
Farm Burger, $15.
Just Fries, $8.

What makes these burgers so great? First, they’re open-flame broiled over hardwoods, mainly apple and alder. Second, the grind is composed of brisket, chuck and short rib—a really delicious mix. And finally, they’re basted with Devonshire butter, which imparts an almost impossible richness. A host of exotic topping options, from chanterelles to mango chutney, seems almost superfluous.

This is, in my view, the most thoroughly conceived restaurant of his three (the other, in case you don’t know, is Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris). Cylindrical orange napkins, sneaking through a hole in the menu, are deliberately phallic. Direct overhead lighting is used, the better to spotlight what you are eating. Servers wear tight-fitting uniforms that show off their glorious frames. A low, undulating ceiling makes this large space (formerly a high-limit table game area) intimate.

Ramsay has pulled out many creative stops to one-up the competition, which includes Burger Bar, StripBurger, KGB Burger, BLT Burger and many others. Do we care that a basic burger here is $14? Perhaps not, since the majority of customers will be visitors to our city, thus largely a captive audience. (Locals are found more often at places such as Smash Burger, or In-N-Out.)

Before you get to that burger, though, you’ll be tempted with appetizers, such as beer-battered Maui onion rings (with a terrific crunch, accompanied by the best ketchup on the Strip), or roasted jalapeño peppers, a half-dozen of them, which stick straight up out of shot glasses filled with a cheddar-ranch dip. I didn’t mind the five-spice chicken sliders, a creation with cornflake breading and sriracha mayo, but they lessened my appetite for a burger. There’s an interesting take on Asian chicken salad, though, with soba noodles.

All right, about the burgers: The signature here is the Hell’s Kitchen, and it’s terrific, topped with asadero cheese, jalapeños and avocado. But I don’t like it as much as the Euro Burger, which is topped with truffle aioli, arugula, goat cheese and oven-roasted tomato. For purists, there is an all-American burger, with tomato, onion, pickle and lettuce, but that’s butter lettuce, not iceberg. Sorry.

And there are two-meat burgers, as well, in the same price range. Try the Farm Burger, a patty topped with duck-breast bacon, English sharp cheddar and a fried egg. Am I a freak because I like a runny egg on top of my burger? It would seem so.

Burgers, for the record, don’t come with fries here. Those cost extra. I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes or truffle oil, so that leaves Just Fries, hand-cut and served with more of that great curry ketchup, and chipotle ketchup as well. They come in a huge cone, so don’t order more than one unless you are four people or more.

Pudding shakes—giant milk shakes with globs of pudding, whipped cream and a cookie on top—are ridiculously excessive and embarrassingly hard to resist. The only dessert is sticky toffee-pudding push-up pops, a frozen confection that Ramsay, when he greeted the public at a recent event he called his British Invasion, bragged on.

Personally, I like my pudding hot.