Friday, April 24, 2015

CaliBurger Taipei Taiwan - Review

OH YAY! Another burger place has arrived in Taipei (As if there aren't enough burger places in Taiwan). Most of them are horrible! But ... there is hope. I think, or so I thought.

An In n Out Chinese knock off has invaded Taiwan called CaliBurger. Here's their Facebook page. From their menu, it looks like they have the same items as the popular chain, In n Out. If CaliBurger has the same concept as In n Out, they SHOULD taste just as good, right?

CaliBurger's ridiculous prices. 225 NT (7 USD) for a double patty.
(Sorry this place is not worth my DSLR)

Wrong! It is perhaps one of the worst burger that I've had in Taiwan and that is telling you something. I am not being bias because they tried to copy In n Out (I gave a fair review to Juanita Burrito and Taco, which is a rip off of Chipotle).

About the service speed:

It's supposed to be a fast casual restaurant, but they need to work on their coordination and teamwork. I saw one, just one hostess taking names down and showing people to their seats. That is fine, but she was also wiping down the tables and putting away trays that people didn't put away themselves (for people paying such a price for a burger, I bet Taiwanese people expect the restaurant to clean up and not bus trays to throw away like McDonalds or MOS). There were other staff members standing around the floor, but they were just standing there, while there were empty seats and a backed up line of people waiting to get seated. You guys could at least help that poor hostess wipe down tables, while she showed people to their tables.

About the kitchen:

I witnessed a kitchen nightmare. There were enough people back there to operate a fine dining restaurant. There is one rule in the kitchen, and that is if you are standing around, you clean or make yourself useful. I had the urge to jump in the back and ask them WHAT THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU DOING? The efficiency was just not there yet. As you see below, the guy in the black was trying to shoulder the load of cooking all the burger patties. He was also speaking to everyone in English. Why English? You are in Taiwan! Speak Chinese or Taiwanese or else you will not communicate well with the team! I saw that some of the workers were puzzled with what he wants because he was talking to them in English. Another thing that I noticed was the inefficiency of assembling a burger. They had one person attempted to fold the shape to hold a burger, then pick up the burger that was assembled on a bare countertop and be finicky with their hands trying to mold the paper around the burger. There are a lot faster ways to wrap a burger! Also, their prep station looked like a mess. I saw one of the staff members wipe the burger assembly counter with a cloth and shake it over the trashcan, fold it, and throw it on to another countertop. I do not want to know where that towel has been and hopefully it was quickly washed or sanitized later.

It's probably because I have worked in a kitchen to notice all these small details, but come on... sanitation, efficiency are key to a successful kitchen operation. I hope they can improve upon this aspect.

There's SIX people in the open kitchen, while more are in the back.
The guys to the right were seen as not doing anything.
The guy in the black is their lead cook, by all means not close to chef level. 

Now on to the important part ... the food.
Our "lovely" order, 2 CALIDOUBLES,
1 CALIBURGER, special fries


The meat was absolutely dry as the bread and unevenly seasoned. I'm calling city543 out on this because it tastes like a McDonald's burger, but McDonald's burgers have an even distribution of seasoning and sauce AND only costs 90 NT. How does one wring out MOST of the moisture out of a burger patty? Any guesses? Here's a few things that cause a burger patty to be dry.

1. Overworking the meat. From their Facebook posts, it looks like they take pre-ground (correct me if I'm wrong) beef from the suppliers, then roll it into a ball and then compress it some more. The meat, from what I see from their Facebook post, does not look like it has been well ground. This may have been a result of grinding the meat when the grinder blades are too warm, which reduces the meat into mush.

2. Overcooking. This is probably the culprit. For such a thin patty to get a nice sear, the grill temperature needs to be super hot. It did look like it was taking awhile for the patty to get a nice sear. Sorry to the cook in the back, but you might need to work a bit more on your technique.

3. Not enough fat content. They probably (just assuming) got the generic ground beef from a Taiwanese beef distributer of Australian beef. There is no way of telling what they grind, and it does not seem like the burgers have enough fat content as In n Out's burgers.

The burger did not have a good ratio of vegetables, meat, and bread. The bread was very stale tasting. This is probably caused by Taiwan's environment, leaving burger buns on the griddle too long (drying out), and not enough burger grease on the buns (come on! grease = flavor, but that was lacking in these burgers). There was also way too much vegetables in the burger that it overpowered the sauce.


Meh... nuff said. They were a soggy mess. Flavor was sort of there though.

I appreciate how CaliBurger is trying to be local and sustainable, but come on ... you can only be that once you figure out how to properly use these products and know how your beef is processed.

From someone who has eaten at various burger establishments in California, sorry, but CaliBurger does not make the cut as a good tasting burger. Stop branding yourselves as a Californian burger because there are various types of burgers in California. My friends, who also dined with me, also agree that this is nowhere close to In n Out. "I left feeling hungry because the burger was so (*does flippy hand motions) small" ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ - Iris.

What does that even mean? "Californians invented the concept of lifestyle".
Umm... not true. I would think that various cultures have their own concept of lifestyle.