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Last Friday I was craving burgers, putting the onus on my friends to find a restaurant that would please all of our palates—gourmet or not—and our wallets. I was not too concerned with price aside from my usual suspicions that are stitched to a twenty dollar price tag on a piece of beef nestled between the clam halves of a brioche bun, and whatever contentedness there might be for a three dollar griddled burger from Carl’s, even if the wine pairing would be a tad tricky. I was a perfect medium.

After my day retailing fine wine (and motivating for Croatian wines with authority) I was pleased to hear we had settled on a hip spot that had been in my sights for a couple years—The Rustic Canyon. Keeping my friends apprised on details our plans were quickly foiled, the growing number of our party and the time of night without reservations would have been difficult for us to wrangle—even a few seats at the bar—without an exhaustive wait. Luckily, one of my friends had an ace up his sleeve, recommending Le Petit Jardin in a reflex.

The restaurant sits in a fairly Orthodox area of Los Angeles off of Pico and Robertson, leaving it nearly deserted on Shabbos. The unique eatery doubles as a florist shop featuring the patrons’ homey take on French staples such as Escargot, Coquilles Saint Jacques au Pernod, Sole Meuniere and the requisite concession to the American burger, all while maintaining a BYOB take on beverages. We had two bottles of wine between the six of us: 2006 “Ancient Vine Mouvèdre from Cline (#188) and a 2007 Unti Vineyards Syrah (#187).

The environment was casual and the restaurant felt like our own little eatery in the big city, another rare feat. We decided to start the evening with some appetizers of escargot and carrot ‘n ginger soup before moving on to the burgers.

The burgers made the table open-faced, one half showing shredded ice berg lettuce, tomato and pickles and the other carrying sautéed onions, mushrooms piled copiously above a blue cheese dressed patty. The burger shared the plate with a bunch of nicely seasoned thin cut fries and it was apparent that this was a good value for fourteen dollars.

I wasn’t sure if it was my time away from burgers that made the initial presentation look so intriguing but I was ready to eat it, devouring the burger with my eyes before I could assemble the large house burger. The first few bites were delicious, the meat was well seasoned and the flavors of the fresh vegetables against the sautéed ones were a healthy juxtaposition that worked in concert to excite my taste buds.

I broke to finish the first glass of Mouvèdre that was a departure from the stinky and meaty kind of wine I expected. It was nice to taste the varietal in its purest form and the weight on the palate was suitable for the fare. I tried the Unti Syrah that was “aromatically challenged” but reluctantly gave off a hint of some red fruit and meat. The year younger Syrah juice showed ruby to garnet shades in the glass and had enough natural acidity to pair with the blue cheese in addition to the body to hold up against the generous meat patty.

Then a strange thing happened; I was tired of the immense burger, failing to keep my interest as I finished the last bite because…well, I hate to waste food. It was not bad by any means but it could not carry out the strong note that it started on and kind of slipped into a little-better-than-average territory. An uncomfortable anomaly.

It is easy to say that I will come back again, the vibe was private and the food was fairly priced but I will more than likely skip the burger and go full-fledged French. We continued the night in downtown Los Angeles pairing my countdown further with the Upper Cut Cabernet Sauvignon (#186) and the Meoimi Pinot Noir (#185) until the wee hours of the morning.  I was happy with the decision to get burgers and not the least bit disappointed with how the night turned out despite having a deceptively average burger experience.

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