Review: The Pink Bicycle Gourmet Burger Joint | 1008 Blanshard St. | Victoria
29 Dec 2009 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
Update: Since this review was published I have returned to the Pink Bicycle and tried the Black Bean Burger, which was very good. That said, I stand by my statement that the quality of their meals is uneven.
Update, June 2015: It's probably been four years since I've been to the Pink Bicycle so who knows whether any of this is still accurate.
"Nobody's perfect" is one of those maxims that is not only true, but comforting as well. We all make mistakes, some of them little, like forgetting to turn off the coffee pot before you leave for work. Others seemed little at the time - that chocolate-powered five-year-old blowing through your living room on Christmas Day like a tornado made of underoos and wrapping paper, for example. Knowing that we're not the only ones makes it easier. Hell, in professional baseball you're considered a roaring success if you perform your job correctly one-third of the time. The legendary Ty Cobb has the distinction of holding a career batting average of .364, the highest in major league history which is a big deal for those of you who don't follow this kind of thing. This means that the most consistent hitter in major league history only did his job right 36.4% of the time and has been immortalized for it. If the restaurant business had the same kind of standards there would be Great Cannon Pizza outlets all over the city but mercifully that's not the case. In this business if you screw up 70% of the time you will very shortly end up in receivership and be forced to face your public and have rotten vegetables thrown at you. That is, of course, unless your establishments happens to have the location, short skirts & shiny brass geegaws to mask your total lack of quality or personality. Up until today the Pink Bicycle has had quality in spades. If we're going to continue flogging sports metaphors you could say that up until today they'd batted 1000.
I was out of town when the Pink Bicycle opened late last year but as a devoted fan of Vera's Burger Shack in Vancouver and the UK's Gourmet Burger Kitchen the news of a gourmet burger shop right downtown made me quite chubby with excitement. Since my return the lot of us have eaten there several times and always come away satisfied, so when I suggested burgers for lunch Nicky readily agreed. We arrived mid-afternoon, the place was packed and we were eventually seated towards the back of the restaurant, near the bar. If you've never been to the Pink Bicycle you should know that it's not very big and the noise level is usually somewhere between the sacking of Carthage and a jet taking off. We happened to be sat almost right next to the stereo system which was playing electronic music at a volume that allowed patrons near the front to hear. Sadly this also meant that the patrons towards the back were rendered deaf. The wait staff treated the situation with their customary indifference and continued to speak at their usual volume, looking puzzled when you asked them to repeat themselves six times, as if everyone but you is more than capable of conducting a conversation in the midst of a raging tropical storm.
We passed on the day's special, "Chef's Choice", which I assume means you get whatever is starting to grow ears in the refrigerator and instead had the breaded macaroni & cheese sticks ($6) to start, a bison burger with truffle fries ($15) for myself and a poutine ($9) for Nicky. After ordering we settled in to wait and chatted about our upcoming Christmas trip to Las Vegas, or rather we would have if the stereo hadn't already pounded our eardrums into submission. As it was we were reduced to sign-language and staring at one another, or the people around us. To my eye, the clientele at the Pink Bicycle never seems like the kind of people you'd find in a burger joint. A burger is a hands-on meal where you stand a healthy chance of getting dirty and yet most of the people there seem like the only time they've been in the proximity of dirt was when they watched the gardener plant their organic lettuce. After their food arrives I half expect them to try and release their burgers back to the wild and then stage a sit-in and sing nondenominational hymns around the glow of a campfire app on someone's iPhone.
The macaroni & cheese sticks were the first thing to arrive, panko-breaded logs of penne & smoked cheddar with a side of "Bike Sauce" in a shot glass. Yes, I said shot glass. This may have scored the chef style points back in cooking school it is absolutely maddening to try and dip something wider your thumb than a into a container about the same size around as a nickel. The sticks themselves were nice, the breading was crisp and the pasta inside was firm but not overly hard. The only (minor) complaint I had was that there wasn't very much cheese but it's not enough to discourage me from recommending them. The bison burger & poutine were a different story. For some reason there are chefs who think that an acceptable bison burger is a handful of ground meat and barbecue sauce rather than a patty and one of them works at the Pink Bicycle. The bun, sourced from Bond Bond's Bakery next door, was fresh and covered with sesame seeds, a favorite of mine but everything else put me in mind of something similar that my grandmother used to make and when your cooking puts me in mind of hers you have started down a ruinous path. The truffle fries weren't much better, too soft and covered with enough black pepper to induce a fatal sneezing fit. Nicky's poutine was also a disappointment - the fries, or "chips" in that charming moon language of hers, had been overcooked and then left to fend for themselves under the heat lamp in a vast puddle of congealing gravy. It is no exaggeration to say that the $4.99 poutine at MegaBite pizza in Vancouver was considerably better and that's sadder than a four-car-pileup on Christmas Eve.
Most of us will experience disappointment in our lives. We won't get that big promotion, we'll come home to find our wife in bed with the L.A. Lakers or we'll find out that our rich old uncle Franzibald died and left us only a collection of tin spoons and his palsied cat. Having for years endured the twin indignities of ugliness & male pattern baldness my skin is thickened to disappointment and a bad lunch at the Pink Bicycle wasn't enough to spoil my day but it has put me off coming back any time soon. The meal put me in mind of another burger I've had recently, this one at the Pacific Lounge in the Hotel Grand Pacific. It cost slightly more than what I paid at the Bicycle and while it wasn't worth it either it was of a much higher quality. At least there my $41 either got me a quiet place to eat and a waiter who didn't have tunnel vision. I imagine that at some point I'll venture back to the Pink Bicycle and give it another shot, but until then I'll keep eating the Awesome Burger at Alzu's and praying to God that someone will open a Vera's Burger Shack in James Bay.