297 Glen Huntly Rd Elsternwick, VIC 3185
|Opening hours||Tue-Thu 5pm-9.30pm; Fri-Sat 3pm-10pm; Sun 3pm-9pm|
|Features||Licensed, Vegetarian friendly|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9532 8995|
While you're sticking your face into Burger Shurger's awesome Mighty Butter Chicken Burger, say a silent thank you to owner Payal Bisht's in-laws. It's in large part due to them that this fun Indian fusion burger and craft beer joint got off the ground.
Payal and her husband moved from New Delhi to Melbourne in 2008 to study their Masters in IT. When the in-laws came to visit from India they weren't too keen on the local cuisine. "Don't try to feed us burgers or sushi or pasta," they pleaded. But Payal, a keen cook and multicultural eater, couldn't help herself.
"I would make Indianised versions of things for them to try," she recalls. "I'd do vegetarian paella, pasta, maybe paneer burger or falafel, all spiced up with an Indian twist so they would find it more flavourful." As the in-laws became more adventurous, the burger concept rose to the top – Payal found herself mashing up Indian and American food all the time. Burger Shurger, open a year, is the happy result.
The shopfront restaurant is bright and friendly, somewhere between saloon and diner, with neon signage playing off a stylised mural of Indian gods sitting down to burgers – vegetarian, one presumes.
The menu is an array of "sometimes" food: burgers, loaded fries, roti rolls and bao, with plenty for vegans and vegetarians.
Payal lived in New Delhi, home of butter chicken, and she's rightly proud of her sauce, which is creamy and spicy but not cloying; the sweetness comes from cashews, not sugar. The sauce is smoked to round out the flavour. So far, so traditional but then comes the fusion and fun.
The sauce is reduced so it sits nicely on the buttermilk-marinated, crumbed and fried chicken Maryland, which is sandwiched between charcoal buns with house-made chutneys. If you want the sauce and not the whole burger situation, you can also have vegetarian loaded fries with chickenless butter chicken sauce.
Other Indian cuisines are honoured on the menu. The chilli crab burger riffs on the Indian-Chinese food of the east with a characteristic soy-spiked Manchurian sauce lavished on soft-shelled crab.
The Gobi 65 is a reworking of Chicken 65, a famous hotel dish from Chennai in south India, supposedly invented in 1965. Instead of the classic chicken 65, which is fried and smothered in a red chilli sauce, Burger Shurger takes the idea and wrangles it into a blended sauce of sriracha, curry leaves, ginger and garlic, then tumbles it with fried cauliflower (gobi). In a town full of great cauliflower, this dish rockets onto the must-try list.
Vegetarian burgers include the vada pav, a traditional curried potato dish that's served on a soft roll in India but turned into a burger here, and the pav bhaji, a Mumbai-style vegetable curry that's turned into a burger-friendly patty and slathered with tamarind sauce.
Even desserts get the spicy mash-up treatment, with a creme brulee jazzed up with chai spices.
Everything is tasty, filling and served with pride, usually by the chatty and charismatic Payal herself. This young entrepreneur is not only part of an Elsternwick renaissance; she's also collaborating on the great Melbourne story of immigrant cuisines given new life and energy in this big, hungry town.
Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)