FOOD REVIEW: Phat Burger Bro — “Academically sound gourmet burgers”
SINGAPORE — A little confession is in order. As everyone who reads my column would know, I love food, and I have opinions about everything that, ahem, goes into my mouth. But more than loving food, I want to understand which elements of a dish excite me and which ones disappoint. I want to know why Persea's brussel sprouts send a shiver down my spine and why, Moonbow's cauliflower dish, while wildly innovative, fails to make the heart flutter.
This is why it is deflating for me to admit that burgers are the only food that escapes me. Though that hardly disqualifies me from reviewing burgers on the rare occasions I come across ones worthy of evaluating against personal rubrics, both strict and arbitrary. This is where Phat Burger Bro in the charming, albeit distant neighbourhood of River Valley comes in.
Where all burger joints are concerned, Phat Burger Bro makes a good case for joining the fraternity of fine gourmet burgers sprouting all across the island like rabbits in heat. Here, the mise en scene embraces the tried and tested interior of exposed ceilings, low hanging bulbs, and in the day, so beautifully awash with natural sunlight that streams in from the glass facade. It's emitting New York realness vibes without all the unfortunate acts of racism.
And what of those burger rubrics I mentioned ever so casually mere moments ago? It's simple. First, a hulking patty that has been beautifully seasoned so that it's at one with the bright sauces between these buns, hun. Second, buns that are soft and not dry like the Sahara—all the better to soak up all that meat-sauce emulsion party. Lastly, the size to mouth ratio. If it can't fit, I won't eat. I shouldn't need to use utensils to cut the burger into parts—we're not about that life, hennny. And honestly, I don't mind a little mandatory burger mess, and you shouldn't either.
At Phat Burger Bro, it starts with the Classic Cheeseburger Double Phat Bro (S$18)—double because burger meat is good singularly but better when in pairs. Here, it comes with 100% USDA beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, homemade pickles, grilled onions, and Phat burger sauce. All this between sesame milk buns, which are all manners of soft even when toasted. The beef is cooked to a respectable medium and, I'm glad to report, seasoned ever so lightly such that it doesn't fight with the other condiments but isn't too bland to be separate. All in, an academically sound burger and a great start to lunch.
If you're abstaining from meat because you care for the Earth and worry about climate change, the Southern Fried Chicken (S$15) would be right up your alley. I love this. Chicken breast is brined and pounded till slightly flattened so that it cooks evenly from end to end. There's a coating of crumb all up in this chicken's business that has been seasoned with spices to make this already flavourful patty such a delight to eat. It's served plain with a tangy slaw that could do with a bit more. It's great, but there's just too little of it.
My biggest gripe? The bun. This mixed herb, black charcoal bun proved a tad too dry in my rubrics of burger par excellence. If you're getting this, I'm sure the establishment would be happy to swap this out with the classic milk bun.
I also got the Chicken Chilli Cheese Dog (S$11) because it's been too long since I last had a good ole' hotdog on a bun. The last one I remember eating was from Mos Burger, and that was all sorts of juicy, with burst-in-your-mouth goodness that made me so happy. Here at Phat Burger Bro, the meat should have been as juicy, but sadly, it's not. It comes with Cheddar, chilli con Carne, onions, and thickly sliced Jalapeños that was not as palate-assaulting as I'd have liked it to be. I guess this works in a pinch if the craving for a hotdog is great, but the choices are run of the mill.
Elsewhere, the Cobb Salad (S$17) is surprisingly well seasoned, dependable, and a riot of flavours—for a burger joint, that is. There's lettuce tossed in a bright red wine vinaigrette, diced tomatoes, crispy bacon, hard-boiled egg, avocado, herb-marinated chicken breast, and dollops of blue cheese that will make you twitch in surprise but oh, what a lovely flavour it adds. I wonder if something this delicious could ever be healthy. Some things are better left unexplored, I say.
Other sides worth ordering is the Chilli con Carne (S$8), a glorious and sinful presentation of fries festooned with minced beef, Cheddar, sliced jalapeño, sour cream, and scallion. Have this while it's fresh and hot—left too long to the cruelty of good air-conditioning, and the fries get a tad tough which, for fries, is never a good look.
Phat Burger Bro's selection of desserts occupy a whole column of the menu wall and offers sweet treats such as milkshakes, ice cream, and fennel cake. I zeroed in on the French Toast (S$12), a simple presentation of their milk bun dipped in egg, served with caramelised bananas, whipped cream, and maple syrup. While not exactly kicking it out of the ballpark with wild and unbridled creativity, this iteration is entirely dependable, balanced, and makes for a grand and satisfying denouement to a meat-heavy meal. Consider me fully and completely satisfied.
Instagram | 491 River Valley Rd, #01-17, Singapore 248371
Mon to Sat: 10am – 10pm
Sun: 8am – 10pm
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