Eric Park doesn’t care what kind of food you like. He doesn’t care what you’re in the mood for. He doesn’t care whether that basmati rice is too fragrant. He doesn’t care if the red sauce is too spicy. He doesn’t care if you don’t know how to approach his offering of charred street corn with a salty dusting of crumbly cotija cheese and rich marrow (though, admittedly, his wait staff does). He lives in a world without borders, a world where wagyu makes brilliant asada, where tacos totally can sit on the table right next to fragrant cauliflower chana masala, where he makes weird bacon popcorn with silky maple crema and serves it like it’s as normal as bread and butter (it’s not – it’s also way more delicious).
Eric Park, as it happens, doesn’t really give a shit about you. He gives a shit about food. Black Hogg, an innocuous hole in the wall on Sunset in Silver Lake, is that rare place where the idiosyncratic feels natural and unforced, where all the food’s quirky personality emanates from the honest joy the chef takes in experimenting, not from some gross culinary exhibitionism.
Eric Park, incidentally, is also pretty into bone marrow. At least, it’s a centerpiece of two of the most popular dishes on the menu – the aforementioned street corn and the so-called marrow burger. I went with Kevin, my impossibly cool parents, my cousin, and her husband to give this burger a whirl. We walked in after a day at the beach, sunstroked and languid, withstood an avalanche of leering judgment from the assembled hipsters, and ordered up.
2852 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
The Order: Marrow burger, medium rare
The Price: $18 (before tax)
This is a cool burger. It’s not conventional. The flavor profile is unbalanced and it hits hard on the palate. There are two different kinds of onions – a bundle of pink-pickled scythes and a tangle of stewy caramelized strips, the latter of which evokes French onion. Underneath it all, there is a bosk of bitter watercress.
Let’s talk about the marrow first, because you’re probably wondering. The burger comes out brash: there’s a fat bone right next to it, full of gelatinous marrow. It’s not immediately obvious how the two go together, so the best thing you can do is wing it. Scoop out the marrow with a spoon, and sort of smear it on the inside of the top bun. I thought of the marrow the sauce, rather than a topping. This is primarily because there is no other sauce, but also because the marrow really just forms a thin film on the bun. It’s not present enough to think of it as a topping.
The patty is Black Hogg’s “secret house burger blend” (whatever that means). The chef recommends medium rare, which comes out stoutly charred and dark pink on the inside. While I don’t know what the secret blend is, I can report that it’s a solid slab of meat, flavorful, juicy, and full of personality. The bitterness of the charred exterior gives way to a rich interior, but it all kind of tussles with the onions and the watercress. Then the brioche steps in, sweet and wonderful, to soak everything up.
Ultimately, the problem is one of balance. There’s a little too much sharpness and bitterness in this burger, without enough offsetting mellowness. Bitterness (watercress) follows sharpness (onions) follows bitterness (the patty). There is no calming cheese, there is no sauce to soothe the cut of the char or the onions or the watercress. There are only traces of the fatty marrow on the burger, which is about the closest thing this burger has to “sauce.” Nor is there any cheese to blunt the harsher elements of the flavor profile.
It’s a funny thing: while there is a lot going on in this burger, there’s also a lot missing. What is there truly is fascinating, complex, and compelling. But the burger could stand to be rounded out by some other flavors. Cheese and a creamy sauce would do a lot to counteract the otherwise predominantly bitter toppings, and would amplify the presence of the marrow a bit. As it is, this burger is an interesting experiment, but sort of self-defeating. It overshadows its strengths with a unidimensional collection of toppings. Rather than offsetting the toppings, the patty contributes still more to the bitter dimension.
I want to stop for a second. This burger wasn’t transcendent, but it was just about the only thing on the menu that wasn’t. This restaurant is shit-kickingly good. Every single other thing we had was conceived and executed to perfection. You absolutely will not regret going to Black Hogg. Basically, this is an unforgettable restaurant that happens to serve a, well, not-unforgettable burger. But don’t let that deter you. You have to go check this place out, even if you don’t really have to try the burger.
Flavor: 8.00 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 9.60 / 10.00
Value: 6.90 / 10.00
Efficiency: 8.80 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 9.80 / 10.00
Bun: 9.00 / 10.00
Patty: 8.10 / 10.00
Toppings: 8.40 / 10.00
Sauce: 4.70 / 10.00
Balance: 7.80 / 10.00
Total: 81.10 / 100.00