Plan Check Kitchen + Bar II

The Placeimage

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
1111 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90017

Reservations: 213.403.1616
Bar: Full bar

If you’re a regular reader of this blog or a person, you know about Plan Check.  It’s the apple of Ernesto Uchimura’s culinary eye.  Plan Check operates at the nexus of comfort food shop, chef’s vanity project, and experimental gastropub.  Ignore the whiff of snide opprobrium you may think you detected in that description; I offer this characterization without the slightest pejorative intent.  Plan Check’s eponymous burger – upon which I have conferred high honors – is positively white-hot.

Uchimura has more on tap than just a single burger, though.  Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that I couldn’t stay away.  Accordingly, I went back with Kelsey, her brother, and her future sister-in-law to try out another offering.

The Order: The Bleuprint Burger

The Price: $13

The Burger
In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I love blue cheese.  The creamy complexity of the stuff, the funk that masks without totally hiding a nutty finish, the streaks of mold that cut through the pure white like veins…it all revs my engine.  I’ve tried to control for my bias here, but let it be known that if you absolutely hate blue cheese, this burger will not change your mind.  Stay away.

Now for the rest of us.  There’s a science to making blue cheese.  It’s all a little complicated, but it involves adding two different kinds of mold (Penicillium roqueforti and Pencillium glaucum) to the milk during the cheesemaking process, then basically poking holes into the finished product to let the mold grow.  Those two bacteria are responsible for the blue streaks you see in the cheese.  They’re the reason we call blue cheese, well, “blue.”

See?  Science is delicious!

Seriously, though, blue cheese is a complex ingredient, and if leveraged incorrectly, can really mar a dish.  On a burger, it can be downright offensive.  But there are two things that are clear about Plan Check: first, they don’t shy away from that kind of challenge; and second, they’ll find a way to make it look easy.

In this case, they make it look easy by making it harder.  That is, they take blue cheese and adding another layer of complexity to the flavor profile by smoking it.  It’s hard really to describe smoked blue cheese, but gracious.  It marries the intimacy and familiarity of gouda with the phased, intense, complex nuance of Roquefort.  It blunts the severity of the blue, which makes it a more amicable companion to the other ingredients.  The genius of this preparation of blue cheese is that it creates a foundational complexity to each bite, but you’ll still taste everything else.

And everything else is really worth tasting.  You may not know what pig candy is, but I suspect you won’t much care; it is sweet and umami, thick-enough strips, succulent, juicy, and with a just-so kiss of caramelization.  The peppercress, though slightly wilted, is nonetheless spicy and bright, freshening things a bit.  The fried onions are like reimagined onion rings that one normally would expect to find alongside the burger.  Instead, an abbreviated version tops this presentation, offering a crunch and sweetness.  Even the steak sauce, infused with roasted garlic, is grand stuff, emblematic the kind of masterful playfulness that makes Plan Check so good – though I must confess, I would have liked a touch more of it.  All of this anchored by the signature patty and crunch bun that put this place on the map.

This burger is a textural and gustatory symphony.  It’s about as baroque a burger as I’ve had that I would still characterize as worthwhile.  It’s complex but not cluttered.  It will seize your interest without being precious or novel.  Of course, just as some people don’t like the symphony, this burger is not for everyone.  If you don’t love blue cheese, this burger leans far too heavily on it to appeal to you.  But more than the featured ingredient, the operatic nature of the flavor profile, the boldness of it all, will rankle some who have no axe to grind with blue cheese.  This is a niche product.  If it’s your niche, you’ll love it.  If not, look elsewhere.  There isn’t much in the way of middle ground with this one.  But then, Plan Check never was much for the middle ground.

The Ratings
Flavor: 9.60 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 9.00 / 10.00
Value: 9.20 / 10.00
Efficiency: 8.30 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 9.80 / 10.00
Bun: 8.90 / 10.00
Patty: 9.00 / 10.00
Toppings: 9.50 / 10.00
Sauce: 8.00 / 10.00
Balance: 9.40 / 10.00

Total: 90.70 / 100.00



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