Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why I'll probably NEVER go to Blue Frog again

I have a friend who is strangely, sadly addicted to the Blue Frog 'Two-for-One Burger Deal' on Mondays, and she occasionally tempts me to accompany her. But last night, I ducked out on her, after suffering something of a panic attack in there. No, revulsion attack would be more like it. I've never really liked the place; and suddenly ALL THE REASONS WHY came rushing upon me at once!


Boy, it gets busy in there on Mondays now. I think I hadn't been inside the place in well over two years, maybe more like three - and back then, their custom was fairly slow. I'll usually only go when the weather's nice enough to sit outside - and right at the start of the evening, before things get too hectic. 7.30pm on a drab winter's evening: VISION OF HELL.

A full or nearly full house generates an intolerable hubbub in there. In those conditions, there is a strong case for no longer fighting to keep the music audible above the din of conversation: there's already enough of a feedback loop with people shouting to be heard above loud chatterers at other tables, without having to try to compete with the Frog's shite music playlist being progressively cranked up as well.

Impatient hunger
I have developed very Chinese dining habits: I don't usually eat very much during the day, and so am more than ready for my main evening meal by 6pm or so, and positively ravenous by 7pm. I have a very low tolerance of crap service at the best of times, but if you keep me waiting for food when my stomach is rumbling, I'm likely to get very cranky indeed. I've often had to wait 10 or 20 minutes to get a drink order filled in Blue Frog, even early evening when they're not yet that busy. In the chock-a-block conditions last night, I anticipated that we'd be lucky to place an order in much less than 30 minutes, and might have to wait twice that long for any food to arrive. That's not a viable situation for me.

Laowai overload
I've never liked the idea of places that completely insulate you from the experience of being in China. I thus prefer bars like Reef and the Pool Bar, where the clientele is predominantly Chinese, or places like 12 Square Metres and Salud, where it's about 50/50 - to places like The Den, where it's always 90% or more foreigners. But at least The Den manages to pull in a certain proportion of Chinese WAGs and business partners; Blue Frog last night was 100% wall-to-wall foreigners. How did we come to be so numerous? And why do we have such lousy taste?!

The quality's not there
I've found Blue Frog's burgers to be of somewhat variable quality, and - even at their best - nothing really all that special. The ones at Let's Burger are significantly better. The ones at First Floor are almost comparable, for a bit less. The ones at Home Plate and The Den are pretty good, and cost much less. Why does anyone bother with Blue Frog - even on 'half-price Mondays'??

Why the hell am I eating a burger anyway?
Back in England, I probably wouldn't eat more than 5 or 6 a year, at the very most - and those would usually be from Burger King (or, more likely, from a Turkish kebab place; I like to support the independent operators against the big chains wherever I can). I don't eat in bars very much back home; and burgers just aren't such a big thing over there. When I'm visiting friends in the States - yes, that can be a different story: I don't have cooking facilities of my own, so I eat out in bars and diners much more often; burgers are a standard, competitively-priced meal; and there are some very good quality 'fast food' outlets, such as Five Guys in the DC area (where I most often stay). I might well eat half a dozen burgers in a two or three week visit to the States. But here in Beijing? I cook for myself around half of the time. I'm quite happy to eat in Chinese restaurants most of the rest of the time. I only feel inclined to indulge in Western 'comfort food' two or three times a month - and more for the convenience factor of being able to get served quickly and eat on the hoof than because I suffer cravings for this kind of thing. And if my urges do take me in that direction... well, I'm more inclined to go for British pub grub (the steak-and-kidney pie at The Den or battered sausage and chips from Fish Nation), or for Tex-Mex (the Luga's burritos or the Mexican stuffed chicken breasts at Sand Pebbles), or for Middle Eastern (a doner from Kebab Republic or a falafel sandwich from Biteapitta), or for some barbecue (the pulled pork sandwich at Home Plate or the ribs at First Floor). A burger?? WHY????

I figure I eat 8 to 10 burgers a year out here. And that's about 6 too many. I've decided to cut back - and Blue Frog will be the first place to go.


The British Cowboy said...

A good burger is an astonishing thing. A bad burger is a crime against God.

Five Guys are great for fast food burgers, which are a separate category on their own. But they have to go for a low common denominator - thin patties, cooked through.

I love a proper, thick, juicy, medium rare burger. That's the starting point for a fine meal. There are then so many possibilities on top - a local place has a cajun-rub burger with blue cheese, onions and frickles that really hits the spot.

Then again, our prior discussion where you seem to think that (a) a burger should have egg in the meat mixture and (b) it should be pressed with the spatula (fast food style) somewhat disqualify you from any right to comment on the burger phenomenon.

Froog said...

This is more a comment on the Blue Frog phenomenon - which has burgers that wouldn't impress you much, but has become insanely 'popular' on the one night a week when it is affordable.

What's a burger going for in the States these days? The BF ones are about 12 bucks. It's a sit-down restaurant, but 'fast food' quality. And most things in Beijing are still only about 20-30% the cost they are back home.

If you want to go all 'gourmet' about it, some of the international hotel restaurants have started competing in that game. There's one that does one made from wagyu beef and puts a dollop of foie gras on the top. I think that costs about 40 or 50 bucks!

Froog said...

You appreciate my situation here, BC. You are fortunate enough to live in a land of great burgers. And you probably eat 'Western' food nearly all the time, for lunch and dinner. So, a burger will easily figure in your diet pretty often.

Out here, I'm probably only eating non-Chinese food of any kind 40 or 50 times a year, at most. I don't think a quarter of those occasional 'treats' should be burgers. In fact, given that most of the burgers available here are very so-so, I'm not sure that ANY of them should be.