This Sept. 26 Food article incorrectly said the hamburger bun at Palena was derived from a Parker House roll recipe by pastry chef Ann Amernick. The bun recipe was developed by chef Frank Ruta, based on a recipe from former White House sous chef Hans Raffert.
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Seeking Bliss on a Bun
Score: 5 (out of 5)
Central's chef tested at least 10 kinds of beef before he settled on dry-aged Black Angus from a small farm near Baltimore for the restaurant's burger. The same attention to detail went into every other component: the perfectly sized bun, the velvety confit tomato and the paper-thin crispy potato disks that add glorious contrast to the juicy meat. Thankfully, though, this burger doesn't taste as fussy as it is. The kitchen's technique melts magically into the background, and all you taste is the hamburger of your dreams: juicy, beefy, utterly indulgent. Is $16 too much for a hamburger? What's the price of heaven?
$10 (plus $10 for fry plate)
3529 Connecticut Ave. NW
We considered the fact that some people order the burger at Palena only as an excuse to get the fry plate, a heavenly assortment of french fries, onion rings, dauphine potatoes and marinated lemon rings. But once you've tasted the seven-ounce burger, it becomes an obsession. Perhaps it's the occasional trimming of Kobe beef that goes into the hand-ground mix or the garlic-scented mayonnaise that's smeared on the house-made bun, derived from pastry chef Ann Amernick's old recipe for Parker rolls. More than likely, though, it's the cheese, a northern Italian variety with a hint of truffle that makes it so mysteriously good. For $10, it almost doesn't matter. It's the best value in town.