Le Vieux co-owners Annette Yang and Brian Leitner have some experience with burgers. At their previous San Francisco restaurant Nettie's Crab Shack, chef Leitner points out that "we sold a decent amount of burgers at a seafood place," where he'd dish out a French Onion soup-inspired burger that featured long-simmered onions built inside the patty. Yang jumps in: "Oh my god, [we sold] so many burgers. That restaurant was more Americana in a way, it was New England-style, so it felt right to do our version of the Lipton soup mix [burger patty]." On a menu highlighting Dungeness crab rolls, fish-and-chips, and oyster po'boys, the duo still sold 20 to 25 burgers a day.
So at their NW Portland "Old World" Mediterranean restaurant, Leitner isn't feeling the urge jump back into burger-making. But for Eater's Burger Week, the chef dreamed up a Mediterranean-inspired lamb burger served with chickpea "fries." To make the dish, Leitner grinds Cattail Creek lamb shoulder in-house, creating a 75-25 percent blend with beef chuck. "I wanted it to be lamb... but with subtlety," Leitner says of the blend, noting that the addition of beef "adds meatiness" to the patty. Before forming each eight-ounce patty, Leitner embeds the meat with chunks of sheep's milk feta cheese, which adds creaminess to the patty and creates a "nice salty bite" as the diner indulges.
Before the cooked patty is placed atop a Grand Central potato roll, Leitner also lines up his condiments. For the tzatziki sauce, he uses a mortar and pestle to pound garlic into a paste — the old-school device "releases more of the oils in the garlic," he says, adding that salt helps the process even more. To the garlic, he adds sea salt, fresh lemon juice, yogurt, dill, and olive oil. Instead of the traditional cucumber tzatziki, Leitner reaches for pickled fennel for some "tanginess and bite." Lemon-dressed watercress hit the bun first, then the cooked feta-stuffed patty. Red onions grilled in Le Vieux's patio oven are added, then the tzatziki is generally drizzled on top.
On the side: Chickpea-flour "fries" with a harissa dipping sauce. Leitner notes they're cooked like polenta — laid out on a pain and chilled before cutting them to size — and after being gently pan-fried in grapeseed and olive oil, they emerge with a perfect outer crisp. Le Vieux's Eater Burger is available now for $15.