Food and Drinks

Hong Kong burger reviews – from Five Guys to Shake Shack, we taste test the newest

  • We sample Nicholas Tse’s McDonald’s burger, Five Guys, Cali-Mex, Shake Shack and Hunter & the Chase burgers
  • Burgers were graded on taste, bun-to-patty ratio and ease of eating
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 8:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 7:22pm

A battle of the burgers is raging in Hong Kong. In the past month, two international burger chains have opened restaurants in the city, to the delight of diners, while other chains have expanded, branched out, or fired back with new fillings to gain customers’ allegiance.

With so many to choose from, it was time for a taste test to see which of the newcomers are worth a bite.

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Here are five burgers to get your hands on – or not.

5. McDonald’s – Nicholas Tse burger

Last year, actor, singer and self-proclaimed celebrity chef Nicholas Tse Ting-fung stunned Michelin-starred chefs at a gala dinner in Macau. On camera, Tse sported a military jacket and, with a look of intense concentration, decorated cream puffs as if he was creating his pièce de resistance.

Now Tse is back in the kitchen, but rather than being among top chefs, he’s turned to fast food in a collaboration with McDonald’s, creating a series of burgers named “My Taste of Hong Kong”.

The first one (HK$35.50, or HK$47.50 for a set) is a toasted bun packing a 130-gram Angus beef patty with lettuce, processed cheese, Bolognese sauce and – for the Hong Kong cha chaan teng touch – a fried egg.

At the Admiralty Centre branch on Hong Kong Island, which we learned charges more than other branches, it came in a special box bearing the words “My Collection”.

As soon as we picked up the burger, the Bolognese sauce plopped out. There goes the relish. The rest of the burger was flat; there was no acidity to perk it up and the fried egg didn’t add much to the taste because the yolk was cooked through. It was also a messy eating experience.

Don’t give up your day job, Nic.

Shop 1-41, Admiralty Centre, 18 Harcourt Road, Admiralty, tel: 2520 1329

4. Cali-Mex – Say Cheese

After chef Nate Green closed Rhoda – which used to sell a pulled lamb shoulder and pickled red cabbage burger – in September, he designed a line of burgers called Harley’s for Cali-Mex. (Note: available at Cali-Mex Bar & Grill outlets; not Cali-Mex Taqueria.)

There are 10 to choose from, with different toppings. We settled on Say Cheese (HK$158), with a 200-gram Australian Angus beef patty, a slice of processed cheese, pickles, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, ketchup and mustard, in a toasted brioche bun.

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We were the first customers of the day so there was a wait while the grill heated up. When we finally got our Say Cheese burger, we were surprised to find the cheese hadn’t melted through. The burger had a decent-sized meat patty, but the sauce was too runny for our liking, and dribbled onto the wooden plank it was served on. A wet wipe or two would have helped at that point.

The brioche bun elevates the hamburger to gourmet level, but it is too soft to hold the burger together.

For a comparison we also ordered Smokey Bandit (HK$178), with chipotle barbecued pulled pork, processed cheese, an Angus beef patty, coleslaw, jalapeños and refried beans. It tasted as we’d expected, and had a nice smoky flavour.

Shop 20-21, AIA Tower, 183 Electric Road, North Point, tel: 2511 2700

3. Hunter & The Chase – The Chase Burger

Steakhouse Shore in Central closed down in the summer and, after renovation, reopened as Hunter & The Chase – with The Chase on the third floor, Hunter one floor up. Helmed by executive chef Felipe Lopez, the restaurant doesn’t focus solely on steaks, but also meats including pan-roasted quail, potted rabbit confit and bison tenderloin, to name a few.

We arrived at the tail end of lunch service at Hunter so were seated downstairs at The Chase, where we were still able to try The Chase Burger (HK$208). Sandwiched in a brioche bun, there’s not one but two patties, with the cheese melted through on each, topped with sweet onion marmalade and streaky bacon.

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Disappointingly, to round off the garnish was a single, sad piece of iceberg lettuce folded in half. Surely a burger costing more than HK$200 could go bigger on the greens? And what’s this? It came with a carrot stick and French fries.

Tastewise the burger was pleasantly meaty, and the marmalade added sweetness to the overall flavour. However, there were no acidic pickles to tame the greasiness.

It was not a messy burger to eat, but afterwards, we bit into the carrot stick and were surprised to find it spicy and pickled. Some thinly sliced pickled vegetables, or more lettuce, would have been an improvement.

3/F & 4/F, The L. Place, 139 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2915 1638

2. Five guys – Cheeseburger

“Are you ready?” the Five Guys manager yelled to eager staff bracing for the morning rush, as he unlocked the front door. The American chain is the hottest new burger joint in Hong Kong, as evidenced by the 50-metre queue of customers snaking around the Johnston Road, Wan Chai, restaurant at 11am.

Five Guys is famed for its bare-bones burgers that diners customise with a choice of 15 different toppings at no extra cost. (You can order all 15 if you want.)

The burger choice covers all the classics, from the hearty hamburger to a bacon cheeseburger. Each comes with two meat patties, though you can opt for a “small” burger with just one patty.

We ordered the cheeseburger (HK$85). If you’re overwhelmed by the choices, Five Guys suggests “All the way” toppings of mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, mushrooms, ketchup and mustard.

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There’s no denying that this is one hell of a burger. The two thick and juicy patties are each layered with a slice of Cheddar and the generous toppings bulged out of the burger.

It tastes like a hearty American burger – no brioche bun here. The cheeseburger is extremely meaty, and the pickles give a much needed burst of acidity to break through the grease.

With all the big flavours, we lost the taste of the onions and mushrooms. Given it was a cheeseburger, however, it was a little disappointing to find the Cheddar was not completely melted through.

Overall we were very happy with this hearty handful.

Five Guys started out in Washington in 1986, and now boasts more than 1,570 outlets across the United States. The Hong Kong restaurant is the chain’s first in Asia, and management say they are looking to expand in the city and across the region.

60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel. 3618 9122

1. Shake Shack – ShackBurger

Shake Shack is known to send hungry New Yorkers (and tourists) queuing around the block to get their hands one of its famed burgers, fries and shakes – and it seems that Hongkongers are equally enthusiastic.

In May, Hong Kong’s first permanent Shake Shack opened in the IFC Mall to much fanfare (and huge queues), and last month it opened a sleek second branch at Pacific Place in Admiralty (just 500 metres from Five Guys).

We ordered the quintessential ShackBurger (HK$50 for a single, HK$76 for a double) to find out what the fuss is all about. The ShackBurger is simple and delicate, with a single slim meat patty, a slice of melted processed cheese, a slice of tomato, lettuce, mayo and the bun.

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Don’t be fooled by the simplicity: this is where the ShackBurger does damage to the competition. Shake Shack has mastered an almost perfect burger ratio – no one element overpowers the other.

The bun is made with potato flour, giving it a slight chewy texture. The meat and melted Cheddar are balanced by the signature sauce, which gives the burger a needed hit of acidity, since there are no pickles or mustard. The tomato and lettuce give it just enough freshness. The only downside was that the patty was too salty.

It might not be the perfect burger for anyone on the hunt for a hulking ham, but for a small package it packs a punch and won’t leave aficionados disappointed.

Probably to the annoyance of management, the true highlight of the new Pacific Place joint isn’t the food – it’s an automatic hand washer fitted next to the condiments. Be sure to try it out after tucking into a delicious burger.

Shop 105A, L1, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel. 2810 8928