At some point, New York kitchens lost their way and started squashing burger patties into horribly dry brioche or tough ciabatta. They forgot that burgers like a bit of squish.
Pain au lait--now there's a bread that can hold a patty, and Nick Curtin is baking the French buns himself at Rosette, the sprawling, candlelit bistro on the Lower East Side.
Properly soft and just vaguely sweet, the bread is brushed with beef fat and grilled a bit so it can soak up some juices without going soggy. It's an ideal vehicle for the slender, pleasingly funky dry-aged patty, which is covered in melted cheddar, a smear of Marie Rose sauce and some tomato that's been softened in grapeseed oil. It comes with a pile of thick, golden fries and requires absolutely nothing else.
Curtin is a brainy young chef who has clearly put a lot of thought into this burger ($17), but it would be a shame to visit Rosette and not taste a few of the menu's other eccentricities. Start with clam chowder croquettes ($7), a kind of all-American version of Spanish croquetas, the béchamel studded with clams and sweetened with clam juice.
For the young, whey-drinking, vegetarian-leaning set that fills Rosette's dining room, there's also a parsnip "steak" ($18) that gently recalls Dan Barber's, and a cabbage heart ($12) caramelized on embers overnight. It's no burger, but like the half avocado ($6) roasted in its skin, filled with spicy yogurt and sprinkled with crispy puffed rice, it satisfies.