Rouge: red with flavor

Rouge: red with flavor

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GQ Magazine declared the burger at Rouge, 205 S. 18th St., one of the top 20 hamburgers you must eat before you die.

That’s the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down if we’ve ever heard one.

Usually, the more an upscale eatery hypes its burger, the more likely it is we wish we had taken our money to the local Five Guys and got down on some serious American red meat.

Luckily, this wasn’t the case with Rouge.

Rogue’s burger ($16) definitely hit all the right notes: thick, juicy (almost to a fault; napkin, please!), perfectly cooked and topped with a tasty accompaniment of gruyère cheese and caramelized onions.

You can believe us or the 20 other people we saw wolfing down one of these burgers the night we went, but it is a damn fine burger by anyone’s standards.

Even if Rouge didn’t have the burger to brag about, there’s so much more it can hang a hat on.

The location, street-level right next to Rittenhouse Square, make for some great scenery and people-watching on a pleasant early evening when the weather is nice.

Rogue also does a great job with lighter fare. The raw oysters ($18) were exceptional on their own, but the presence of Rouge’s champagne mignonette really made them irresistible. The tuna tartare ($18) was textbook in its composition and execution, well-composed but not truly exciting ... until you factor in the soy wasabi, which, while welcome and silky smooth, was very powerful and required gentle application. The steak tartare ($13), on the other hand, was a better-balanced dish with a smokier flavor and a better-managed level of spice.

The oyster salad ($13), which was more oyster than salad (what can we say, we love oysters), was also a winner, with perfectly fried oysters playing well against a bed of fresh corn, red peppers and spicy aioli.

If all of the aforementioned excellence and near-excellence wasn’t enough, Rouge dished out one of the best desserts we have had in recent memory, probably because we’ve become very jaded about all things chocolate, thanks to past adventures in dessert land. Which is why Rouge’s strawberry buttermilk panna cotta knocked it out of the park. If they just stopped at the panna cotta, that would have been enough. But the addition of an excellent strawberry sorbet and fresh-sliced strawberry really delivered a bounty of flavor and textures.

Rouge makes us blush.

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