Kiawe Grill's Kobe Burger

Kiawe Grill’s Kobe Burger, $8.65

With two major televised sporting events taking place over the weekend (BJ!!!), there’s no question hamburger, hot dog, pizza, buffalo wings and beer sales across the nation will reach figures high enough to dig us out of this economic crisis. At least, we wish it worked that way!

Like all the other aformentioned armchair quarterback favorites, there’s hamburgers, then there’s good hamburgers, then there’s GREAT hamburgers.

Enter Kiawe Grill’s Kobe Burger. This ALMOST, just ALMOST, was the BEST DARNED BURGER I’ve ever had on Oahu. Or at least as far back as I can remember.

Before I tell you why I said ALMOST, let’s first take a look what’s inside…

Kiawe Grill’s Kobe Burger – topped with iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion

Not sure if you can fathom its size on your computer screen, but this burger is massive. That black plastic plate is your typical-sized dinner plate, so that should help give you some scale. The patty itself is a King-whopping 8 oz., or if it sounds better like this, a “half-pounder” (before being cooked).

Now, just looking at it, there’s one very obvious shortcoming and one not so obvious.

First and foremost, I must note this Kobe beef is sourced from the mainland, not Japan, which may not be as superior, but thankfully my wallet thinks more superior of me thanks to that. Besides, I can’t see paying $100/lb. of prime Japanese Kobe beef only to grind it up and throw it in a hamburger. Laters with that. I’ll take a steak!

Anyway, the obvious shortcoming here would be the ICEBERG LETTUCE. Ack! That may work in a whopper or jumbo jack, but when accompanying the absolute GEM of a patty this Kobe is beneath it, it’s kinda’ like putting a 650 horsepower Ferrari V-12 engine in a Dodge Caravan. It’s gonna’ haul your kids to school and soccer practice faster and more thrilling than they’ve ever been transported before, but it certainly isn’t gonna’ handle like an Enzo. Ya’ know what I mean?

If it had been at least Romaine, or even better, Manoa Lettuce, it would lifted the entire burger to greatness. As it is with the iceberg, it just simply cheapens it. Like washing your brand new Bentley at a drive-thru car wash. Or, God-forbid, parking it next to a Yugo.

The other less-obvious shortcoming was the bun. Not so much the quality or size of it, which was decent, but they missed a SIMPLE KEY STEP in making a great burger, which is to lightly either toast or grill the inside parts that meet the patty and toppings. In my opinion every great burger has to have lightly-grilled or toasted buns. And that’s such an easy thing to do! Just throw ’em on the fire and within seconds, pau and it’s perfect!

The tomato and onion were also rather average in flavor and wasn’t top-shelf stuff. What I love about The Shack’s burger is that they use red onions, which I think has a much better flavor than regular white onions, and aren’t that much more in cost. Using a Kamuela Tomato would be nice, too. The sum of parts such as that can lead to greatness I tell ya’!

While I don’t know what exactly their cost is for the Kobe patty alone is, for $8.65 I’d think Kiawe Grill could use better veggies to accompany it. If not, I’d be willing to pay maybe a dollar more for it. I mean sheesh, all it is, is a a couple slices of a tomato, onion and a few leaves of lettuce.

And I don’t mean that by the price or principle of it, but the ever-important sheer taste & texture as you bite through the entire burger, bun, lettuce, patty and all.

Now that I got the lackluster veggies and untoasted bun out of the way, let’s talk about what could have made this burger not just good, but GREAT, which is that awesome half-pound Kobe beef patty.

Notice how perfectly medium-rare they cooked it, which is specifically how I ordered it. Bea-u-ti-ful. It was also seasoned perfectly, with what tasted like just kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. It wasn’t over or under salted, but perfect. Perfect. Did I say that enough already?

Not only was it seasoned and cooked to perfection, it TASTED perfect. Incredibly beefy, with just a hint of smokiness from the Kiawe wood it’s grilled with, and also incredibly JUICY…

Kiawe Grill’s Kobe Burger drippin’ with juices

OMG! I wan’t another one, like, NOW!

I was gonna’ ask for cheese on it, but decided not to on this first try just so I could fully savor the Kobe beef in all its glory without any distractions. Still, I can just picture this beauty of a patty all smothered with sauteed crimini mushrooms and melted swiss cheese. Unfortunately Kiawe Grill doesn’t offer mushrooms as a topping option, only (American) cheese and bacon. They really outta’ consider expanding that part of the menu to appease everyone. Who knows, maybe an Ostrich Burger would be even more fantastic with an Avocado on it, or Bleu Cheese. Never know until you try it.

What further highlights those comparably-lackluster veggies and untoasted bun was the fact that Kiawe Grill also got the fries right…

Kiawe Grill’s French Fries (Steak Cut), $2.95

How can you get the fries right, but things on the burger wrong?!! Ack!

STill, ohhhh yes. Huge steak-cut fries like this? You kidding me?! My favorite style!

I mean these fries really are HUGE. Biggest cuts I’ve seen yet. Just look at the size of them in scale while on the same plate with that also massive Kobe Burger. We’re talking the Costco-sized baking potatoes that these must have come from. They taste just like Teddy’s fries, so if you like theirs (I love ’em!), you’ll love these. Tender and moist inside and zesty ‘n lightly-crisp with a slight “chew” on the outside. I even finished them when they were cold and they were still delicous. When you can do that, now THAT’s good fries.

See, so Kiawe Grill got just about everything right to make this Kobe Burger “experience” (because it is one) one of the BEST DARNED BURGERS I’ve ever had on Oahu. Kobe Beef patty? Great. Bun? Needs work. Veggies? Needs work. Fries? Great. Darned it! I hate when that happens.

I’d have given it not just 5 SPAM Musubi, but 10 had it got everthing nailed, but those shortcomings actually reduces my rating to not 5, not 4, but 3. Which is still darned good. Not quite the “best darned burger in the world” good, but pretty darned good.

Still, darned it! (slaps thigh)… I was oh so, so, so close to discovering THE BEST DARNED BURGER on OAHU.

Click to enlarge

Kiawe Grill
1311 N. King street (Kalihi)

*Other locations include Mo’ili’ili and Aiea

Kiawe Grill menu pdf (current as of 1/09)

Tasty Island Rating:
(on Kobe Burger)

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
Kiawe Grill – The Tasty Island
Kiawe Grill – ‘Ono Kine Grindz
Kiawe Grill – Yelp user reviews
burger kings – Honolulu Advertiser
Burger Wars – Hawaii Diner

Presenting what just might be the LONGEST POLL in the history of WordPress!…


10 thoughts on “Kiawe Grill's Kobe Burger

  1. I think places tend to use iceberg lettuce because it’s a lot more durable than green leaf lettuce, which tends to wilt quickly when placed on something hot, like a juicy burger. I also don’t like iceberg lettuce because it doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, like people who become celebrities from being kicked off a reality show.

  2. Pomai,
    I thought with all problems in food poison hamburger meats must be cooked well done none. Since the Jack N Box news many years ago. As much I like mine med. rare but can’t take a chance and not sure it safe still.

  3. I been checking with health dept. and they would like people to cooked ground meats well done if you not sure where it is ground. So better safe than sorry. Ask if they ground their own meats fresh . Many places do not.

  4. Amy and Erica, just about every item in this burger has had a salmonella or E. coli scare in the past. The tomato, the lettuce and ground beef.

    As far as Kobe ground beef, I don’t recall that being listed as a tainted line of product.

    I’m glad you brought that to attention though. Nowadays you gotta’ stay on top of the news before dining out or buying your groceries. Just recently I bought a package of Nabisco Oreos Peanut Butter flavor. Thankfully I checked the FDA list of product recalls, and Nabisco wasn’t on the list. I ate them and feel fine.

    Marvo, Teddy’s uses Manoa Lettuce (or some other green leaf variety) and it holds up just fine. That’s half the reason their burgers taste so good. Interestingly, The Shack uses Iceberg lettuce, but theirs still tastes great. The Shack stacks their veggies differently though; they put them UNDER the beef patty, not on top. Maybe that really makes a difference. I’ll have to try that next time I grill some burgers at home.

    As for reality show celebrities, you must be referring to none other than the highly animated and opinionated New York of Flavor Flave fame.

    So far the “Best Oahu Burger” poll is up to 25 votes with Teddy’s (6 votes) and W&M (5 votes) almost at a tie for first place. I see 2 votes for Big City Diner and I certainly vouch for them. I tried their Swiss ‘N Shroom a few times a while back and remember both times it was just excellent. I need to go back and refresh my memory of theirs. I probably left out so many other plate lunch places and diners around the island that also make great burgers. But that list pretty much covers the places on Oahu that have a reputation already for their burgers. If I missed any, let me know.

  5. gordon biersch get one good burger especially with their garlic fries and an ice cold marzen. it’s supa good with mushrooms.

  6. Kobe beef can only come from Japan.To call it that is a shame. Wagu beef is the American version and they should call it that

  7. I’ve had several of the burgers from this establishment, and the wagyu beef pattie is definatly first rate, I also recommend several of their other available meat choices (ostrich, venison, bison)

    as for the produce, I have to say that I don’t like lettuce on a burger at all, all it does is soak up the grease and sit there like the friend that bums a ride day after day and never contributes gas money…. (ahem sorry) The onions and tomatos did their part even if they wheren’t in season or locally sourced… this is a serious burger, and I even went the extra mile with bacon… If you want a truley orgasmic burger experience this is a burger you should try.

  8. Woodenhand and Cubbybear, Wagyu is the name of the BREED of cattle, not the meat itself. I agree with Cubbybear where, only if it’s from Kobe, Japan, should it be labeled “Kobe Beef”. Otherwise, although it may meet comparable standards from the same line of breed, if it’s raised anywhere else (including the US), call it “Kobe Style”. It still has the same “ring” to it, yet lets the consumer know it’s not the real deal, while still be close to it (although I can’t personally say I’ve compared the two, side-by-side).

    Keith, I came close to getting the Ostrich out of pure curiosity, but heard the Kobe was the superior one. And by all observations, I’m thinking those other reviewers are right.

    Jenny, the fries are winnahz here.

    ilikegrind, I added Gordon Biersch to the poll the day you posted that. Pubs are certainly great places to find great burgers. I’m thinking all the Irish pubs around town got some great burgers as well. Like O’Toole’s and Murphy’s.

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