I had this uncontrollable urge for a burger last night so I drove over to Burger Inn near 4th St and 17th - just a block north of Towa sushi. (The Burner Inn near my house on Bow Trail closes at 8pm so it wasn't an option.)
Of course the whole purpose of the visit was to try their Kobe beef burger so I was pleased to see a large poster at the counter which tried to justify the cost. I was a little disappointed to realize that the "Kobe Beef" isn't from Japan but from some place in Camrose, AB. The poster was a little vague but it seemed to indicate that the beef isn't pure Kobe either... more like a half breed of the Japanese Wagyu cattle and Angus.
Kind of dissapointing since they're asking quite a bit for the burgers. Their "Kobe" burgers come in 4,6,8 oz. sizes and ranged from around $12 to $16. Kinda pricy considering the fact that this isn't some fancy restaurant but a franchise with a cheap-diner type of interior. I ordered the 6oz plus a side order of fries and a pop (~$20) while my hungry friend ordered a 4oz burger, an Elk burger, curly fries and a pop (~$25).
I watched in dismay as they started to cook my frozen-air-hockey-puck-of-a-patty in the back. (Not only is it frozen but it isn't even char broiled ?!) My stare was broken by the lady at the counter who asked me what I wanted on my burger. She recommended that I eat the burger without any condiments to enjoy the flavour of the "Kobe" beef and I agreed. After all, I wasn't about to dish out $15 to taste ketchup or mustard.
Ten minutes later, we were asked to pick up our food. They were laid out on paper plates and consisted of a lightly buttered sesame seed bun with a naked burger along with a small handful of fries. I was a little surprised at the small portion of fries since we paid extra for them but what the heck, I was there for burger.
So how did it taste ? Well, it tasted like a tender burger with no condiments. The burger was tender and juicy and .... as exciting as eating unsalted popcorn. Halfway through the burger, I almost gave in to the Heinz but I forced myself to finish it. Ok, it wasn't bad but I tried to forget the fact that I drove 40 minutes and paid $15 to find this out ! In retrospect, the bugers at Pete's Drive In are just as tender and much tastier. Hmm....
As for my friend, he ate his plain burger with the excitement one would expect from ... eating a plain burger. Every once in a while, he'd turn around to look at the neon sign across the street which said "SUSHI". He'd then look at me with an evil glance before returning to his burger.
The only time he showed anything positive was when he bit into his fries. "Ken ! Try these curly fries ! They're pretty good !", he said. Other than that, his elk burger may as well been deep fried for an hour because it resembled a scotch pad. Oh yeah, he did seem happy when we got up to leave.
So in summary, for those of you interested in trying Kobe beef, I can assure you that it isn't worth trying it in the form of a burger - especially at this particular restaurant. Find a place which serves it as a steak or better yet, visit Japan and try it in the form of sukiyaki or even beef sashimi.