Deconstructing the Best Burgers

Columns Ono, You Know

February 1, 2015

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Rachel Breit

I’ll bet the most pressing topic up for debate this weekend is the Super Bowl. For many, the debate will be about this year’s combatants and which team will win, the Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots. Others will tune in to argue over the best Super Bowl commercials or Katy Perry’s half-time performance. But on game day, there’s no disputing what this food enthusiast wants — a fat and juicy burger! Whether fired on the grill or cooked on a griddle, burgers are always a great choice — on Super Bowl Sunday and every other day. Yet there’s an ongoing debate about just what constitutes the ultimate burger. It’s all a matter of personal taste, really. The size of the hamburger, the kind of meat used to create it, the bun, cheese or no cheese, lettuce-and-tomato quarrels, and questions of mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions are important factors to take into account.

This week, however, there is very little to disagree upon when it comes to these exceptional burgers at the following OYK hot spots. Each restaurant has its own special take on burgers and the construction of them. Like football, burgers are an all-American classic and a symbol of simple indulgence.

Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop

Executive chef and owner Brian Chan ignited his passion for all things food last July with the opening of Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop. Situated in the heart of Chinatown on Smith Street, Chan’s crowning glory of a restaurant stirs up imagery of scrumptious edibles such as Milk and Cereal Pancakes, Smothered Biscuit Sandwiches and other tempting selections based on what Chan likes to eat.

And quite honestly, Chan’s favorites seem to resonate with those of everyone else. On any given day, the spacious eatery comes alive with a customer base of new and loyal patrons enjoying a good meal, along with the staff (Chan included) working hard in the open kitchen.

On my recent visit to Scratch, my itch for an optimal burger was satisfied. And, of course, any true burger admirer is familiar with the ultimate BC Burger (BC for Brian Chan). Now this isn’t your run-of-the-mill burger, let me tell you. The BC Burger, priced at $13, is the Louis Vuitton of burgers. Served daily from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Chan best describes it as a “fancy shmancy” burger. “It has the elements of a cheese board in a burger,” Chan explains. Let’s dissect this upscale burger, shall we? Stacked between two toasted brioche buns is a Big Island ground beef patty, cured bacon, melted Brie, chunks of Granny Smith apples, mesclun greens, local tomatoes and a honey aioli spread. My mouth was watering: this massive burger was waiting to be devoured. The final verdict? Beautifully complex. The green apples provide a burst of tart; an earthy, rustic appeal is achieved from the brie and honey aioli sparks a hint of sweetness.

Lastly, a side ‘Nalo green salad splashed with creamy red wine vinaigrette and smashed morning taters — baked, smashed and deep fried — complete the meal.

Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop
1030 Smith St.

Formaggio Wine Bar

Edgy meets classy at Formaggio Wine Bar at Market City Shopping Center. When the previous owners decided to sell the restaurant in 2012, current owner Niraj Maskey took over. With the change in ownership also came room for creativity, a chance for Maskey to add his own personal touch.

The restaurant is unpretentious and projects an intimate vibe, which allows patrons the freedom to relax and unwind. Formaggio’s tapas-style dining concept melds well with its impeccable wine selection, which equates to a rough estimate of around 80 varieties by the glass — and growing. The emphasis is on French and Italian cuisine, but Nepal native Maskey also adds some Indian flair, along with unique creations — one of my favorites being Kobe Burger Panini ($15.99). For the carnivorous appetite, this burger is divine — the show-stopper being a half-pound mound of Wagyu (Kobe beef) that’s cooked to your liking and seasoned just right on focaccia bread. The burger essentials are there as well, including lettuce, tomato and Mozzarella cheese. Basically, Maskey took elements of two of my favorites — burgers and paninis — and married them harmoniously. The taste is outstanding. Now all that’s needed is a glass of wine. Formaggio’s Kobe Burger Panini is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Formaggio Wine Bar
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 106

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Hawaii's Best