I sometimes wish I could set my own price after I eat a burger. Not to be cheap, but merely to see if what I think it should be valued at is the actual number on the menu. It can go either way; many burgers taste far more extravagant than their humble price tag while oftentimes pricier options just don’t add up for me. Put Ceia Kitchen and Bar somewhere in the middle; not quite a bargain but but not a major disappointment either. The $16 Kobe burger is topped with manchego cheese, serrano ham, tomato, smoked paprika aioli and served with duckfat fries. It certainly sounded like it was worthy of the slightly hefty price tag, and after waiting a good hour for the food to arrive, I could hardly wait to dive right in.
The thick patty is nestled into a bun that appears crusty but is actually quite soft. With hints of a Portuguese bun, English Muffin and focaccia bread, the softness did an admirable job holding the burger in place. The first thing I noticed was a heavy dose of char on the patty and nice grill marks to boot. I love grilled burgers, but more often than not it seems that the bitter taste of the char ends up being the predominant flavor, and not the luscious beef where it ought to be. That is certainly the case here, where the beef, Kobe no less, kind of takes a back stage to a stronger favor from the grill. It’s cooked perfectly, however, making for one juicy as hell burger and a gorgeous medium-rare interior. It’s really all about the juiciness and less so about a strong beef flavor, ideally both would have been appreciated. Manchego and serrano are delectable additions that make the burger standout on paper for sure, but mild applications of both atop the patty make them all but vanish as I long to taste more of the promised Spanish flavor profiles. A smoked paprika aioli (requested on the side but very heavily doused all over the burger) is pretty mild, a little watery and definitely under-seasoned. A super fresh summer tomato steals the show in some ways, thickly cut it is pleasurable for sure but probably would not have been my top pick for stand-out ingredients if I had to choose. Fries are thin, skin-on and pretty tasty, but in need of a mild dusting of salt. Not quite up to par with other duckfat fries I’ve had in my day, they have a good crunch but aren’t completely memorable.
While the service and atmosphere were charming through and through, ultimately I think I wanted a little more from the burger at Ceia. The beef, however, was cooked as properly as can be and is easily one of the juicier burgers I’ve had in recent memory, so major points on that end. I do wish the other key players (namely aioli, serrano and manchego) were a little more in the forefront and less of an after-thought.
Overall Score: 83
ps sorry for the crappy photo..