I'd read favourable reports about Kua 'Aina's burgers on both Chris Pople's Cheese & Biscuits blog, and also on Nick Andrew's Burger Me blog, so fancied an investigation of my own. However, my Kua 'Aina experience wasn't of the four-star Must Try variety. More a three-star Shows Promise kind of affair...
OK so let's just clear something up straight away. I didn't actually eat in Kua 'Aina's just-off-Carnaby Street restaurant, but rather carried my burger back to my office, five minutes walk away to share a take out K'A experience with a couple of my work mates around a table in our office, four floors up, with a view straight down Berwick Street. Another thing to note is that I opted for the more modest size of K'A's burger offerings, a 1/3lb rather than a 1/2lb patty. Well, I did have to work that afternoon and 1/2 a pound of flesh at lunchtime tends to lower my productivity considerably. Another thing I did (or rather didn't do) was totally neglect to ask for my patty to be cooked rare. The girl that took my order didn't ask me how I'd like it cooked so I just took what I was given. On the menu it says all burgers are cooked medium unless you request something different. Sadly the patty in my 1/3lb Cheese Burger was cooked beyond medium rendering it not at all juicy.
As you can see from the top picture, my burger patty wasn't the only thing that was overcooked. There was quite a few black scorch marks on the seeded toasted bun - which otherwise had fared rather well wrapped up for five minutes on the walk back to the office: the bread had kind of steamed in the patty heat in the takeout wrapper making it really soft, with the seeded crust remaining lovely and crisp.
Two thick slices of tomato in a burger is unnecessary (and cause for much slippage) so I removed one, but I actually really liked the soft grilled cross section of onion in the burger which somehow managed to avoid slimy worm syndrome. Despite being a shade overcooked, the patty was really well seasoned and also had a really super tasty beefiness. Promising stuff.
Actually, when I tweeted that I'd had a slightly overdone burger at Kua 'Aina, a couple of tweeps asked straight away "Did you have the 1/3 pounder?" adding that in their experiences Kua 'Aina had been much more adept at cooking perfectly the thicker 1/2 pounder than the smaller burger. I can understand how that might be the case, but it seems a shame K'A can't provide the same juicy experience across the two patty options it offers.
Worth noting is K'A's Crunchy Fries are cut with the skin on and are REALLY good - light, crisp and perfectly salted. This time they outshone my less than juicy patty, but I have to say I'm excited at the prospect of returning to try a 1/2 pounder (which I shall ask to be cooked a juicy medium rare). I'm rather hoping I'll soon be even more impressed with this relatively new addition to London's thriving burger scene.
26 Foubert's Place
London W1F 7PP
Tel: 020 7287 7474