Friday, May 4, 2007

Oceanaire's Hamburgers

So after reading this article here about the burgers at The Oceanaire, in which the author claims them to be the best fancy burger in the city, I made it my mission to go to The Oceanaire and try them. I have my own opinion about the best burger in the city, based on some little research and possibly an inordinate amount of thoughtful consideration. As an aside, I don't see the point in distinguishing between fancy and ... and what? and 'normal' burgers. If you're going to make hamburgers, then you should be judged against the same criteria as everyone else.
The Oceanaire claims to use kobe-style beef. Their burger is topped with lightly (sparsely) breaded red onion rings, and some sort of herbed blue cheese sauce. They use a nice slightly chewy bun with a crisp top. All of these things together sound like the fixings for a tasty burger! Maybe that's why I was a little let down.
It wasn't that it was a bad burger. It was really a pretty decent, actually. It was certainly above average. However, in this age of Sysco-provided pre-formed patties, above average isn't hard to do. Make a hand-formed patty from decent meat and serve it on a nice crusty bun with quality garnishes. That's all you have to do, aside from cook it competently.
My major complaint about The Oceanaire's burger, the summation of my feelings on the matter, is that it is bland. The blue cheese sauce is almost undetectable. Maybe that's okay though, too much blue cheese flavor is overpowering. The onion rings add almost nothing above and beyond what a slice of red onion by itself would provide. The bun was fine, maybe even great, but I believe they may have buttered the bottom half or something. That seemed to add a hint of butter to almost every bite and made the bottom of the bun practically fall apart with greasiness almost immmediately. Maybe the meat was fried in butter? And speaking of the meat, this was maybe the worst part. I am sure this patty was fine and delicious by some standard out there, but I just felt like it didn't taste of much, and certainly not of good ground beef. It needed some seasoning of its own, for one thing. It could have used some salt and pepper. If it already had some, it needed more. Be that as it may, I think what really sets my favorite burger a step above the Oceanaire's is the meatiness. You can taste the meat in every bite, and it tastes deliciously beefy! That just wasn't the case here.
Now there are some other problems with my favorite burger. The french fries are almost always over-salted. The french fries at The Oceanaire are the tiny thin kind, and they were just about perfect. There was a little pot of mayonnaise on the side that they went with quite well. My favorite burger can be served with bacon, but it's always a bit too salty. My favorite burger seems to usually be served with green tomatoes. That's not terrible, but it's not usually what I want on a burger.
Oh yeah, my favorite burger is at The Palace Kitchen. It's a fairly popular choice for burgers, and I think that's with good reason. I did have someone tell me recently that they love the burgers at Geraldine's Counter down in Columbia City. I have not gone there yet, but it's on my list.
Oh, and what about the rest of the meal? Well, we started with some really good Netarts Bay oysters. They were actually the highlight of the whole meal. 4 perfect little mouthfuls. I'd go back to this place for oysters alone. We also had 1 crabcake, and it was .. meh. The crab was in large lumps and was actually pretty flavorless. It was embedded in a sort of mustardy lemony batter that totally overpowered whatever other flavor the crab might have had. I think it was sort of east coast style and I think it was actually blue crab, based on their fresh list. Either way, not exciting.
We had lemonade, which was pretty okay.
Service was fine, though a little strange for one reason or another.
The room itself is nicely appointed. 2:00pm on a Friday found it mostly empty. There were a couple of long business lunches and one family meal, not much else aside from us.
So the only reason we'll ever go back there is for oysters. The burger just didn't cut it. It's certainly better than the pre-formed frozen patties you find most places, but that's about it. I wonder if maybe it could have been prepared better? Maybe it needed better seasoning? Maybe it needed to be cooked a bit less? My medium rare was just pink in the middle. Maybe it needed better garnishes? I sort of wish I could just get their meat and try cooking it myself and see how it turns out.