Editor's note: Daniel O'Sullivan, an English teacher in Busan, South Korea, recently started a blog called Street Foodie to document street food he eats in Asia, but since burgers didn't fit in with the theme he offered to share his review of Kraze Burger with AHT. Take it away, Danny!
Kraze Burger (Kyungseung)
73-15, Daeyeon-3dong, Daeyeon, Nam-gu, Busan, Korea; 82-051-791-2101; kraze.co.kr
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Burgers from the Far East that pull no punches on the flavor stakes
Want Fries with That? Definitely; the chili cheese fries are worth the trip on their own
Prices: K.B original burger, ₩7300 ($5.84); Chili cheese fries, ₩6400 ($5.12)
Notes: Located next to Exit 6, Kyungseung University Subway Station, Line 2. Another branch is located in the Haeundae Beach area. For a full list of stores nationwide, visit the website above.
The Far East may not be a part of the world historically renowned for its burgers, but in South Korea at least one burger chain is making its mark. Kraze Burger (pronounced krat-zy) is well on its way to establishing itself as the country’s number one burger restaurant. In Busan, a city of four million people and my adoptive home for the past 10 months, two outlets are doing a brisk trade in a city where even finding a bread roll without bean paste in it can be a bit of a challenge. I recently dropped into the Busan Kyungseung branch to chow down on some honest Western fare and figure out what all the fuss was about.
Kraze Burger, according to the menu, takes its name from a portmanteau of the words “Korea” and “craze.” However, with 47 outlets opened since 1998 and growing, there doesn’t seem to be anything faddish about it. Neither is it particularly Korean for that matter. Kraze Burger is billed as an American dining experience and that’s exactly what you get. From the bilingual menu (English, then Korean) to the exclusively western soundtrack, it’s clear that the moment you step inside a branch of Kraze Burger you're leaving Korea out on the street behind you.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the food. Alongside burgers, Kraze also offers pasta, rice, and sandwiches, all with a decidedly western feel and some with the provenance to back it up. For example, a Philly sandwich looks particularly inviting, while elsewhere on the menu sides of chili cheese and Idaho fries complete the picture. In fact, the only nod to Korean-ness comes in the form of bulgogi sauce (a marinade or dipping sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and garlic) on the cryptically abbreviated K.G. Burger.
As for the rest of the burgers, an attempt is made to cater to a broad spectrum of tastes. The Maximum and Chili burger for example, both take care of the spicier side of things, while the K.O. burger aims squarely at the “gourmet” market, boasting a line-up that includes Swiss cheese, fried jalapeños, and something called special chili balsamic sauce. The other burgers on the menu seem to be fairly interchangeable, swinging from barbecue sauce to steak sauce then back again. A build-your-own burger option also exists should you still find this myriad of options lacking, but in the interest of simplicity, I opted for a K.B Original accompanied by a side order of chili cheese fries.
The chili cheese fries were the first to arrive: thick, crinkle-cut megaliths topped with beef chili, grated cheese, and thinly diced raw onion. The fries were, for the most part, nicely salted and well cooked, both qualities fries of this size and shape can all too often fall short of. Meanwhile, the chili imparted a mild but insistent burn in a consistency thick enough to taste the beef, but not so thick as to overwhelm. On top of this, the grated cheese was of an above-par quality (Korea is notoriously short on good cheese) while the raw onion punched through to create a good counterfoil to the richness of the other flavors.
Next to arrive was the burger, a skyscraper of a sandwich consisting of Australian tenderloin, cheese, homemade pickle, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Kraze sauce. This came sliced in half and held together—with varying degrees of success—by two little green plastic swords. Once removed, I found the patty to be thick and roughly formed, the slightly pink meat well seasoned and singing the benefits of a searing hot grill. On top, more thinly sliced raw onion combined with lettuce and a thin layer of mayonnaise to give a crispy freshness to the burger that, combined with the soft, seed-speckled wheat bun, almost fooled me into thinking I was eating something healthy. Whether this illusion would have been strengthened by the tomato and pickle however I can’t say, as on first contact they slid out onto the plate where they stayed. Underneath the patty a slice of American cheese insinuated itself into the burger, fusing with the meat and completely changing the structural make-up of the patty.
The only slight disappointments were the Kraze sauce which, despite claims on the company website, tasted exactly like tomato ketchup, and some jalapeños and cold salad bar-style pasta that appeared to have been added as an afterthought and did little to recommend themselves.
My only other complaint at Kraze Burger was with the service. My table lacked the basic condiments and I found the wait staff to be largely unsmiling and inattentive. This gave the place a slightly cold atmosphere out of tune with the meal I'd just had.
But complaints aside, Kraze Burger does a great job of providing a good quality burger at a reasonable price. While outside its doors Korea marches on with all its live octopus and table-top barbecue gusto, it’s good to know that inside awaits food that not only does a good job in an unfamiliar land, but that can hold its own with the best the west has to offer.
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