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As part of his ongoing Prague hamburger survey, Brewsta rates the beef at this American-owned expat favorite
"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."In that heavenly area close to Wenceslas Square, I resumed, once again, my never-ending survey of Prague's hamburgers.
I went to Restaurace Jáma, which means "the hollow", a couple of times recently.
The place is quite popular with expats, though I rarely go myself.
I'd heard boasts about the burgers over the years. Regarding the vaunted Jáma Burgers, I have good news and bad news. More on that later.
Jáma is a big place, and it is often pretty full. Drinking is a common pastime.
A half-liter of Pilsner Urquell was 45 CZK. Gambrinus was 35 CZK. Kozel dark was 35 CZK, and Kozel light was 29 CZK.
I should note that the prices listed here should be correct but, as of this writing, the prices on the internet menu were not up to date.
On my first visit, I had the world's most popular burger combination, the bacon cheeseburger. But, I had to wonder why the menu offers a bacon burger (175 CZK) and a cheddar burger (175 CZK), but there was no combo.
To achieve full bacon cheeseburger status, you have to order one of the above burgers, and then add extra cheddar (45 CZK) or extra bacon (45 CZK).
This annoyed me. I was also irked that a slice of cheese cost the same price as the bacon -- a mind-boggling 45 CZK.
Regarding the bacon itself, it seemed that the chef took a little shortcut. The strips had the tell-tale signs of being deep fried rather than pan fried.
A friend who worked at a snack bar once told me about this trick. The bacon cooks much faster, but comes out with a dried-out, brittle texture.
I have also have a beef with the onions served on the side. What are they thinking, slicing them that thick? When you put them on the burger, they create an airy loft space under the bun.
There was also lettuce, tomato, and oddly, black olives on the side. You can have fried onions for an extra 10 CZK, which I presume would not raise the roof as high as the raw ones.
The menu said the burgers came with fries. But later, I saw there was a 10 CZK charge that said "hranolky (fries) plus." I'm not sure why.
OK, that's the bad news.
Yes, there is some good news. The beef patty was thick, well-shaped, juicy, and held together well. There could have been a little more seasoning.
The bun was large, sturdy, and perfectly-sized for the meat. It was nicely toasted. The steak fries were hot, crunchy, and there were plenty of them. It was all very filling.
On my second visit, I decide to try the Jack Burger, made with Jack Daniels barbecue sauce (195 CZK).
I don't know what I was thinking. This was a mistake.
That's because the plain, classic burger cost only 150 CZK. I don't see how they could justify the 45 CZK premium for the small amount of sauce unless this liquid gold was hand-carried from the USA on a first class flight.
And I could hardly taste it. A big disappointment. I should have tried the chili burger.
I noticed they had Canada Dry in the fridge, so I ordered a bottle (30 CZK).
Unfortunately, it doesn't taste quite the same to me as the Canada Dry ginger ale in the States. It had a slightly saccharin flavor.
Jáma had other offerings besides burgers. There were burritos (155 CZK), Czech beef in cream sauce (159 CZK), and ribs (155 CZK).
I saw they started making something called an "orange drop" chimichanga. I'm not sure what that is, but I'm intrigued.
I probably will try the Tex-Mex options some day in the future. The burgers have so much potential, but the puffed-up pricing, odd onion slicing, and bad bacon put me off.
They get the big things right.
But to my mind, they got too many of those slight but devilish details wrong.
V jámě 7
Tel.: (+420) 224 222 383
Prague Directory Listing
Hello, I am Max Munson, the owner of Jama. I have just read with interest the article on our burgers.
The reviewer had plenty of valid points concerning our burger. Why would our tomato and onion slice be so thick? I am at a loss! I will head into the kitchen now and have all of our cooks start cutting them more thinly! As the reviewer mentioned with his intro and conclusion, a restaurant experience is made up of details --and we need to get ours right!
The pricing on the cheddar is also an issue. Although 45,- may seem like a bit over the top, we are using real cheddar cheese on our burgers. Many of our competitors are still using individually wrapped, low-grade cheese slices, or Eidam. Both of these options are much cheaper. We believe a good cheddar burger deserves an ample amount of the real thing (and that does cost a bit more!).
As for how the burger is cooked, our burger is made up of 100% fresh ground rumpsteak. Because the meat is of a high grade, the customer can ask to have it grilled to order (rare, medium-rare, medium, etc.) We do not want to serve an overcooked burger because it would be a shame. Instead, as we mention on the menu, each burger is grilled to medium (a bit pink inside) unless otherwise instructed. Yes, many if not most places cook their burgers to medium-well, but they may be using lower quality beef (if not a beef and pork mix that is prevalent in the Czech Republic) and need to cook the meat more thouroughly.
The bacon point is another good one. I will make sure that the cooks cease using the "shortcut" mentioned above, even if it means investing in another grill. I also prefer bacon that has been properly done on the griddle to bacon that has been thrown in the deep fryer!
If any of you have other comments or suggestions, please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you again for the interest and pointers!
August 26th, 2008
• This article was originally posted on Czech Please, a weblog dedicated to the food and drink scene in Prague and beyond
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