James Burger: Urban gastronomy in a bun

by Faith Bailey19/12/2016 - 09:51

Photo: courtesy of James Burger
Eat

New Prishtina burger shop brings Michelin star swagger to compete with the Kosovo classics.

James Burger, opened last week by owner and chef James Kim, offers a five item menu (including dessert) centered on high quality ingredients. At James, simple is best; the shop’s concept note is “to simply do as little as possible to the best ingredients available.” This shows in the exemplary preparation of the meat, sourced from the classic Buquku butchery.

Kim has an extensive background in fashion and cooking, with chef experience at several Michelin rated restaurants. His last stint was cooking as Head Chef of Catch NYC in Dubai, and after he heard from his Albanian partners about the burger situation in Prishtina, he joked that he’d open his own place in town. After a quick visit in March, he ended up staying and has now made it happen.

Though the menu is minimal, it offers detailed information on the food, almost reminiscent of Portlandia sketches. The place offers two mains: a cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich, fries, and two desserts. Unfortunately, only regular fries were on the menu (which includes a note that they are made with Russet potatoes, the common brown potatoes found in every grocery shop). For the sake of symmetry in the menu (the consistent two options), I wished the place also offered another fry choice – perhaps sweet potato or curly fries, which would be quite the novelty in Prishtina.

The cheese burger, 2.5 euros, a side of fries, 1.5 euros., and the Pate de choux, 1 euro. | Photo: Courtesy of James Burger
The cheese burger for 2.5 euros, a side of fries for 1.5 euros, and the Pate de choux for 1 euro. | Photo: Courtesy of James Burger

We couldn’t wait to dig our teeth into the cheese burger, a misleadingly small-looking but very filling delight. The patty, unlike the pleskavica varieties on offer in most places in town, is made from a combo of short rib and chuck, was perfectly done, succulent and pink in the inside.  The patty was cradled by a splash of salad, tomato, bread and butter pickles, a slice of Gouda cheese, and a slice of tomato in a soft bun with a crispy top. The burger hit all the notes, the sidekicks, including the bun, worked well with the thin patty and didn’t overpower it. Far too often in Kosovo one ends up eating more bread than meat on a burger, and this was definitely not the case here.

The chicken sandwich is a standout amongst the many sad, floppy chicken-patty sandwiches typically found in Prishtina lunch spots. This one draws upon Southern US and Asian flavor profiles and is made with real, just off the bone salt-brined thigh meat, deliciously juicy and tender. The chicken is lightly breaded and served on a bun with lettuce, coleslaw, bread and butter pickles, and a house spicy sauce. The flavors were delicious, though I would have liked a bit more of a vinegary component in the sauce.

The chicken sandwich, with the house hot sauce, coleslaw, and salt brined chicken thigh. | Photo: Courtesy of James Burger
The chicken sandwich, with the house hot sauce, coleslaw, and salt brined chicken thigh. | Photo: Courtesy of James Burger

The “pate de choux” dessert was a lovely take on a cream puff, and was like an amped up version of the local favorite princess krofne. A flaky dough filled with a refreshing caramel espresso custard, not too sweet or heavy. It comes as a sizable portion, and would be nice as a standalone midday treat alongside a short espresso–which James Burger brews excellently, especially considering that it’s a quick service burger joint.

The menu is refreshingly simple, and pairs well with the overall vibe of the glossy, modern interior with an open kitchen. Still, at least one vegetarian option would serve the new restaraunt well. A halloumi burger would be a great option, or even a pescatarian crispy fish sandwich.

Pate de choux: vanilla and espresso custard, brandy, caramel. A delicious treat for one euro. | Photo: Faith Bailey
Pate de choux: vanilla and espresso custard, brandy, caramel. A delicious treat for one euro. | Photo: Faith Bailey

We’re excited to return to try the “grilled milka sandwich,” a dessert that seems strangely enticing, with salted dulce de leche oozing between a hazelnut milka bar and butter brioche.

James Burger shares a street with the ever popular Papirun sandwich shop and the vegetarian restaurant Babaghanoush. A comfortable and spacious interior, delicious and quick food, it’s sure to be a new downtown lunch spot favorite.

19 December 2016 - 09:51

James Burger

ADDRESS

16 Johan V Hahn Prishtina

OPENING HOURS

Daily from 10:30 am-7 pm

CONTACT

Phone: +386 49 862 646
james@voluntas.co
Facebook Page

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosova. For 8 years, PI has been reporting on current affairs, published exclusive investigations and longform features & essays about Kosovo and the region.