The Texas Kobe Beef Burger at Branch Water Tavern

What's in a gourmet burger? At Branch Water Tavern, it starts with the size of the patty.

"Everyone does an eight-ounce burger," explained Branch Water Tavern's Executive Chef David Grossman, "so I thought, let's make it nine ounces."

Ground in-house, topped with cheese, bacon, red onions, tomato and butter lettuce, and set on top of a fluffy bun, Grossman's Texas Kobe cheeseburger is a gorgeous mouthwatering vision that sits close six inches tall. Just looking at it made me hungry.

Prepare ahead of time for the messiness, because you won't be able to eat it without getting your hands dirty. Even after squishing it between my hands to flatten out the bun, I was barely able to take a full bite from top to bottom.

I was surprised to find that this burger did not taste overly fatty. In contrast to the Akaushi beef burger from The Burger Guys, which always manages to make me feel like a greaseball, Branchwater Tavern's Kobe burger was juicy but did not give me that artery-clogging sensation.

This begs the question: Isn't it blasphemy to grind Kobe beef? Isn't the point of Kobe beef to enjoy the marbling and the fattiness of a heavily petted, well-fed cow?

Don't get me wrong, I can't deny the tastiness. But I'm not so sure I'm sophisticated enough to discern the subtle differences between ground USDA prime and Kobe without a side-by-side tasting.

It's still a darn good burger, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Bon Appetit Magazine gave Branch Water Tavern the number five spot on its national list of 10 Favorite Burger Spots this past September, the only Houston restaurant to get that distinction.

And at the end of the day, when I'm craving an over-the-top burger made with the world's most prized and expensive meat, I'm more than happy to plunk down the $13 to get it.

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham