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Category Archives: japan

In The Soup

It’s been a year since the ramen burger craze first swept the nation and by sheer coincidence, here I am, writing about a ramen burger again this week. This time from CoZara, a newly opened Izakaya (Japanese Pub) in University City. I was really excited to check out their version since announcing “Ramen Sundays” a few weeks ago, where their ramen burger – topped with spicy mayo, ginger ketchup, Gruyere cheese, red onion, tomato, arugula & a fried egg – is featured from 2-8 PM (it’s not offered on their regular menu). So I ordered my burger and I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

My boyfriend ordered a bowl of pork belly ramen, which came out, cooled and he finished eating it before my food even hit the table. I was worried that there was some kind of miscommunication with the order since 1) the waitress put the bowl of ramen in the middle of the table thinking we were splitting it and 2) neither our server/bartender or the waitress made any mention of their being a delay with my food either when they brought the ramen, took the ramen away, or refilled my water glass after another five minutes of waiting. I understand that putting together ramen buns may have taken a while to prepare, but any indication of that from the staff either when I ordered or when food/drinks were brought to the table would have put me a little more at ease.

But finally, just as I was about to call it a day, my burger arrived! Served with a side of fried lotus chips, this thing was a beast.

First word of advice: LEAVE THE STICK IN! It is impossible to eat this burger any other way. Second: The ramen bun was extremely thick, hot & greasy, so you may not be able to pick it up right away (even if you have been waiting over 25 minutes for your food). But despite the service snafu and it’s monstrous appearance, the burger actually had a lot of flavor. The patty itself is cooked more in the Japanese “Hamburg” style, so more similar to a meatloaf than your traditionally burger. The meat was flavored and mixed with herbs & egg and cooked all the way through. Hamburg steak was actually one of my favorite things to eat in Japan, so I kind of enjoyed that little twist. And while it was a pain to eat the thick, soggy noodle bun, it was rather tasty (even if I did eventually just give up on it altogether). I think if the noodles in the bun had been drier and fried more, and the patty maybe thinned out a little bit, this burger could definitely have been a winner (Or maybe the ramen burger craze is just past its prime!)

Burger rating: “C”

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SEA/PDX Burger Throwndown: The Final Round

Wild Card Round: Katsu Burger (SEA) vs Slow Bar (PDX)

….

I’m not even sure if this is a fair fight. I’m such a Japanophile that the minute I heard there was a place called Katsu Burger, I knew I had to run and eat there immediately. While quite off the beaten path of downtown Seattle, located in an industrial park in the Georgetown neighborhood, I promise that when you make the trek you won’t be disappointed. The walls are adorned with kawaii illustrations, whacky Japanese burger signage and other Anime lover/Otaku favorites. The burgers are named awesome things like the Tokyo Tower, Gozilla Attack and the Ohayu Gozaimasu. Their fries can be topped with Japanese curry or Nori flakes. They even have a black sesame milkshake (my fav!). The burgers are all served “tonkatsu” style (tonkatsu is traditionally a breaded & fried pork culet) but you can also order your burger with beef, chicken or tofu.

I opted for the traditional beef Ohayo Gozaimasu burger, while Brian chose pork. Since “Ohayo Gozaimasu” means “Good Morning” in Japanese, the burger was topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar, Japanese mayo (the Kewpie kind) and Tonkatsu sauce (yum!).  It was love and first bite. Despite all the toppings, the presentation under the bun was perfect – definitely up to other Japanese food standards I have experienced. I wish there was an East Coast equivalent to this burger; I want it again soooooooo bad! It was all the things I love in a burger but on a burger that was deep fried! If that doesn’t scream AMERICAN, then I don’t know what does. Katsu Burger was hands down the winner before I even ate the next.

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………..

Our runner-up here is Slow Bar in Portland, one of the staples on their “best burger in the city” list. In an innocuous bar on the other side of the Willamette from Downtown Portland you’ll find Slow Bar, which is I’m sure a comfy hipster bar at night but we were there at 2 in the afternoon. I ordered up their Summer Slowburger (since it was nearly 100 degrees out) which is 1/2lb. Painted Hills natural beef, Grafton white cheddar, heirloom tomato, iceberg lettuce, dill pickle.

I ordered it medium and it came out more on the well side, which was a disappointment (a disappointment I seem to be having far too frequently, sadly). It was on one of those cute seeded buns again, made of nicely toasted, soft challah bread. I loved the heirloom tomato and the pickles; presentation was great. And it wasn’t heavy tasting thanks to the natural beef! (They need to get on that trend out here.) If it had been cooked the way I asked, this could have made the race much closer. Still, it was a decent burger that I’d love to try again.
That makes the final burger score: SEA, 2 – PDX, 1.

Sorry Portland, you’ll just have to try harder next time! (Or at least seem like you’re trying less hard since that’s the ironic, hipster thing to do, right?)

Okonomi-Yummy!

On one of my adventures in Japan, I found myself in the city of Hiroshima. While most famous for being the site of one of the WWII atomic bomb droppings, it is also famous for a unique Japanese dish known as okonomiyaki: Okonomi meaning “What you like” and Yaki meaning “grilled”, it’s essentially a grilled pancake with a bunch of different items of your choosing such as noodles, bacon and cabbage. It’s then topped with a sweet brown okonomiyaki sauce, sprinkled with seaweed and bonito flakes, and drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise. Hiroshima style okonomiyaki differs from what others think of as the “authentic” Osaka style okonomiyaki by having its ingredients layered, rather than mixed together. 


Downtown Hiroshima is home to a six-story building known as Okonomimura, which is home to 28 different Okonomiyaki restaurants. Each floor has about 8 stalls, which are comprised of diner bar stool seating with counter service set around a giant griddle. 

Seven lil Okonomiyakis – All in a row.
Mmm! Bacon!
If you look closely, they start by spreading a thin layer of batter on the griddle, which cooks and becomes the base of the “pancake”. It’s then piled high with a ton of seasoned cabbage.

You can have it your way, just like Burger King!
Choose between Udon or Soba noodles, fried egg, add shrimp, etc – whatever’s on the menu.

(Photo credit: Essential Japan Guide.com)
(since I was too hung over and hungry to take a picture of mine)
Finished Product! 

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