I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in the past few years. While most of them have been in Philadelphia, I’ve also taken my burger adventures to Seattle, Vegas, Portland, NYC, Nashville, and Louisville. That’s some pretty good domestic coverage! Well, I figured it was time to take my skills (aka my burger-loving palate) overseas on a vacation – to Japan! Now I know when you think of Japan, burgers aren’t the first thing to come to mind, but the Japanese have a pretty big obsession with burgers, too. Remember Burger King Japan‘s Windows 7 promotion of 7 burger patties on one bun?
Or their all-black burger (which, once it made it stateside gave everyone green poop
A Tokyo boutique burger shop, J.S. Burgers Cafe, is even doing Ghostbusters themed burgers as a promotion for the upcoming film: I traveled all over Japan while I was there, so I’ll be showcasing three burgers from three different regions. The first burger is from Ishigaki, an island located in Okinawa Prefecture that is part of the Yaeyama island chain. The island is famous for its free-range cows that provide excellent quality beef. Located near the downtown ferry terminal is Kitauchi Farm Hamburger Shop, a small, unassuming food stand in front of a large souvenir store. I ordered the Kiwami Burger (instead of going for the nearly $25 filet steak burger), topped with lettuce, red onion,” ratatouille” (which was really just pickle & onion relish), dauphinoise and possible some kind of mayo or cream sauce, on a brioche bun. The burger was very juicy (although cooked completely through for Japanese food safety reasons) and the meat was like nothing I’d ever had before. It didn’t leave me feeling heavy like certain ground chuck or beef blends can be in America. It was cooked smashed-style and was very fresh and delicious. It paired nicely with a can of Orion, a local Okinawan beer!
The next place I traveled to was Hakodae, located on the northmost island of Japan known as Hokkaido. It is home to a local burger chain known as Lucky Pierrot, which has a very unfortunate & creepy clown mascot. Also: Their most popular burger isn’t even an actual hamburger! It’s a fried chicken sandwich known as the “Chinese Chicken Burger”, which comes topped with lettuce and Japanese mayo. They love it so much, there’s a giant replica of one inside of of the shops.
It’s also the only “burger” you can order as a meal set, which includes an iced tea & a mug of french fries topped with a cheese sauce & has chili underneath them (which was a pleasant surprise when I was eating them). The chicken was juicy and had a crispy breading on the outside; the glaze on them was also not too sweet or sticky. Hakodate was very cold & rainy, so this was the perfect meal for that weather. It warmed me right up! Finally, at the end of my trip, I arrived in Tokyo where I dined at Blacows. All the burgers here are made with 100% Japanese black wagyu beef. I opted for the Avocado Cheeseburger, which was roughly $15; kind of on the high end price-wise for burgers in America, yet considering what this type of beef would cost in the U.S., it was practically a steal!
The burger came topped with tartar sauce, marinated onion, Colby Jack cheese & slices of fresh avocado on a seeded, shiny brioche bun. There were also a few potato wedges & cornichons on the side. It took a long time for the burger to come out since they cook them all the way through, but it was still surprisingly juicy and delicious. Wagyu beef is so moist and tender; it truly is better than every other beef patty I’ve ever had. I’ll be sad to have to return to 80/20 blends and ground chuck or short rib
, but don’t worry Japan – I’ll be back to eat more of your delicious burgers again soon!