Burger Mania - Hiro-o
Japan has so many wonderful traditional approaches to cuisine from all over the world. More Michelin starred restaurants than Paris. Better Italian food than most of Italy. Yet somehow it still has a reputation for culinary weirdness.
Burger Mania's Cherry Cream Cheese Burger won't do anything to change that reputation.
There are two Burger Mania shops in Tokyo, but only the Hiro-o branch serves the unusual Cherry Cream Cheese Burger. The Japanese have a longstanding love affair with special editions, limited time offers, etc. I just wrote up a review of one of McDonald's Japan's limited time offerings for the fine folks at Serious Eats.
As for Burger Mania, I had visited once before and they served a perfectly respectable cheeseburger. I'd say even beyond respectable. Possibly a bit unremarkable, though. The kind of burger you'd bring home to mom and dad, but simultaneously downplay the future possibilities to avoid raising their expectations.
I usually get the standard cheeseburger for comparison purposes, being a big believer in fundamentals. Lately I've ordered a lot of avocado burgers just 'cause the Japanese do such a phenomenal job with them. I justify it by believing that avocado is a subtle enough flavor and fat source that it's similar to a mild cheese. Also it instantly turns a hamburger into health food.
Anyways, I returned to Burger Mania with a friend one chilly winter's day and decided to try something different. Living on the edge! So I tried the Cherry Cream Cheese Burger - highly recommended by the staff. It starts with their usual 100% beef patty. If I understood the staff member, their meat is sourced from different parts of Japan depending on which cut they think is best from which place, and then it's combined into their own special blend.
Then comes the interesting part. Some cherry jam-like substance sits on top of some softening squares of cream cheese. Under the burger are some of the more usual suspects like onion, tomato and lettuce.
How could this work? Cherry jam. Cream cheese. Beef patties. This is just crazy talk. And this is where food writing gets tough. I can show you pictures, but how do I describe the taste? Actually quite easily.
It tastes exactly like simultaneously eating toast and jam, along with a bagel and cream cheese, plus a hamburger. The strange this is that somehow all these tastes exist separately yet harmoniously while you're eating. It's easy to identify all the flavors, but it actually pulls together into one very satisfying meal.
So if you're in Hiro-o, go try the Cherry Cream Cheese burger at Burger Mania. Then tell all your friends how weird Japan can be. Maybe also mention that there was a conservative cheeseburger on the menu, but you're the weird one who decided cherry jam and cream cheese should be on your burger.
Ambience 7.5/10, Burger 8/10, Fries 7/10