tokyo burger blog

burgers in tokyo and beyond

an obsessive journey through Tokyo, Japan to find the best Japanese hamburger

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Up until recently I had spent pretty close to zero time in Roppongi.

Sometimes you feel a bit homesick, and Roppongi can fix that. Getting overly comfortable with the safety of Japan? Roppongi is one of the only areas where you have to keep your eye on your wallet. Missing being hassled on the street by people trying to separate you from your cash? Roppongi has an impressive contingent of West African hustlers aggressively promoting strip clubs and brothels. And in the unusually homogenous society of Japan, Roppongi is foreigners as far as the eye can see.

Then again, recently I've started to appreciate a bit of Roppongi after being more formally introduced by some foreign friends. I think that's why I avoided it before; it felt like a waste being in Japan and hanging out in the foreigner area. 

The huge Roppongi Hills complex sits in the middle of Roppongi and, according to my Japanese friends, is the coolest place to be. Assuming that you've time traveled to 2004, because apparently now it's quite passé and Roppongi Midtown is the new hot spot.  When I mentioned to a Japanese friend that Google's offices were located in one of the Roppongi Hills towers, they sniffed with disdain that it wasn't in Midtown.


Be that as it may, for some reason I found myself walking by Roppongi Hills one day and noticed that a pretty highly rated burger joint called AS CLASSICS Diner was nestled inside the Hollywood Plaza mall, part of the Hills complex.

Inside, as usual, the Japanese have managed to design a quite beautiful space, complete with faux weathered surfaces. (It has been around for 9 whole years, so maybe that's 90 in Japanese shopping years). 


The menu claimed they served American hand chopped beef, which sounded awfully good after suffering through all the poorly textured Japanese burgers. Maybe American beef is just more suited to the art of the burger. 

My very neat and simple cheeseburger came with some super crunchy wedge fries. I don't mind a good wedge fry as long as it's fried to within an inch of its life - mushy wedge fries are one of the scourges of Western society. 


The burger itself sat on a sesame seed bun - a bit bready, but it balanced out their shop sauce, a combo of BBQ and mayo. The texture was good, but not as American as I was hoping; it missed a bit of the crumbly goodness. The flavor and seasoning of the patty was okay, but a bit bland. 

Overall, this is a solid effort by a solid shop. Unfortunately, neither the burger nor the ambience are enough of a standout to lure me into the depths of Roppongi.

Ambience 7/10, Burger 7.5/10, Fries 8/10

Golden Brown

Located halfway between the Nakameguro and Ikejiri Ohashi train stations, finding Golden Brown was a lesson in Tokyo geography for me. While it's not too far from either station, it still feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. 

So after a 15 minute walk from Nakameguro, I finally found the weathered storefront for Golden Brown - which looked so perfectly weathered that I'm guessing it was done by a Japanese craftsmen about 3 months ago. 


Inside is a very American feeling burger shop. Squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard, a diner style water glass and the full bar that an American burger shop might've had before liquor licenses became unobtainable. The only non-American thing on the table is the wonderful plastic sealed hand wipe. Ah yes, we can learn a lot from the Japanese.


This is a simple burger shop serving very unpretentious fare. In that spirit, I ordered a simple cheeseburger and some unpretentious fries. The fries are decent and so is the burger. Like many Japanese burgers, though, the texture is a bit too soft and is missing the crumbly goodness of a burger from Paul's in the East Village (sigh). The flavor of the patty and condiments are pretty good, it's just the texture that brings it down.


Imperfect texture in relatively perfectly assembled burgers is a running theme in Tokyo. My guess is that the Japanese are so concerned with forming the perfect patty that they overhandle the burgers, thus changing the texture.  A slightly less "perfect" patty would probably yield a better textured burger.

If I lived in this area, I'm sure I would frequent Golden Brown. But as it's not terribly convenient for me, it's not good enough to take me this far out of my way. I believe there is another location of Golden Brown nestled somewhere within the Omotesando Hills complex, so maybe I'll try that one some day to compare.

Ambience 8/10, Burger 6.5/10, Fries 7/10 

Sasa Grill Burger Club

Daikanyama is one of my favorite areas in all of Tokyo. A friend of mine recently asked me if Daikanyama was a good shopping area. "Yes, definitely" "Oh, cool", she replied. "Some good deals?" "No, definitely not."


Besides a slew of great shopping, cute cafes and fancy restaurants - Daikanyama also boasts what is probably the coolest bookstore in the world - the new Tsutaya Daikanyama T-Site Complex.  It has an amazing bookstore, DVD rentals, a lounge constructed of books, a camera store with everything from Leicas to Holgas, etc.

So when I wanted to get an apartment in Tokyo, Daikanyama was near the top of the list. The only problems I could see were that 1) I don't own a small dog (I believe everyone in Daikanyama is required to own a small dog). And 2) it is on one of the more inconvenient train lines. 


So while you're spending an inordinate amount of time waiting for the (probably delayed) Toyoko Line, you might spot, as I did, the Sasa Grill Burger Club perched on top of the station. 


Take a few lefts out of the station and you'll find this rather adorable 1960's style American burger joint stationed at the end of a cul-de-sac. Once inside, the also adorable menu shows the three sizes of burgers - S 80g, M 100g, and L 200g. For the metrically challenged, the 200g is almost 1/2 lb, the 100g is almost 1/4 lb, and the 80g is for dainty burger eaters who aren't really serious about burgers and probably shouldn't be reading an obsessive blog about burgers. 

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The burgers have the slightest hint of spice (not spicy, but almost marinated) and they're perfectly moist and tender. The fries are really just a distraction, not measuring up to the wonderful burger, and the plate looks a little bare. Don't let the lack of flourishes in plating fool you. This is one tasty burger. 


I could wax philosophical on the satisfaction in a perfect burger, or compose poetry on the anticipation of a meal at Sasa. Suffice to say that if you like burgers, this is definitely worth a ride on the Toyoko Line. (And if you don't like burgers, boy have you come to the wrong place).

Ambience 7.5/10, Burger 8/10, Fries 7/10 11am-10pm