HAMBURGER HELPER
To recognize what makes a burger truly awesome, try ogling its buns...


*mouseover to enlarge images

Kobe beef, Angus steak, wagyu or plain old ground: mention the word “hamburger,” and the first thing that springs to mind is the star of the show: the patty, or meat. But a hamburger is not a hamburger without another player lending literal and figurative support—the bun.

When taking a first bite into a hamburger, what do you taste? Usually the bun, ideally “at one” with the meat and fillings enveloped inside. If the bun is too soft and falls apart, or too brittle and crushes the burger, you’re bound for disappointment. Similarly, if the bread is bland, or lacks color or gloss, the patty inside will suffer, no matter the quality of the meat.

Telling it like it is, American food writer Josh Ozersky declares in The Hamburger: A History (Yale University Press, 2008), “A hamburger—unlike a Hamburg steak sandwich, a meatball sandwich, a meatloaf sandwich, a patty melt, the German frikadelle or a thousand other conceivable variations—is defined by its being served on a bun.”

But what makes a decent bun? Tokyo, fortunately, has a number of bakeries wholesaling buns to some of the city’s better hamburger establishments—with Mineya (6-17-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; http://hamburger.jp/bun_vol.1.html) and Shimbashi Bakery (1-3-28 Mita, Minato-ku; www.s-bakery.co.jp) the dominant players—but personal taste is key.

Whether you prefer pillowy and pliant, soft and squishy, or robust and rustic, here are some ground rules to bear in mind when choosing the right helper:

The bun is a team player
It shall not dull the flavor of the meat. Imagine a truly fantastic, earth-shattering bun. Where does the burger fit into the taste sensation? You might even wish it weren’t there. Yeasty is fine, but bread should not compete with patty.

The bun is big enough
Size matters. The ratio of bun to fillings is key. You’re being ripped off if the patty is swamped. For a big, messy burger, something more substantial is needed. Rule of thumb? The patty should be the same size, or slightly smaller, than the bun.

The bun is firm enough
Lightweight buns don’t cut the mustard. Once garnishes and sauces are added, you’ll be wearing your burger rather than eating it. Lightly toasting the bun not only offers a toothsome counterpoint, but can prevent your meal turning into a soggy mess.

The bun yields (when it should)
We’ve all had an experience when biting down on a bun squirted the entire contents out the other side like a wet bar of soap. Even on a less dramatic level, you stand to lose all meaty drippings. The bun should give way to your eager bite.

A&G Diner


Not many hamburger restaurants can claim to draw in the owners of other burger shops, but A&G Diner manages to pull off this feat. Since Seita Yoshizawa opened his place six years ago as Goro’s Diner, he has played host to a number of likeminded restaurateurs. The name changed in December, 2010 to A&G Diner, but you can still count on the same excellent dishes, carefully chosen and creatively made to satisfy the most keen of burger cravings. Chefs and diners alike can choose from an astounding 16 types of burger, with patties grilled to perfection. Popular selections include the Rio de Burger (¥1,250), topped with the finest Calabresa sausages, and a tasty Brazilian sauce to give you a taste of the Latin nation. The Special Burger (¥1,600) is not for the faint of heart. Only describable as monster, it includes thick-cut bacon, Gouda and Cheddar cheese, avocado slices and a sunny-side up egg, seasoned with original teriyaki barbeque sauce. For a complete midday meal, a break from the office or a pleasure stop, take advantage of a great lunch deal. A&G Diner offers a special lunch set, with a plain hamburger, fries, salad and a drink, all for a mere ¥1,000.

☛ 1F Okamoto Bldg 1F, 3-41-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3403-9033. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-10pm, Sun & hols 11:30am-6pm, closed Tue. Nearest stn: Gaienmae. http://meturl.com/agburger

Arms


Arms is a restaurant where everything—from décor to cuisine—is handmade. Every single burger is fabricated with unique care. What’s more, the branch at Yoyogi Park Side was established for customers to widen their experience a notch. Try munching on your burger with a sweet spring breeze fluttering through your hair and beautiful visions of nature in front, and you’ll see what they’re driving at.

Imagine the antique concept of a traditional American burger joint with a faded sign and a vintage table. That feeling of people gathered together—burgers in hand—to share a community, is one that Arms has brought to modern-day Tokyo.

Arms offers handmade patties exquisitely cupped within fluffy buns to create a fluid harmony of flavor. With all ingredients cut to fit the creation, except the crisp leaves of lettuce spilling out, the application of fresh sauce finishes off the recipe. Try Arms’ specialty, the avocado mushroom cheeseburger, for a chorus of fresh flavors that will remain with you all day (¥1,350). Add ¥200 on top of your burger to nab yourself a refreshing drink set on weekdays.

At Arms the community of people is varied: Japanese and foreign, young and old, individuals, families, couples, groups of friends. Delivery services are offered in other branches, where the taste of a delicately crafted burger can complement your home or office lunch in style.

☛ Park Side Shop: 5-64-7 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3466-5970. Open Tue-Sun 11am-11pm, closed Mon (except hols). Nearest stn: Yoyogi Koen.

☛ Arms Picnic: B2 Lumine, 1-1-5 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-6302-0039. Open daily 10am-10pm (when Lumine is open). Nearest stn: Shinjuku.

☛ Takeout & Delivery: 1-9-21 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3466-5974. Open daily 11am-10pm. Nearest stn: Yoyogi Koen. www.arms-burger.com

AS Classics Diner


Near Komazawa Olympic Park is this authentic American diner-style hamburger restaurant, which draws people from far and wide to this pleasant neighborhood. The key ingredient in the burgers is AS Classics Diner’s original sauce, homemade from scratch. When creating patties, meat is cut directly from larger pieces with a kitchen knife—crucially, no machine-cutting occurs. This is central to AS’s concept of originality in their burger-making—no two patties are the same, which extends to the fresh ingredients included within each burger. Careful about balancing food groups, AS also includes plenty of vegetables in the hamburger, also ensuring all produce comes from safe areas.

A good place to start is the charcoal-grilled 140g beef patty with original sauce, or the bacon cheeseburger for ¥1,365. Often, foreigners complain about the meager size of burgers in Japan. AS Classics Diner is intent on dispelling that preconception, and providing a hamburger that even the most ravenous of foreign customers will find satisfying.

The décor comes straight out of a 1950s-60s American diner, with music transporting you to that very special era in popular culture.

A host of set menus are available to make your trip to AS worthwhile, such as a morning deal (9-10:30am) for ¥500-1,050 with drink, lunch costing ¥1,050-1,785 with drink, and dinner (6-10pm) with a monthly burger, plate menus and more.

☛ 1F Orion Komazawa Bldg, 5-9-22 Yagumo, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-5701-5033. Open Wed-Mon 9am-11pm, closed Tue. Nearest stn: Komazawa Daigaku or Toritsu Daigaku. www.asclassics.com

Authentic


Owner-chef at Akasaka Authentic, Takeshi Sato, had never given the humble hamburger a second thought before he began his apprenticeship at Tokyo’s famed Firehouse—the star of the traditional burger scene in the Japanese capital. But there can be no disputing that he is a fast learner: just a few years down the line, he’s busily involved in creating gourmet masterpieces at his central Tokyo venue.

From simple cheeseburgers to the monstrous Authentic burger—a mad combination of three beef patties layered with chili, egg, cheese and bacon—Sato personally crafts each sandwich into that perfect balance of crispy toasted bun and juicy, 100-percent beefy goodness. A couple of other options that demand to be tasted are the bacon cheeseburger, with three thick strips of bacon that are double-fried to an exquisite crunchiness, and the original broccoli cheeseburger, featuring a patty piled high with sautéed broccoli florets and drizzled with Monterey Jack cheese. Five fresh and healthful deli-style sandwiches are available for those in search of something a little different.

While the queue is often out the door during lunch on weekdays, Authentic really comes into its own at night. With a perky ska soundtrack and playful university-like atmosphere, it’s a funky and relaxing spot to grab a burger and a beer on the long and weary road back home.

☛ 2-18-19 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3505-8584. Open Mon-Fri 11am-10:30pm (LO 10pm), Sat-Sun & hols 11:30am-8:30pm (LO 8pm). Closed end of year & New Year. Nearest stn: Akasaka or Tameike-Sanno. Premium Delivery: Tel: 03-6804-2213. Order: 5-10pm. www.pdelivery.com. Fine Dine: Tel: 03-3568-3098. Order: 11am-10pm. www.finedine.jp

The Beat Diner


With an underlying philosophy straight out of Greenwich Village in New York City, The Beat Diner offers you an authentic US atmosphere with ’60s and ’70s music pumping to help you feel the beat of the burger. Every element of their burger-making philosophy plugs into that vibe. The meat is about the rivulets of juice trickling down your chin. The vegetation means freshness and crunchiness to a T. The buns are all about the stickiness on your tongue. Buns come from Mineya bakery, created to to call into mind the ’60s and ’70s hot-dog-style buns that were the going currency in American burger shacks. One bite will communicate this unique flavor and give you a sensory window into those halcyon hamburger days.

Every visitor is encouraged to make a start with The Beat Burger (¥1,400). The clue to the ingredients is in the letters: B is for bacon, E is for egg, A is for avocado, and T is for tomato. This quartet of heaven-united flavors is what every burger taster dreams of. Let it wash around your tongue as you gaze lazily at the NYC décor including record jackets from the era, and ink paintings by Goro Sasaki on the wall.

Get down with their lunch menu from 11am-5pm—with special prices from ¥800-950—or ask about their all-you-can-drink party menu.

☛ 2-1-13 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3580-7510. Open Mon-Thu & Sat 11am-11pm, Fri 11am-2am, Sun 11am-10pm. Nearest stn: Hibiya or Yurakucho.

Bubby’s New York Ark Hills


The popular Tribeca, NYC café & restaurant Bubby’s started off as a pie store in 1990, and widened to offer a traditional US menu with the motto of “Defending the American table.” In 2003, Bubby’s second branch opened in Brooklyn, and in June 2009, the first overseas store opened—Bubby’s Yokohama. After an anticipated wait, February saw the launch of the Akasaka branch to bring the Bubby’s flavor to the heart of Tokyo.

To provide a fresh burger experience, buns are homemade. The dough is split into two and allowed to rise separately, and at the end of the process, put together. These buns, solid on the outside but soft on the inside, create the perfect combo to match the juicy 200g patty, as well as absorbing every single drop of tasty gravy. Patties are 100% US beef, with a pure and simple seasoning of salt and pepper to bring out the essential taste of the meat itself. To make it even better, Bubby’s marinates its bacon in special brine for five days, then smokes it to create a profound flavor that combines with the burger in a spectacular taste sensation (¥1,300).

The Bubby’s concept is to make you feel at home, welcoming you with the warmth and taste of Tribeca, New York. Try their happy hour from 5-7pm weekdays, with drinks at discounts of up to half price.

☛ 2F Ark Mori Bldg, 1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6441-0733. Open Mon-Fri 8am-11pm (LO 10pm), Sat-Sun & hols 10am-10pm (LO 9pm). http://bubbys.jp

Burger 5


Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, this burger hub in the heart of Ginza is proud of its decade-long tradition. Not only does it serve up a mean burger, but it provides a free-thinking space for individuals to get their creative juices flowing—as the meaty juices cascade down their cheeks.

The concept at Burger 5 is, “Simple is best.” Patties are made with 100-percent beef, seasoned only with rock salt and black pepper. No matter how small or large your appetite for red meat, Burger 5 can cater to your needs—diners are free to choose the quantity of beef used in their patty. Big eaters will want to order the Manhattan (¥1,800), featuring a whopping three beef patties (over 450 grams’ worth), also available topped with three slices of cheese (¥2,250) if you’re not planning on running a marathon anytime soon. Other popular burgers include the Avocado Classic (¥1,200) and the originally-flavored Big Apple Classic (with baked apple and cinnamon, ¥1,250). All sandwiches are perfectly accompanied by French fries and homemade pickles.

When it comes to dessert, there’s one word on everyone’s lips: cheesecake. Burger 5 offers three homemade varieties: New York, caramel and chocolate cheesecake. Amid these inspiring ingredients it’s no wonder local artists frequent the spot. Photographers are encouraged to display their work on the walls, to accompany your gourmet burger tasting with visual stimulation.

☛ B1 Ginza 5, 5-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-5568-3110. Open Mon-Sat 11am-10:45pm, Sun & hols 11am-9:30pm. Nearest stn: Ginza, exit C1. http://meturl.com/burger5

Burger Mania


After honing his skills in top burger restaurants, Burger Mania’s owner set up shop in Shirokane in 2008. From young folk to hoary old veterans, punters went crazy for the burgerage on offer. Soon after, the Hiroo branch joined the ranks. The interior decoration of both branches is inspired by the owner and designer’s many trips to burger cafés in NYC.

The burger philosophy is simple. Using 100% Japanese beef, the right cut of meat is selected and ground daily. Meanwhile, wild yeast in alcohol yields the best results for the buns. The consistency and bittersweet taste makes a great combo with the patty. Specify how you’d like your meat cooked—rare for the bloody-minded, well-done for those who like a crunch. Try the ultimate blue cheese burger (¥1,300), which uses plenty of both Gorgonzola and Roquefort. Other options are on the menu for those who fancy a change from the eponymous standard.

Burger Mania is open for lunch up to 4pm, useful in Hiroo especially, where the majority of lunching houses close doors earlier. Burgers and sandwiches come with French fries and salad—you can even upgrade your fries to extra large for free! The ¥200 drink menu includes a glass of wine (until 4pm). Delivery is available via Fine Dine in Shirokane (Tel: 03-5791-3130) and Hiroo (Tel: 03-5775-1860).

☛ Shirokane: 6-5-7 Shirokane, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3442-2200. Open daily 11:30am-11pm. Nearest stn: Shirokane-Takanawa.

☛ Hiroo: 2F Hiroo Rokkokan, 5-15-25 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5422-7899. Open daily 11:30am-11pm. Nearest stn: Hiroo.

☛ www.burger-mania.com

Cafe Hohokam


Named after one of the major native tribes of the American Southwest, Café Hohokam embraces desert and tribal themes in its décor, and an at-one-with-the-land authenticity in its food menu.

Opened in 2010, this Harajuku eatery boasts an all-weather tented second-floor terrace, plus cacti, vintage ’70s furniture and a blues soundtrack. Created by the chefs at nearby restaurant The Great Burger, the menu is of a Californian bent, featuring 25 types of burgers starting from ¥950. The signature Cafe Hohokam burger (¥1,450 with fries) is filled with chili and jalapeno peppers and served with a light brown bun intended to recall the desert sand. Recently, Café Hohokam started up a monthly burger menu, with April’s offering the majestic bamboo-shoot and green-curry burger, evoking the luscious green of the verdant spring.

There are ten other sandwiches, each served with fries; six varieties of hot dogs with onion rings; and a selection of homemade pizzas. Lighter fare includes the popular Hohokam Salad (¥1,200), with ham, shrimp, avocado, tomato, bacon, tuna, chicken and more, drizzled with blue cheese dressing—perfect for sharing. Diners can wash down their food with one of 30 world beers.

With seating for 50 people and a total capacity of 70, Hohokam is a fantastic venue for a summertime party—call for details about their all-you-can-drink plans starting from ¥3,500 per person.

☛ 3-22-14 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5775-5708. Open daily 11:30am-11pm. Nearest stn: Harajuku or Meiji-Jingumae. www.cafe-hohokam.com

The Burger Stand Fellows


The Burger Stand Fellows has been regularly lauded as one of the city’s burger masters since it opened way back in 2005. It was cited as such on a 2007 TV program, and ranked number one in the country the same year. Subsequently it was the holder of the top burger place spot for an impressive three-year period, until it closed briefly in order to relocate to trendy Omotesando, relaunching in October last year.

The motto at Fellows is “fresh is best”—otherwise known as “Freshly baked, neatly formed, quickly served!” These are the points that are prioritized above all others. The patties are made from selected cuts of top-quality Australian beef sourced from specific farms. No frozen meat is used—only chilled meat—and the required amounts are specially cut and ground daily. No mass production here. Charcoal fire is used to grill the meat, making for a great color, texture and flavor. What’s more, for their bacon cheeseburger, they use home-made bacon painstakingly cured over seven days.

Stop in weekday lunchtimes to get a drink for just ¥150 with your meal. You’ll find the slick interior decoration smooth and relaxing, and decked out with hints of the US west coast. Stop in at The Burger Stand Fellows, and see what all the fuss is about.

☛ 3-8-11 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6419-7988. Email: cheese@fellows-burger.com. Open Tue-Sat 11:30am-4pm & 6-10pm, Sun 11:30am-7pm, closed Mon. Nearest stn: Omotesando. www.fellows-burger.com

Frijoles


Why mess around with the proliferation of US-style joints in Tokyo, when you can go to one that’s genuinely like walking into a US burrito restaurant? Welcome to Frijoles, home of great food served fast—without being fast food. The philosophy of this burrito shack, based in three locations, is that rapid food need not suffer in terms of freshness and ingredient quality. Stop in at Frijoles in Akasaka, Azabu or Roppongi, and you’ll understand.

Frijoles’ aim is to earn a special place in the hearts of Tokyo’s English-speaking expats. And with prices like ¥890 for fajita burritos, three tacos, salads or burrito bowls, the folk behind this simple yet effective idea are going about it the right way. All menu deals come with your choice from chicken (¥890), carnitas (¥940), steak (¥1,040), or veggie (¥1,040)—with a slather of Frijoles’ famous fresh guacamole for an extra ¥250 (free with veggie). Prices are kept simple (lunch and dinner cost the same) to avoid disrupting the relaxation of diners, so as not to get in the way of what really matters—fresh and delicious food in an authentic US environment.

☛ Roppongi: 1F Piramide Bldg, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6447-1433. Open daily 11am-10pm, closed second Sun. Nearest stn: Roppongi.

☛ Akasaka: 1F Common Akasaka, 2-11-13 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6459-1763. Open daily 11am-10pm, closed third Sun. Nearest stn: Tameike-Sanno.

☛ Azabu-Juban: 2-3-5 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6459-4095. Open daily 11am-10pm, closed second Mon, or Tue if hol. Nearest stn: Azabu-Juban.

☛ www.frijoles.jp

The Great Burger


Opened in Harajuku in 2002, The Great Burger offers premium sandwiches, hot-dogs, and of course, hamburgers. There are plenty of side dishes to choose from, with buttermilk pancakes, French toast, apple pies and cheesecake offering a damn good reason to stop in for a sweet moment. The drink menu is not so shy either, with Japanese draft beer alongside beers from all around the world.

The Great Burger has sharpened its burger concept to a knifelike point. Deliciousness is crucial of course, but equally important is the esthetic consideration. Fresh vegetables arrive with the lark every morning, and the specially selected cuts of meat to create the perfect patty. The owner took a year and a half of trial and error to create the buns that would be the signature aspect of the shop.

The Great Burger doesn’t even put any sauce on the burger, so confident it is of its satisfying taste. Take the avocado jamon serrano burger for example (¥1,350, with French fries). With those natural flavors knocking around, why spoil it with lashings of ketchup? With the décor’s mixture of vintage and modern US, come in off the crazy Harajuku streets to this quiet spot of burger paradise. During lunch time on weekdays (11:30am-4pm), all burgers or sandwiches come with French fries and a drink (¥1,000).

☛ 1F J-cube A 6-12-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3406-1215. Open daily 11:30am-11pm. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae.

☛ 1F Mode S 6-14-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3409-2018. Open daily 11:30am-11pm. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae.

☛ www.the-great-burger.com

Hobgoblin Pubs


For a little slice of Britain right here in the Japanese capital, try Hobgoblin Pubs on for size—in Roppongi, Shibuya, or Akasaka (or head up to Kobe to check out the fourth branch). Since opening doors back in 2000, Hobgoblin has been sorting out expats and locals hankering for an authentic Blighty pub atmosphere—right down to the interior imported straight from the Old Country.

So what could round it off better than a juicy high-class burger? Hobgoblin’s offering truly is a “gastro burger,” right down to the patty, the homemade sauce, the smoked bacon and the—all important—British cheese. And it couldn’t be simpler. One burger, one price (¥1,400), which also includes a portion of crispy potato wedges along with some homemade ketchup. Metropolis readers coming down can even mention this article to gain 10% off said burger (until Apr 30)—so don’t delay on getting stuck in.

Look out also for Hobgoblin’s happy hour from 5-7pm Mon-Fri, with ¥200 off all drinks. If you’re missing your full English breakfasts from back home, stop in Saturdays or Sundays for a ¥999 deal—or try the roast dinner on Sundays for the same price (both served from noon all day).

So for an authentic atmosphere and foreign-sized food portions, plus a host of British beers on taps including the legendary Hobgoblin dark ale, hit up one of their locations and say goodbye to the homesick blues.

☛ Hobgoblin Shibuya 3F, Ichiban Bldg, 1-3-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Tel : 03-6415-4244. Nearest stn: Shibuya. Other sites info at www.hobgoblin.jp

Munch’s Burger Shack


From humble beginnings as a catering wagon, taken around by a meat lover keen to please others of his ilk, Munch’s opened its store after five years on the road. Its mission: to pursue the perfect patty, and regard burgers as a meat dish, rather than a mere sandwich.

Munch’s strives to offer unique burgers guaranteed to cause an animal-like addiction in the defenseless customer’s stomach area. Patties are made one-by-one, with a block of US beef sliced up day by day. This creates a flavor that’s a far cry from cheap ground beef, giving a taste of quality from the start.

Munch’s specialties include the bacon cheeseburger (¥1,300), made using home-smoked bacon prepared over five days. To spice up your life grab the chili cheeseburger (¥1,450) with a sweet balance of chili beans and meat topped with melting cheese. To provide a counterpoint, sample the fried chicken on offer (¥500/piece) with an original mouthwatering spice concoction. The Caesar salad, with an addictive home-made dressing (¥580) provides a leafy alternative, and you can wash all and sundry down with a rich premium shake (from ¥600). The humble, yet subtle New-York design embraces the homey burger shack concept, but if you fancy tasting the flavors at home or in the office, check the website for delivery options. Please be aware that the store closes early if all the meat has been gobbled up.

☛ 1F Proceed Mita, 2-30-9 Shiba, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6435-3166. Email: y2@munchs.jp. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-3pm (LO 2:30pm) & 5:30-9pm (LO 8:30pm), Sat 11:30am-9pm (LO 8:30pm), Sun & hols 11:30am-7pm (LO 6:30pm). Nearest stn: Tamachi, west exit, or Mita. http://munchs.jp

Roti Roppongi


Now eleven years old in its original location a short skip from Roppongi Hills, Roti Roppongi continues to serve delectably thick and juicy chargrilled 100%-beef burgers. If you needed any proof, the burgers were voted “Best in Aoyama/Roppongi” by a popular Friday evening Fuji TV show in 2010. Sample their tempting range of delicious toppings, over ten burger varieties, non-beef options including BBQ chicken with melted Jack cheese and bacon, the buffalo burger with real ranch dressing, and everyone’s favorite veggie burger made with brown rice and grain and topped with roasted eggplant dip and tahini. Not to forget of course Roti’s killer spicy Cajun swordfish burger with homemade Tartar sauce and grilled pineapple. As an extravagant treat for Metropolis readers, Roti is offering its deluxe blue-cheese bacon burger (pictured) with creamy horseradish sauce and truffle-scented parmesan fries for a special price of ¥1,800—if you bring this issue of the magazine with you.

Burgers aside, Roti Roppongi offers plenty of other great reasons to stop by, including twelve wines by glass, seven craft beers on tap, lunch until 5pm Mon-Fri, free wi-fi, weekend brunch, Sunday steak night, a large comfortable outside terrace, 25% off for happy hour, and the list goes on… Like Roti at www.facebook.com/RotiRoppongi, and follow @roticraftbeer on Twitter to discover their weekly tap selection.

☛ 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5785-3671. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-5pm & 6-11pm, Sat-Sun & hols 11:30am-5pm. Nearest stn: Roppongi. www.roti.jp

Sasa burger nakameguro/grill burger club sasa


Grill Burger Club Sasa in Daikanyama was joined in December last year by new venue Sasa Burger Nakameguro to give hipster hamburger fans two outlets for their burning desire. Fast-casual is the concept of the Nakameguro digs, with burgers offered from the bargain snip of ¥800. Plenty of punters take ’em out, or plant themselves down either inside, or outside for a breezy experience.

At both Sasa spots, down-to-earth hamburgers, sandwiches and hot dogs are the order of the day. Ten wagyu burger varieties were devised after the owner spent a month researching in the US. Most burgers come in three sizes (80g, 100g and 125g), and in whole-wheat buns with fresh veggies, grilled onions and relish. Popular choices include the bacon cheeseburger (¥1,250) and avocado burger (¥1,200), but be sure to try the grilled mushroom burger (¥1,350). Topped with Gouda and three types of mushrooms sautéed in garlic, this is always a popular selection, but quantities are limited so only a few lucky customers can enjoy it each day. Meanwhile, the four variations on the classic American club sandwich are a must for fans of the original.

At night, Sasa turns from café to bar, while still grilling up the same delicious burgers, and set menus are also available starting at ¥4,500. Sasa has space for strollers, too—so don’t be afraid to bring the kids!

☛ Daikanyama: 2-21-15 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3770-1951. Open daily 11am-11pm (LO 10pm), closed every third Tue. Nearest stn: Daikanyama.

☛ Nakameguro: B1 GT Plaza Bldg, 2-1-1 Kami-Meguro, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-3711-4449. Open daily 11am-10pm.

☛ www.hijiriya.co.jp

Seattle’s Best Coffee / Pike Place Bar & Grill


In a prime location by Shiba Park, with Zojo-ji and Tokyo Tower near by, you can now enjoy Seattle’s Best Coffee and Pike Place’s fine food and drinks in the same restaurant, from early morning to late at night.
As well as homemade scones and muffins, fresh salads and sandwiches, fresh pastas and a full grill menu, you can tuck into a tasty 160g burger of 100% Australian beef. The Mexican burger (¥1,400) is topped with homemade chili beans and melted cheese, and could be partnered perfectly by the Mexican corn tortilla. For something a little different, the fish ‘n’ chips burger (¥980), made with a subtle taste of beer, is also very popular.

Stop by for weekend brunch to tuck into staples such as eggs Benedict and pancakes. During dinner, appetizers can be chosen to match the craft beer and wine selection, and prime you for star grill dishes like the USDA steak. Offers include a free Seattle’s Best Coffee with your lunch set (¥800-1,200), take-out lunches of sandwich, salad and drink (¥600, limited stock), and a weekday happy hour from 4-7pm, with ¥300 nama Heartland, cocktails and wine.

As the weather gets warmer, juicy burgers and sandwiches with salads and drinks are the must-items for a picnic at nearby Shiba Park, and this is the best place to stock up.

☛ 1F PR-EX, 2-3-27 Shiba –Koen, Minato-Ku. Tel: 03-6435-6633. Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-11pm (LO 10pm), Sat-Sun & hols 8am-11pm (LO 10pm). Nearest stn: Daimon. www.pikeplace.jp or www.seabest.co.jp

Sun2Diner


Sun2Diner opened on July 20, 2011, which the burger enthusiasts out there should know full well is the Day of the Hamburger. Initiated by McDonald’s after they opened their first branch in Ginza in 1971, that doesn’t mean Sun2Diner’s hamburger is anything like those beneath the Golden Arches. In fact, the chef hews his patties from a block of 100% beef daily with his own hand—a different story from that of mass-produced chain-store sandwiches.

Each patty is grilled on a charcoal grill, like a juicy steak, and compiled with fresh vegetables and homemade buns to give the feeling of munching on a fresh BBQ burger in the summer sun. Try Sun2Diner’s original bacon smoked cheese burger (¥1,350) and you will taste this sensation crystallized in a bun.

Beyond the burger, other US food standards are on offer, like turkey with gravy and mashed potato, to go with the woody, warm atmosphere reminiscent of southern California. The neighborhood chimes in with this warm, friendly vibe, and with Mexico-themed Junkadelic just in front, you can have a tour of the whole continental region in one Meguro street.

Stop in weekday lunchtimes from 11am-3pm for a hamburger, sandwich, rice plate, etc. with a drink for just ¥950. The pancake set with drink is available from ¥550 from 9-11am on weekends and holidays, too.

☛ 1F Ogawa Bldg, 2-43-11 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-5724-3330. Open Wed-Mon 11am-3pm & 5pm-midnight, Sat-Sun & hols 9am-midnight. http://sun2diner.com

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers Harajuku


For a taste of the golden Hawaiian sun poured into burger shape and laid in a bun, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers is the only place for you. Started in Hawaii in 1998, five more branches were opened on Oahu, and the brand was franchised out into Seattle and Maui. Now you can hit them up a short walk from both Harajuku and Shibuya.

The guiding principle is to “build burgers with passion.” The people behind Teddy’s love their food, love to serve and love to bestow the best possible burger experience on their guests. It’s life, not business, they say.

Hamburgers are made with 100% ground chuck and handmade sauces and seasonings. Every day sees a new batch of burgers hand-pattied, so there are no miserable meat discs hanging around for weeks in the fridge. All produce is of the highest freshness, and the meat is such good quality that nothing is added to the patty—not even bread or egg. Just pure ground chuck.

You can adjust the size to your appetite, from 3oz sliders all the way up to a massive 18oz. All this burgerology can be fully enjoyed among the décor’s happy and vibrant colors. As a limited special offer for Metropolis readers, ask for your combo of 5oz burger, regular fries and medium drink for just ¥900—a pretty amazing bargain for such high-quality meat.

☛ 2F 6-28-5 Miyazaki Bldg, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5774-2288. Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun & hols 11am-7pm. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae or Harajuku. http://teddysbiggerburgers.com or http://tbbjapan.co.jp/web (Japanese)

Tokyo Sports Cafe


The lack of good sports bars in the Japanese capital is something that did not go unnoticed by the founders of this comfortable and stylish Roppongi venue. They tackled the thorny problem head on with the establishment of Tokyo Sports Café, a place for keen spectators to satisfy their passion.

Fans flock through the doors to soak up plenty of live sports broadcasts and the latest sporting news. If there are any live games going on, you’d be hard pushed to miss them, with the—count ’em—11 screens plastered up around the bar. If there’s something you particularly want to see, such as a match featuring your favorite team, just contact Tokyo Sports Café and the folk there will do their best to accommodate your wishes.
If you fancy playing something yourself take advantage of the pool tables (absolutely free), darts, and a luscious karaoke set-up in the VIP room.

Getting to the nitty gritty, Tokyo Sports Café takes a lot of pride in satisfying the cravings of punters with a selection of tasty dishes. Try out the bacon cheeseburger, made with high-quality 100% beef, or the chicken quesadilla (¥1,200). The powerful portions won’t leave anyone dissatisfied, with the ingredients fresh enough to pass Olympic muster. Stop in between 6-8pm for their happy hour and commune with a lively crowd from all over the world.

☛ 2F Fusion Bldg, 7-13-8 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5411-8939. Email: tscinfo@yahoo.co.jp. Open daily 6pm-5am. www.tokyo-sportscafe.com

White Smoke


Opened on the propitious date of 11/11/11, White Smoke is Japan’s first and only traditional Texas smokehouse in Japan. Owner and pit master Craig White earned his stripes in nowhere less than Central Texas, the global capital of smoked meats.

At White Smoke you can tuck into Tokyo’s only burger smoked in the low-and-slow Texas tradition. First and foremost is the quality, flavor and texture of the meat. No mountains of condiments and toppings are piled on because—if the meat is good enough—you don’t need them. While their hamburger is served on a bun, it could not be classed as a sandwich, and only two toppings are deemed worthy of its great flavor: cheese, and the original White Smoke crispy bacon, which is marinated, cured and smoked in-house.

White Smoke is a US restaurant from a US perspective and the décor reflects how citizens of that large carnivorous country view themselves. The first floor is more energetic with counter seating, while the second floor offers a traditional, sit-down dining experience.

Stop in for three different events each month—the famed all-you-can-eat smoked pork ribs night, a smoked meat and premium tequila tasting bash, and a game-animal meat event. You’ll be among a mixed crowd of Japanese and foreign clientele who come from all over the city—and even the country—to try White Smoke’s great flavors.

☛ 1F Maimu-Azabu Bldg, 3-11-2 Motoazabu, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6434-0097, email: whitesmoke@thebettertable.com. Open Wed-Mon 11:30am-11pm (LO 10pm). www.thebettertable.com

W.P. Gold Burger


Two childhood friends from Hokkaido started their burger journey in 2009 in Nakameguro, before opening in Shibuya a year later. With children’s hearts in men’s bodies, the W.P. guys offer delicious charcoal-grilled burgers. All menu items are named after a famous celebrity. Perhaps one day the celebs in question will even stop by.

Patties are made from choice cuts of Aussie beef—resembling steaks. With four spices mixed in, the patty has an addictive bite. Choose handmade mash or French fries with homemade salt adding a unique flavor. One to try is the Kevin bacon burger from their hometown Tokachi in Hokkaido (¥1,300).

Everything has been self-taught so this might not be textbook stuff, but that is the color of W.P. Gold. They offer a host of drinks, including plenty of beer and bourbon. Use the place as your bar and enjoy at your own pace—perfect among the handmade décor, including a counter made from boat parts. Skating references litter the décor and seats on the terrace provide some fresh air.

Prices are accessible, with lunchtime burgers from ¥900 including fries or mash and a drink. From 6-7:30pm you can get a free soft drink with your burger. Tuesdays, beer is from ¥500, standing in the shop, from 6pm to midnight.

☛ 1-9-4 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku. Tel:03-3407-0232. Open Mon-Fri noon-4pm & 6pm-midnight, Sat-Sun noon-midnight. Nearest stn: Shibuya. http://wpgb.exblog.jp