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October 3, 2010

Our station is a relatively quiet one, despite its enviable location not too far outside of central Tokyo. When we first moved in to our apartment four years ago there were only a handful of shops & restaurants nearby: a mediocre Indian place, a ramen shop, a Japanese style bar, and a lower-end chinese place. Within a few short months the Indian place closed down and turned into a standing yakitori bar. Pickings have remained slim for most of the time we’ve lived here, and we have mostly gone elsewhere when looking to dine out.

Because of this we were thrilled about a year back when the Japanese bar closed down, and a new Indian/Nepali restaurant called Spice 6 took its place; and even happier when we tried it and found it to be pretty darned good for its price point. About 8 months after that we had another new opening when a casual Japanese-style Italian place called AK Farm opened up in the building that had briefly been home to a retro clothing boutique. We were not terribly impressed by the quality of their food on our first and only visit, but it’s always nice to have options, and we are hoping they get better with time.

The latest addition to our neighborhood is a burger place called BurgerxBurger that opened below AK Farm just about two weeks ago. We were cautiously optimistic about our new local burger joint despite the relative rarity of truly excellent burger places in Japan, and went in for the first time last Saturday evening to try it out.

It is an interesting place, located mostly under ground with one high window peeping out onto the sidewalk above. Inside there is just enough space for counter seating, one table for parties of three, and a small open kitchen. We took the table and looked over the menu. Eric ordered the standard cheeseburger, but my options were quite limited as, like most Japanese burger places, there were very few vegetarian or non-beef options on the menu. After some debate I decided to go with the chicken sandwich and a salad, captured below on my iPhone.

The verdict? Definitely one of the better places we’ve been to. Eric was very excited about the 100% domestically raised beef used in the burgers and declared it among the best he’s had in the country. He actually liked it so much that he went back just a few days later for another one while I was out with a friend. I was pretty impressed with my sandwich as well, which is a feat, as my appetite for chicken (the only meat I eat and rarely at that) has been practically non-existent since last winter.

We talked a bit to the owner about the menu offerings as we ate, and left very satisfied and determined to visit regularly to ensure that they have enough business to remain open; much like we did when Spice 6 opened up last year.

It was that mentality that caused us to abandon our plans to cook at home and stop in to BurgerxBurger on the way home last night.

This time Eric got the chili beans topping on his cheeseburger, while I made good on my previous conversation with the owner and pieced together my own creation from the menu by requesting a burger with egg, avocado, cheese, and no meat.

Definitely not quite the same as a real veggie burger, but still a good meal. We also ordered a  glass of the house-made ginger ale to split on the side this time. I am not a soda (or even juice) drinker at all, but I am always curious about house specialty items, so I talked Eric into splitting it just the once. When they said homemade they weren’t kidding! The glass we were brought tasted nothing like bottled ginger ale, and instead had the distinct bite of fresh ginger and spices. I asked the owner how it was made, and to my surprise and delight he ran back behind the counter, retrieved a small notebook and rattled off a list of the ingredients, which included fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, lemon juice, honey, and soda water.

I always appreciate willingness to accommodate special requests in a culture where they are not that common, and I was very, very impressed with both the ginger ale and their dedication to fresh, quality ingredients, not to mention the owner’s willingness to share and talk to us about the food we were being served. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back every now and again to support their business and let Eric get his occasional beef fix, and think that BurgerxBurger will make a nice addition to our quiet little neighborhood.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 5:03 am

    BurgerxBurger sounds pretty cool! I think it is really wonderful that the owner was so open to talking to you guys about their fare and offering to let you customize when an appropriate option for you isn’t apparent.

    Your ginger ale order made me think back to when I visited you and we ate at that Udon place. I can’t remember if we were in Kyoto or Kamakura…but we split a ginger ale there too. As you imply with BurgerxBurger, it tasted NOTHING like ginger ale I was used to in the states. Not sugary, but spicy and strong. I’ve found a few “natural” ginger ale brands here since then, but I think that one we shared in Japan was much better.

    • October 4, 2010 11:04 am

      Kamakura. :>

      That was Wilkinson’s ginger ale. They offer both a sweet and a spicy variety here in specialty stores. I have the feeling we had the sweet together. I have also tried the spicy, which Eric absolutely could not take. He actually insisted on asking the guy at BurgerxBurger if it was as spicy as Wilkinson’s the other night, but the guy had never tried it and couldn’t compare. He just said the house ginger ale was spicy as ginger ales go.

      Wilkinson is definitely a far cry from the commercial stuff, but it still has that soda feel to it. The ginger ale at BurgerxBurger really, really did not. It felt more like a mixed drink or a cocktail where you could really detect each individual ingredient. There was no doubt from the first sip that fresh ginger root was one of the main ingredients, and I really couldn’t tell how much of it was pre-mixed and how much was done to order. I think that’s why I liked it so much.

      My dad used to get some kind of ginger ale or ginger beer from Costco or Trader Joe’s that I remember being of the more spicy variety. I think it was Jamaican and had a colorful label or something.

  2. October 4, 2010 12:19 pm

    Did your dad get Reed’s? Colorful label there. They make a good raspberry ginger ale. Their stuff is significantly different from your standard varieties you’d find around like Canada Dry, etc.

    • October 4, 2010 2:26 pm

      Very possible. It looks very, very familiar and fits the criteria of being Jamaican. I don’t think it was the raspberry variety, though. Just the straight up ginger ale.

  3. October 4, 2010 4:28 pm

    What, no mention of the garbonzo beans in the chili? :)
    Mike still says Burger 5 in Ginza was the best he’s had here- I’ll have to go back there again to verify some time, since it’s been a while…

    • October 4, 2010 5:37 pm

      I thought they were pretty obvious from the picture. But yes, the garbanzo beans were a very nice touch to the chili that I couldn’t eat because of all the meat in it. ^_~

      Is Burger 5 the one with nothing decent on the menu for me to chose from, or am I thinking of a different place? I do want to try out the place in Harajuku that claims to have veggie burger soonish.

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