Tasty hamburger joints in Japan are quite elusive. As anybody who has made the mistake of typing in the word “hamburger” and their local address into a google map search will vouch (yes, all you get are a bunch of McDonalds), there doesn’t seem to be a particularly easy way to find them. I’ve found that the only way of finding a tasty hamburger joint is by finding a reliable hamburger connoisseur. While my repertoire is still growing, I’ve found that a quick explanation of my culinary heaven at Awajishima Burger (if you haven’t yet, you can read about it here is enough to get any hamburger addict talking. And so it was, while speaking to a fellow Hamburgerer, that I bribed my way into discovering Yokoji Hamburger.
Even Osaka, despite its size, doesn’t have a very large selection of authentic burger joints. As my local informant was reluctant to give up too many details, I was quite keen to check out Yokoji for myself and see how it measured up to Awajishima and the other burger joints in our series so far (#2, #3, #4).
Something hit me in the face about Yokoji, the moment I walked in the door. While the outside is a little dreary, the inside feels surprisingly like a happening Roppongi style café. I guess the owner decided that, given his location in the middle of the Osaka CBD, he has to be more than just a “burger joint” to appeal to the OL crowd who patronise the place during their lunch breaks. Apparently it turns into a bar (open until 5AM) at night but I’m not really sure who it would appeal to, especially with so many other bars nearby in Umeda (梅田) and Shinsaibashi (心斎橋). The daggy exterior is designed so that part of the restaurant is open and people with pets can bring their dogs along with them for lunch without actually going inside the restaurant itself. While I don’t have a pet, I imagine that it would win a few brownie points amongst the stylish pet owners of nearby Minami-Horie (南堀江).
Yokoji has a little too much variety on the menu for my liking. Take your pick. Would you like a “Juicy mince cutlet” hamburger?, a “Dangerous spicy” hamburger?, a “pepper demiglace” hamburger? Or a “spicy teriyaki” hamburger? They even serve a “Vegetable potato” hamburger. (Please don’t ask me why it would still be called a hamburger even though it is made out of vegetables.) I don’t know about you but I just want a plain old hamburger with the lot! After at least 5 minutes of stewing over the menu I decided that if I was to judge the quality of their hamburgers then I should keep things simple and so went for the “original demiglace hamburger” for 650 yen. Apparently they spend three days preparing the demiglace sauce so I figured it must be worth trying.
The one thing that they have got right is the list of “extras” that you can whack on your hamburger. They recommend adding egg (ネッカたまご, Eggs from Nekka), bacon (石狩川ベーコン, Bacon from the Ishikari river) and red cheddar for an extra 350 yen. If you’re really keen, you can lash out and add a piece of foie-gras for 900 yen. I couldn’t go past the egg and bacon but decided to try some blue cheese instead of the cheddar. That set me back an extra 450 yen on top of the price of the hamburger.
All in all, I was a little disappointed. The egg and bacon was fine, but I came home without any more idea as to what “nekka” eggs and “ishikari river” bacon were than before. The patty was perhaps slightly above average but once again, nothing to write home about. And to top it all off, I didn’t even notice the demiglace sauce until I was 2/3 the way through the burger. The “signature sauce” was sitting in a little plastic cup next to the mayonnaise as if it had just been squeezed out of a bulldog sauce bottle. To top it all off, the sauce was cold, there wasn’t a lot of it and it certainly didn’t taste as if they’d really been stewing it for 3 days. (It probably didn’t help matters that I’d just cooked up a wicked demiglace sauce at home the night before, but I’m just a novice, they’re the ones that decided to include it in the name of the damn burger!) Oh, and perhaps my expectations were raised a little too much by the tasty looking photo out the front. Can you guess which one was mine?
For people who like fries with their hamburgers, you can get a bunch of different flavours of salt sprinkled on them: garlic, pepper, chili, curry, and funnily enough, “salt”. I guess the manager has visited Spuds down in Nanko (南港) before. Once again, a little too much choice for me. It’s things like this that made me get the impression that Yokoji is targeted more toward your typical group of OLs on a lunch break. Whereas a guy just wants a piece of meat between bread, I guess OLs want a nice atmosphere and plenty of choice so everyone in their group is satisfied. In their defence, it does make eating a hamburger a bit of a fun experience. I guess it boils down to whether that is what you wanted or not (I don’t need no fun in my burger). In fact, at one stage 15 out of the 16 patrons in the shop were female – so they seem to be marketing the place okay. Perhaps I should just think of it as the hamburger joint that you can go to when your partner doesn’t really like hamburgers. (In addition to burgers you can also order a Yokoji style Loco Moco (they call it a YokoMoco), three different types of curry and some tasty looking waffles for desert.) Actually, to be honest, next time I go, I think that I’ll probably order the braised pork “kakuni” Curry (角煮カレー) (NB. only available after 6PM.)
Yokoji is located about 5 minutes walk to the North of Honmachi station on the Osaka Subway. It’s a little bit hard to find if you’re not familiar with the Honmachi area so make sure you seek out the Hanshin Expressway (阪神高速) as soon as you leave the station as it is virtually underneath the Expressway (on the East side). Yokoji is located right next to a very randomly named bento place called “Hotto Motto” (here is a photo of Hotto Motto, you cant miss it!). There are actually a number of pretty tasty looking bakeries nearby (between the express-way and the Midosuji road) which are definitely worth stopping by on your way home.
Beer: Budweiser, Heineken, corona, zima (600~650 yen). No hawaiian beer.
So all in all, what did I think of Yokoji? The atmosphere was a little cool for a burger joint. The taste of the patty was not particularly memorable. I liked the fact that you could add egg and bacon to your burger and a variety of cheeses although I was disappointed with their famous demiglace sauce. Given that they are a hamburger joint, it would have been nicer if they could have put a little more effort into getting their English spelling on the menu right. Perhaps my expectations were a little too high after the roaring review I got from my hamburgerer friend, but this time, Yokoji only gets one stippy.
Yokoji Hamburger Utsubo Koen
Where: 4-7-6 Kawaramachi, Chuoku, Osaka.