Monday, December 2, 2013

Katsu Burger

I mentioned in a previous post about the spectrum of fast food burger joints.  Let's change continents for a second, go to Japan and talk about MOS Burger.  When I lived in Japan, MOS Burger was my favorite fast food restaurant.  It was fast, fresh and always delicious.  Granted, the name MOS didn't lend itself well to selling an image of a tasty burger.  But when talking to a Japanese friend about my love for MOS Burger, she asked me if I knew what "MOS" stood for. I did not know and had no clue that there was meaning behind the name.  

Go to the MOS Burger website, it describes the origins of the MOS Burger name:  The "M" in MOS stands for Mountain, O stands for Ocean and S stands for Sun.  "MOS" - Mountain, Ocean and Sun.  However, my friend mentioned two other things about MOS Burger that left an impression on me and on why I like them so much:
  1. MOS is a contraction for "Most Delicious Burger".  Delicious?  Oh hell yeah.  
  2. MOS tastes so good is because of the sauce.  The sauce? you ask.  Let me explain.
In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi describes the Force as an energy field that surrounds us and binds us together.  The Sauce in a MOS Burger, like the Force, surrounds the burger will flavor and binds all of the ingredients together into a well rounded and tasty package.  
Spicy MOS Cheeseburger (image courtesy of MOS Food Services, Inc.)

Look at the Spicy MOS Cheeseburger as an example:  bun, tomato, meat sauce, jalapenos, onions, cheese, meat, mayo, mustard and bun.  When you bite into a Spicy MOS Cheeseburger, the first taste that hits you is the meat sauce, followed by the rest of the burger. It doesn't overpower the burger but just makes it all the more flavorful. There's a huge dollop of it in the burger and adds so much.  It is an elegant burger, for a more civilized customer.  Yes, I'm using Star Wars to make a point about a burger. Deal with it.

"an eclectic combination of Japanese comfort food mixed in with some Hawaiian swagger and American burger goodness"

I mention this because my experience at Katsu Burger was very similar: of all of the ingredients that make up a Katsu Burger, it's really the sauce that left an impression on me that elevates the burger from fast food staple to fully realized gourmet burger.  Is it better than Lunchbox Laboratory?  Is it a MOS Burger replacement?  Let's find out:

Katsu Burger.  Hard to find, harder to forget.

Step up to the counter to order.  Simple, straightforward menu. And ... ohhh! Pocky!

Located in South Seattle, in the Georgetown District, Katsu Burger is located in a remote part of town that's somewhat difficult to find.  But once you find it, you'll pretty much know where to go and where to turn.  It's a small restaurant, with seating for about 20 people and when I arrived, it was about half full.  The menu is an eclectic combination of Japanese comfort food mixed in with some Hawaiian swagger and American burger goodness. While there was a good selection of burgers to choose from (from the Tokyo Classic (deep fried beef patty with Japanese mayo and tonkatsu sauce) to the Teriyaki Chicken (deep fried chicken with pineapple, Japanese mayo and teriyaki sauce), I decided to get the following:
  • Samurai Select (beef patty breaded in panko (Japanese bread crumbs) deep fried, with bacon, pineapple, wasabi mayo and tonkatsu sauce)
  • an order of nori french fries (fries seasoned with aonori(bits of green seaweed)) with wasabi dipping sauce
  • cole slaw mixed with wasabi

Samurai Select with Nori French Fries w/ wasabi dipping sauce.  And wasabi cole slaw.

It took about 8 minutes for my order to arrive but when it did, I was overwhelmed.  First off, all of the burgers are huge.  My Samurai Select was stacked high with cabbage, onions, sauce, the aforementioned breaded and deep fried beef patty with pineapple and bacon; it had all of the makings of a gourmet burger that rivals the gourmet goodness found at Lunchbox Laboratory.

I think I'm going to cry ... beef patty, breaded in panko and deep fried. Topped with cabbage and tonkatsu sauce

I was trying to get my hands around the burger but gave up.  It was just too big so I used a knife and fork.  You can tell how juicy the burger was by just cutting into the deep fried beef patty. And then I took a bite. The beef patty was tender, juicy and flavorful.  The cabbage, pineapple and bacon added a nice spin to the typical burger taste.  But, similar to my experience in biting into a MOS Burger, it was the tonkatsu sauce that blended all of these uniquely different tastes together. It was like biting into everything that you love about Japanese food while biting into everything great about a local greasy spoon, all-American restaurant, all at the same time.  I unfortunately didn't taste much of the wasabi mayo, which was a bit of a disappointment but the combination of tonkatsu sauce with the burger and condiments made it a great burger tasting experience.  I wouldn't say it was better than Lunchbox Laboratory but good enough to stand on its own as something different but still delicious.  I can go to either restaurant and be happy.

Nori french fries with wasabi dipping sauce.  They also had other dipping sauces, including curry mayo, miso honey mustard and spicy mayo.  Need to come back and try the other flavors

The fries were served hot out of the fryer with little flecks of green seaweed that added a nice sea-salty taste to the crispy shoestring cut fries. The kicker here is the wasabi dipping sauce. Just like the tonkatsu sauce elevating the Samurai Select burger into new level of burger goodness, the dipping sauces add just enough jazz to the already jazzed french fries to add a new spin to a familiar taste:  mayonnaise mixed with the right amount of wasabi to give it the sweet, spicy taste you will definitely love.  

Wasabi Cole Slaw.  Mix well before eating.

Before digging into the cole slaw, our server told me to mix up the cole slaw since the wasabi mix tended to settle at the bottom of the cole slaw.  Glad she told me about it since there was a lot of wasabi kick to the creamy cole slaw taste.

Two great tastes that go great together. Note the pineapple and bacon in the burger.  Ok, I'm hungry.

Katsu Burger is simply great.  While the restaurant itself may lack the shine and polish of Lunchbox Laboratory (it looks more like a teriyaki place), don't make the mistake in thinking the restaurant setting reflects the quality of the food.  Hardly.  Using the sauce to bind all of the different flavors together, Katsu Burger is a fine dining experience and highly recommended. MOS Burger will still have a special place in my heart for Japanese fast comfort food but if I'm not in Japan, Katsu Burger is the next best thing.  Come for the burgers, stay for the sauce.

Katsu Burger
6538 4th Ave. S (at E. Marginal Way S)
Seattle, WA 98108

No comments: