A love affair with Hara Kara: The holy grail of burgers
One might think Tokyo’s burger trend would have died off by now, given that six years for a trend is five years too many. But burgers are still considered a treat here, even more so than in 2010 when Yoshihide Matsubara first published “The Burger Map”. Today, burgers are no longer seen as a passing trend, but rather a luxury staple.
Within a month of my move to Tokyo I found myself having visited eight or nine burger joints, none of which failed to impress my particular taste buds. Till date, Hara Kara remains my go-to spot to satisfy my burger cravings. Its first restaurant in Sangenjaya opened in 2009 just as the burger boom began; a few years ago it launched its second branch in Omotesando.
The menu is kept simple, circling around the original basic hamburger. There is no overwhelming barbecue sauce used to mask stale meat, nor the usual drip of grease and oil—this ain’t no American burger. Only premium New Zealand beef is used for Hara Kara’s patties, grilled over a hot flame until juicy and tender. Prices range between ¥850 to ¥1,450 for a burger, marginally higher to compensate for both quality and quantity.
My love affair with Hara Kara began with the pineapple burger—a simple recipe of beef patty, lettuce and pineapple. Hara Kara burgers are so huge they have to be squashed down flat before attempting a bite. But when I finally do bite down, the silence of satisfaction ensues.
The bun is soft and dense, somewhat more assertive in flavor than the other buns in town. It is a fine accomplice to its beefy partner-in-crime—all 150 grams of the patty alluringly swaddled in smoke, fresh greens, and pineapple. Grilled to intense sweetness , the pineapple is a pleasure unto itself.
If Hara Kara were burger heaven, this is the holy grail.
Next, I order the grated daikon burger out of sheer curiosity. The daikon looms on top, threatening to spill out of the comfort of its bun, balanced atop a single shiso leaf. But the familiar sweetness of meat is bogged down by the sheer volume of the daikon. While I appreciated its unique, delicate flavor, I want to taste my meat in a burger.
Lastly, a star on the Hara Kara menu, it’s not tough to see why avocado cheeseburger is its best seller. Beef patty is anointed with melted cheddar and transfigured by thick slices of avocado and lettuce, resulting in a burger rich in flavor and retaining a satisfying crunch. The customary creaminess of avocado combined with a thick juicy beef patty is made all the more approachable with a side of onion rings, breaded and deep-fried to a crisp. Order it to complete your burger experience.
Granted, I confess I did think twice about sharing about this cozy 20-seater joint for fear of overcrowding, but Hara Kara (old Japanese for dining camaraderie among close friends) is the kind of place that one would return to, time and time again—and with friends, so here we are.