Taste of Japan: Hearty hamburger steak at Sawayaka in Hamamatsu

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

Taste of Japan: Hearty hamburger steak at Sawayaka in Hamamatsu

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Hamamatsu City in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture is home to tasty unagi eel, gyoza and oden in rich black broth. Among the many food options available in this coastal town, you might be surprised when locals recommend genkotsu hanbaagu, hamburger steak.

To try this local beef dish, which literally translates to “fist hamburger steak,” head to Sawayaka, a Hamamatsu chain.

While enjoying a walk around Hamamatsu’s city center, my wife and I made our way to the popular restaurant thanks to a recommendation from staff at our hotel.

We visited the Sawayaka on the eighth floor of the Entetsu Department Store next to JR Hamamatsu Station. When we arrived around 5:30 p.m., the restaurant’s entrance was already crowded with dozens of families, couples and students. We took a ticket and waited about an hour to be seated.

During our wait, we perused the shops inside the department store. Soon, it was time to head back to the restaurant and enjoy a local dish.

I ordered the signature genkotsu hanbaagu for 1,150 yen, while my wife ordered charcoal broiled chicken steak for 790 yen. We also ordered a large decanter of red wine for 880 yen to celebrate a night in Hamamatsu.

No matter what you decide, your steaks are always served hot and crispy because the restaurant doesn’t make a burger until it’s ordered, according to a staffer. In less than 10 minutes, our sizzling dishes were placed in front of us.

My fist-shaped, 250-gram pure beef hamburger steak was cut in two with a generous pour of steak sauce tableside by the server. Diners can choose between demiglace or onion sauce for their hamburger steaks. Onion sauce is the popular choice at Sawayaka.

After our dinner was served, the server returned with the wine. She asked us to toast with her and showed us her unique ring shaped like a small ceramic mug. We toasted with our glasses, the server with her ring, to a lovely trip in Hamamatsu. The young woman made us chuckle and the service she provided was a lovely addition to a delicious meal.

My sizzling charcoal-broiled hamburger was very tender, juicy and tasty, and paired perfectly with the full-bodied red wine. It might sound a bit strange, but the well-seasoned hamburger had a kind of nostalgic taste that took me back to my youth back in the 70s.

When I sampled a bite of my wife’s chicken steak, I was impressed with its sweet and tangy flavor and crisp texture.

Our dinner left us very full and very satisfied. We left quickly as we could see the line of others waiting to enter and have a taste of Sawayaka’s delicious fare. Before leaving, we didn’t forget to ask our staffer to have a photo taken with us, thanking her for her hospitality and toast.

While enjoying Hamamatsu’s sights and great eats, don’t miss Sawayaka’s beef or chicken!

Sumiyaki Restaurant Sawayaka Hamamatsu Entetsu Shop
Location: 320-2 [8F], Sunayamacho, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Tel: 053-456-3113

*Sawayaka is a restaurant chain in western Shizuoka Prefecture. Find a restaurant near you here.

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