Saturday, September 19, 2009

Authentic Burger

     If you're ever craving a good old-fashioned authentic burger in Tokyo, you can't do much better than Authentic Burger, a tiny triangle-shaped restaurant at the top of a hill in the Akasaka neighborhood. This restaurant is hugely popular with everyone at my office, Japanese and American alike, and for good reason. See the height of that sandwich? See the shiny egg-glazed bun? See the folds of fresh iceberg lettuce, the fanned out slices of avocado, and the Proustian square of plastic cheese, so evocative of those childhood days when the most that could be asked of us in the food prep department was peeling off the film wrapper and breaking the cheese into saltine-sized squares? See the lunchroom-standard red squeeze bottle of ketchup and the crispy outside, pillowy inside, McDonald's look-alike French fries? Who could ask for anything more?
     Though I've only ever had the fillet o'fish, and therefore can't vouch for the flavor of the meat in the hamburgers, to judge from the shop's popularity with my co-workers and the consistently high quality of everything else, that any of the variations on the burger on their menu (I believe there are five or six) would be a safe bet. As for the fish, it's the perfect combination of crispy breading, not too oily, and flaky white inside, not at all smelly. All burgers come with fries, and you can choose add-ons, such as the cheese and avocado, for an extra one or two hundred yen each. The lunch set comes with your choice of beverage. We both ordered iced tea, and what we got was not just your average iced tea, but iced earl gray, with liquid sugar on the side. On the other side of the menu there are sandwiches, and I'm sure they're delicious, but why would you get a sandwich when the name of the restaurant has the word burger in it?

     Yes, these burgers are so big and juicy, so dripping with mayo and tomato juice and chunks of avocado slipping out the sides, that they come with a paper pouch to control the damage. I tried to eat the burger without using the pouch the first time I came here. That was unwise. Substantial as the brioche-like bun may be, it's just not big enough to contain everything inside, and as it says in the instructions, you don't want to waste any of those juices. You also don't want the juices running down your arms or splashing onto your lap. Besides, reading the bag-use instructions will make you laugh and get your lunch off to a great start even before the food arrives.
      Before leaving, take a few minutes to look around the restaurant. It's filled with retro knicknacks and artwork, and makes you long for those bygone days when every hamburger stand made authentic burgers as delicious as these.

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