Jun 20, 2013

Try "Japanese" hamburger steak at restaurnats or at home!

One of the favorite foods for Japanese children is definitely ハンバーグ (pronounced hambagu), usually translated as hamburger steak, but "our" hamburger steak is a bit different from "Western" counterparts. Ours is normally thicker and softer than an ordinary hamburger patty or a steak haché.

Some people say Japanese hambagu is similar to Salisbury steak, which I've never had. The ingredients are pretty much the same -- ground meat (often the blend of beef and pork), extender such as bread crumbs and flour, vegetables (most typically onions), eggs as binder, seasonings, and sometimes some liquid such as water, milk and cream -- but according to the Wikipedia, the taste is quite different because we have "Japanized" this dish of western origin,  like many other 洋食 (Yoshoku, or Japanese-style Western food).

The photo below is the hambagu I recently had for lunch at a restaurant called Bonbori in Shibuya, Tokyo. Doesn't it look delicious?? Yes, it was super yummy! This is probably one of the best hamburger steaks I have ever had. Their hambagu lunch set, including a small bowl of salad, steamed white rice (you can ask as much as you want) and a mini dessert, is 1,000 yen, and  I asked for a slice of cheddar cheese on top of my hambagu for extra 100 yen.

The sizzling hamburger steak using 100% beef (whether they use only beef or the blend with pork for their hambgabu depends on the place) is served on the lava stone grill plate, which is believed to make the meat soft due to the effects of extreme infrared radiation. Personally I don't trust this infrared radiation logic, but I have to admit that the meat was very tender and juicy but not greasy at all. My stomach often feels heavy after eating meat dishes, but I had no problem this time.

This is how it looks inside. Sorry it is not a very nice photo. I had almost finished when I took this photo.

My husband ordered a hamburger steak with a grilled chicken (plus 200 yen). He says the chicken was nothing special. I don't blame them because they clearly said their recommendation for lunch was hambagu, not chicken. 

The restaurant is a little hard to find. Located in the basement of a building, it is dark inside and looks like a bar rather than a grill restaurant. Don't miss the small entrance (see the photo below)!  

Restaurant info:
Address:  Hiroi Bldg. B1, 1-21-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo
Near the Nanpeidai Crossing, about 6 minutes from Shibuya station 
Tel: 03-5784-1417
Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch, 5-11:30 p.m. for dinner.
They have English menu as well. 

By the way, according to the survey conducted last year by a web magazine, 5 family restaurants (famiresu for short) chains popular for their hambagu are: 

No.1 Bikkuri Donky (びっくりドンキー)
No. 2 Gusto (ガスト)
No. 3. Big Boy (ビッグボーイ)
No. 4  Coco's (ココス)
No. 5 Royal Host (ロイヤルホスト)

I don't know if these diners have English menus. I doubt it, but you can ask them 英語のメニューはありますか(Eigo no menu wa arimasuka? = Do you have an English menu?), and even if they have no English menus, don't worry, their menus are full of photos. 

Ah, one more thing. You can easily make Japanese hamburger steak at home. It is very simple and tasty. If interested, check a Youtube video here. A Japanese lady (it is not me!) is showing how to make it. I don't understand the presence of a dog, but her recipe is very basic and looks delicious. Instead of the gravy sauce shown in this video, you can pour the mixture of Worcester sauce and ketchup over the hamburger, like many Japanese do at home. (I don't know why but this sauce is rarely seen at restaurants. Maybe is it too homely??)


  1. Really interesting! Ehehe.. well, it is to me because I'm curious about the different types of lunch specials in Japan ^_^. Glad to hear that you enjoyed the one at Bonbori.

    Oh yes, I know about 'Cooking With Dog'~ I watch her channel sometimes and it's a great way to *see* how Japanese food is cooked. This holiday, I want to make Nikuman (or Baozi) using this recipe:


    It's his version of the buns at Horai 551, which I've heard are very popular. I think it'll be quite nice for winter... *^-^*

    1. サマンサさん、こんにちは!

      Wow! Did you already make nikuman? I agree that it is perfect for winter. Is it already cold in Australia?

      I love nikuman, but I have never made them at home, although I have always wanted to try... Let me know the result! I'm very curious how difficult (or how easy) it would be.

  2. Yes, it's quite cold at night. Apparently it was 8*C on Tuesday night... but I'm glad I have extra thick blankets to sleep in. *^_^*

    Yesterday and today, I made plenty of 肉まん, steamed them and popped them all into the freezer. Since I'm not an experienced cook, the whole process took quite some time. ^^;; Maybe this is a good thing to do on a free weekend.

    But I really do enjoy the hands-on tasks, such as making the bread dough, chopping ingredients for the filling & forming the buns. ^0^ The only thing was.... I'm not that experienced with chopping pork thinly.... it took me a long time! >_<

    After making my own 肉まん for the first time, I have a new respect for those chefs who can make perfect buns so quickly! At times I got over-ambitious and put too much filling in the bun... I had to scoop some out just to seal it! But it's all worth it when you open the steamer after 15 mins and see nicely puffed-up buns. (⌒▽⌒)☆

    As for the taste, the bread is soft with a bit of sweetness and it goes quite well with the savoury, moist filling. You notice the saltiness from the soy, umami from the pork and shiitake and plenty of ginger flavour from the filling. I've never had 肉まん from Japan before, so I'm not sure how this version compares...

    I think Marc Matsumoto's recipe is very good ^_^ I'll make it again (sometime, haha~)

    (P.S. This may be my longest comment ever! Does this show how much I love cooking? Hehe...)