When the Japan Centre first introduced a line of Japanese-style burgers to London last year the inspiration was right but the implementation wrong.
To begin with, it was shrewd of Tak Tojumine, the Japan Centre’s hands-on CEO and floor manager, to go on a recce to Mos Burger, the second-largest fast-food chain in Japan after McDonald’s, and take note of its sensational rice burgers. The rice in rice burgers refers to the twin rice cakes used in place of a bread bun.
But unlike at Mos Burger outlets, Tojumine decided the Japan Centre’s rice burgers would need to be prepared in advance and displayed in refrigerated cases, much like their popular onigiri, those sticky rice balls filled with meat, fish or veg and artfully wrapped in nori (seaweed). He didn’t think customers would be willing to wait 10 minutes or more to have their rice burgers cooked to order.
The reheated burgers did not go over well – surprise, surprise – and the Japan Centre began preparing them to order – good, good.
Clearly, the Japan Centre is not properly set up for burger production of this sort. For starters they need more than a single fry pan set over a portable burner. Even so you get a nice introduction to rice burgers. The cakes are lightly crisped in the pan, brushed with sesame oil, wrapped in a sheet of toasted nori (just like onigiri) and delectably dressed with two umami rich sauces, tartar (made with Kewpie mayo) and teriyaki.
The Japan Centre rice burger (£3.99) doesn’t just merit a better beef patty than the rubbery disk they use now. With fresher, juicier high-quality mince it would deserve its very own Japan Centre burger restaurant, too.
Japan Centre, 16 Regent Street, London SW1