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While Japan is brimming with hamburger joints, you can also find plenty of restaurants that specialize in the meatloaf-like hamburger steak. Served on a griddle to ensure it stays sizzling hot, the lack of a bun means that with a hamburger steak the meat can take center stage.

The drawback though is that not having two slices of bread to hold everything together usually means fewer options as to what ingredients you’d like in your hamburger steak, compared to a hamburger sandwich. Unless, that is, if you stop by the restaurant Sakana no Nakasei in Tokyo, where you can customize nearly every aspect of your hamburger steak, right down to what kind of meat to use and how coarsely it’s ground.

Our quest to have our every hamburger steak whim catered to took us to the Nihonbashi neighborhood. While Nihonbashi is primarily a business district, you can also find a number of shopping and dining complexes, most of which get the majority of their business from local white-collar workers who stop by to reward themselves for making it through another tough day at the office.

It’s in the basement of the Coredo Muromachi 2 center that you’ll find Sakana no Nakasei, which just opened last month. While you can get your order to go, we snagged one of the seven seats at the counter when we stopped by.

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You’d have a hard time talking us out of ordering extra meat and we decided to upgrade our hamburger steak from the standard 140 grams (4.9 ounces) to the large-size of 190 grams. Picking out how much meat we wanted was just the first of many selections we had to make, though.

Hamburger steak is usually made with a mix of ground beef and pork, but if you’re the type who prefers to eat your animals one at a time, Sakana no Nakasei has got you covered. Customers choose what ratio they’d like of course ground beef, fine ground beef, and ground pork. The mantra “beef is best” has steered us through tough decisions time and again, so we once more placed our trust in the philosophy and went with a 100-percent coarse ground beef patty, which the chef measured out with a scale right in front of us.

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Ordinarily, Sakana no Nakasei kneads the meat in with eggs (both the yolks and whites), milk, bread crumbs, sautéed onions, and roasted garlic. You can opt out of any of those if you choose, and we elected to delete bread crumbs from ours.

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There are also a number of extras that can be added to the patty. We were tempted by the green onions and especially the lotus root, since it’s said to lessen hay fever symptoms, which are always a concern in Japan in the spring. After giving it some more thought, though, we decided we didn’t want the strong flavor of the green onions covering up all that beef, and we weren’t in the mood for the crunchiness of the lotus root, so we asked the chef to spruce up our order with mushrooms and ginger.

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Each patty is mixed to order, and as the cook did his thing, he asked whether we’d like our hamburger steak rare, medium, or well-done (medium and well-done are your only options if your patty contains pork).

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Sakana no Nakasei keeps no fewer than 10 different sauces on hand, and we had a tough time picking between tomato, mayonnaise, red wine, cream, demi glace, butter, miso, bonito stock, sweet soy, and the Worchester-like tonkatsu sauce. Being the aristocrats we are (and since it was too early in the day to start technically drinking), we eventually settled on the red wine sauce.

As the chef continued stirring our requested ingredients together, the patty grew and grew. It was like watching someone plant a seed, see it sprout, and then blossom into a beautiful flower. A beautiful, meaty, mouth-watering flower.

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It was such a thing of beauty that we were sad to see it go when the chef plucked it from the mixing bowl so he could cook it. As we munched on our salad, we looked back fondly on our memories of watching our patty grow bigger and bigger, and looked forward to our tasty reunion.

Soon enough, our patience was rewarded.

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Our hamburger steak had returned, bringing with it a side of mashed potatoes. While the meat was still sizzling, we took a bite, and were met with a delicious juiciness. The lack of bread crumbs caused the tender meat to crumble in our mouths, and as we swallowed, the tangy wine sauce wafted up and tickled our olfactory senses, putting an elegant period on each mouthful.

We quickly polished off the whole thing, and were presented with a gastronomic paradox. While we were completely satisfied with the size of Sakana no Nakasei’s large hamburger steak, it tasted so good we desperately and immediately wanted to eat another.

Thankfully, with so many different variations available, we’ve still got a lot to look forward to before we make our way through their whole menu.

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Restaurant information
Sakana no Nakasei / サカナの中勢以
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-3-1 Coredo Muromachi 2, Basement Level 1
東京都中央区日本橋室町2-3-1 コレド室町2 B1F
Open 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

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Insert images: Tabelog, RocketNews24
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