It seems that when Japanese food makes its way over to America, something gets lost in translation and the food winds up inside-out. Just look at California rolls, for example.

And now, here’s another example of Japanese food being flipped: “Ramen burgers” which usually consist of a bun filled with ramen noodles, have been reborn in the US as, um, “ramen burgers”, but with a twist – the meat patty is sandwiched between two “buns” made of tightly packed noodles!

We sent our resident office culinary “expert” Mr Sato down to the first “US-style ramen burger” joint in Japan for a taste test!

You may remember a while back when we sent Mr Sato to review Japanese burger chain Lotteria’s ramen burger. Unfortunately, the carb-ception of bread on ramen didn’t really sit well with Mr Sato’s stomach, (perhaps because he ate 10 times the recommended serving…) and there’s also something just a little bit sad about a burger with no meat patty. Hopefully, the US-style will be more to Mr Sato’s, er, “unusual” tastes!

“Ramen Burger Tokyo”, Japan’s first US-style ramen joint is located in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward, and was originally founded in New York. The restaurant opened in Tokyo at the end of April, and Mr Sato was there on day one, expecting to have to battle through the usual massive queue of curious epicures that almost always congregate whenever there’s a whiff of a new store.

But to Mr Sato’s surprise, there was nobody lining up at all! With a shrug, Mr Sato figured that everyone was probably just out of the city for the Golden Week holidays, leaving even more ramen-y, meaty goodness for him.

The restaurant was a lot smaller than he’d been expecting, and there was only space for six diners at the counter. Mr Sato ordered “The Works Burger”, at 1,019 yen (US$8.50), opting out of adding any extra-extra cheese or bacon so he could enjoy his burger “as nature intended.”

Mr Sato was also pleasantly surprised to see that the burger comes neatly wrapped in thick paper, meaning that he would be able to enjoy his meaty treat without having to deal with greasy paws and juice running down his forearms. While he found the intricate New York-style wrapping method a little hard to grapple with, eventually he was able to unearth enough of his burger to get his jaws around it.

The burger also comes with a side of nachos (because wouldn’t fries just be much too much?)

As he took his first bite, Mr Sato couldn’t help comparing it to the Japanese-style burger he’d munched at Lotteria. Apparently, the US-style noodles aren’t as ‘fluffy’ as the Lotteria noodles, and yet were surprisingly soft for having such a defined “bun” shape. The meat patty was also nice and juicy, with a strong umami flavour. “This is really a hamburger!” thought Mr Sato.

While he enjoyed the burger, he was still a little dissatisfied. “Now, what I’d really like is to wrap this burger up in some bread. Yes, bread is the missing ingredient here!” he declared. After all, a burger without any buns still isn’t really a burger at all!

In the end, Mr Sato felt that while this was a tasty offering, it wasn’t quite the burger experience he’d hoped for. It would be nice, he thought, if there were the option to choose both bread and noodle patties on the same burger.

Perhaps he should invent it, and call it “The Sato-wich”?

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