The store drew crowds of hundreds on its opening day, but was the fuss worth it?

Expats and fast-foodies alike in Japan have had lots to rejoice about over the past few years, as a number of popular restaurant chains have crossed the Pacific and set up shop here, from Carl’s Jr to Taco Bell, and even Shake Shack. Now, the next big name in American-style dining has hit Japan’s shores: California-based Umami Burger has opened up its first shop in Tokyo, just a few minutes’ walk from Omotesando Station.

Though the restaurant was conceived in the United States, its name comes from an originally Japanese concept. The word umami refers to one of the basics tastes, being separate from sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, and is often described as “brothy” or “meaty”. The chain has grown quickly since its first store opened in 2009, and its burgers have already garnered critical acclaim, even being named in TIME Magazine as one of the 17 most influential burgers. So it was with great excitement and anticipation that our writer P.K. set out to Umami Burger’s first Japanese location, in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, on opening day, March 24. Though he arrived an hour before the set 11 a.m. opening time, there were already well over 50 people lining up. By the time the doors opened, there had to be upwards of 100 people waiting.

P.K. was finally seated around noon, after a total two-hour wait. To get a more rounded feel for the menu, he ordered two burgers, the namesake Umami burger and the Japan-original teriyaki burger, for 1380 yen (US$12.50) each, and a side order of the truffle fries for 800 yen.

When the food arrived, P.K. was most impressed with the looks of the soft, spongy bun and the thick beef patty. But of course the main point is in the taste.

The Umami, with its house ketchup, roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and crispy Parmesan cheese chip, and medium-rare beef patty, tingled all of P.K. umami taste buds. Each flavor complimented the others for an overall perfect combination.

▼ While a bit too salty for P.K.’s taste, the fries pack a strong punch of truffle flavor.

▼ The Japan-original teriyaki burger comes topped with red onions, perilla leaves, fried lotus root, cabbage, and a wasabi aioli sauce.

P.K.’s only complaint was that the burgers are difficult to eat as they don’t stay together well. They don’t come wrapped in paper to hold them together, and are instead meant to be eaten with fork and knife. But, if you’re looking to cure that savory craving and an artisan burger sounds like it might hit the spot, the Umami burger with medium-rare patty comes highly recommended!

Restaurant information
Umami Burger / UMAMIバーガー
Address: Tokyo-to Minato-ku Kita-aoyama 3-15-5
Open: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

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