No, no, not sushi hamburgers. That would be weird.

Sushi, as foodies and linguists are quick to point out, doesn’t mean “sliced raw fish.” That would be sashimi. The word sushi actually refers to vinegared rice, so while it’s true that the majority of sushi is made with some kind of uncooked seafood, other toppings are also viable candidates. For example, we recently did a teste-test comparison for anago (saltwater eel) sushi, and that’s a topping that’s always cooked.

Today we’re continuing our search for the best conveyor belt sushi with another cooked topping, and this time we’re not even dealing with seafood, as we’re eating hamburger steak sushi.

If you’re thinking the concept sounds pretty freaky, you’re not alone. Our Japanese-language reporter and taste tester for this article, P.K. Sanjun, had never once eaten this meaty sushi variety, though he had seen it on the menu at multiple kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants. But after some gentle encouragement from fellow reporter Seiji Nakazawa, who told him there’s a lot of variation between the hamburger steak sushi at different restaurants, P.K. decided the time had come to expand his sushi-eating resume, and so he set off the make the circuit of Japan’s big four conveyor belt sushi chains, completed in the span of three hours.

▼ Clockwise from top left: Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi, Sushiro, and Hama Sushi. All four chains offer their hamburger steak sushi for 110 yen (US$0.82).

Let’s take a look at P.K.’s post-burger sushi memories.

● Kappa Sushi

“The texture reminded me more of tsukune [chicken meatballs] than a hamburger patty, but this tastes great. After the milder flavors of more conventional sushi, this makes a huge impact, especially with the teriyaki sauce, and your taste buds instantly send the message ‘Good stuff here!’ This is a totally viable kind of sushi.”

● Kura Sushi

“The quality of the meat isn’t all that different from Kappa’s, but the mayonnaise really makes its presence felt! This is as impactful as the Kura hamburger steak sushi, and I couldn’t help feeling ‘Yep, this is great!’ right away.”

● Hama Sushi

“The big difference here is that the Hama Sushi hamburger steak doesn’t have any sauce on it. That also loses it some points in the visual department, but the quality of the meat itself is really good. It doesn’t have the same level of impact as Kappa’s or Kura’s, but on the other hand the lack of sauce means you get the unaltered flavor of the meat, and it’s tasty.”

● Sushiro

“What sets this apart is the texture. Not that the other restaurants’ are stiff, but Sushiro’s hamburger steak is extra tender. That tenderness makes for a great mix with the rice, and it also has just the right amount of sauce.”

Despite P.K. going into this taste test feeling very skeptical about the concept of hamburger steak sushi as a whole, the chains went four for four, without a single bad-tasting one in the bunch, and each with their own unique appeal, just like Seiji had promised him. The stronger flavors of meat and sauce mean that you probably won’t want to make this the foundation of your sushi session, but as a mid-meal change of pace, hamburger steak sushi is surprisingly delicious, P.K. says, and he hopes you’ll find space in your stomach to try it at least once.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]