A cheap grub/fine dining hybrid from a nationwide fast food chain and an exclusive sushi restaurant.

Usually, gyudon (beef bowls) and unagi (freshwater ell) are on opposite ends of the dining spectrum. Gyudon is cheap, quick grub, and unagi is considered fine dining. Likewise, nationwide fast food gyudon chain Matsuya’s image is miles away from that of Tenzushi, a gourmet sushi restaurant in Fukuoka Prefecture, famous for its unagi, where you can quickly run up a bill of 50,000 yen (US$370) per person.

And yet, all of those things have come together in the Unagyu Burger Kit, a hybrid gyudon/unagi dish jointly developed by Matsuya and Tenzushi.

▼ Tenzushi’s owner/chef Takayoshi Watanabe, intensely showing his confidence in the Unagyu Burger Kit.

The Unagyu Burger Kit is available exclusively for online purchase, and went on sale July 4. We managed to get an advance package, though, and when it arrived at SoraNews24 HQ, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun helpfully volunteered to eat it.

As the name implies, the Unagyu Burger Kit is a build-it-yourself deal. Included in our bundle were unagi filets, a sweet soy-based glaze for them, high-class Ariake Nori seaweed from Saga Prefecture, and packs of Matsuya’s simmered beef and onion gyudon topping.

The unagi and gyudon topping are boil-in-the-bag types, so P.K. heated them up while cooking a pot of white rice to serve as the center of the Unagyu Burger he was about to assemble.

Once you’ve got everything cooked, the construction is pretty simple. Lay down a sheet of nori first, then stack an unagi filet, rice, a squirt of glaze, another unagi filet, and the stewed beef and onion, in that order.

Finally, add another sheet of seaweed at the top…

…and you’re ready to eat!

Well, maybe you’re ready to eat. If, based on the “burger” being part of the name, your plan is to eat it with your hands, you’re probably going to want to wait for it to cool down first. The seaweed sheets’ thinness means they don’t provide much heat insulation, and if everything between them is piping hot, you’re going to scald your fingers, like P.K. did when he tried to grab the Unagyu Burger as soon as he’d finished putting it together.

Willpower isn’t necessarily the SoraNews24 team’s strong suit, though, especially when there’s a plate of food in front of us, so P.K. decided to eat his “burger” with a pair of chopsticks so that he could start chowing down ASAP.

As for the flavor? “It’s delicious” P.K. says, but delicious in a simple, straightforward way. It tastes, simply, like eating unagi and gyudon at the same time, which isn’t a bad thing at all, especially since unagi’s meaty characteristics and the sweetness of its glaze work in harmony with similar notes in the gyudon topping and harmonize excellently with white rice.

▼ The presentation might not be very visually impressive, but remember, this is a build-it-yourself kit, so the aesthetics are all on P.K.

From the thickness and texture of the unagi filets, P.K. could tell that the Unagyu Burger Kit uses high-quality cuts of eel. However, pairing it with the more plebian pleasures of the Matsuya gyudon topping sort of average the two out, and he can’t help thinking you might be able to achieve similar results using the inexpensive unagi sold at supermarkets, as opposed to the purportedly premium unagi included in the kit. That said, it’s possible those with more refined palates in regards to unagi will have a greater appreciation for the eel in the kit, and, to repeat, the Unagyu Burger P.K. made with the kit really was very tasty.

The Unagyu Burger Kit can be ordered here through Rakuten, with prices varying by quantity but starting at 3,999 yen.

Top image: SoraNews24
Insert images: Rakuten, SoraNews24
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