Freshness Burger

Freshness Burger's exterior is clean and inviting.

There’s some drip, but the oil is less what I would put into a motor vehicle and more what I would rub on a baby’s bum.

Freshness Burger made me realize I’ve been eating fast food wrong my entire life. Whereas most burgers in the United States are doused in sauces and heaped with toppings to mask the meat’s flavor, this Japanese chain distinguishes itself with simple ingredients, expertly prepared.

If you don’t speak Japanese, getting over the language barrier when ordering is quite simple: just flip over the menu card for the English version. I tried the classic cheeseburger, teriyaki chicken burger, crispy chicken burger, fried potato, and coleslaw salad. The food took more time than usual to arrive, even when the restaurant was empty, but that’s likely a good sign the meal was assembled from scratch. In the meantime, the staff handed me a number placard and brought ice water to my table. Excellent service!

Freshness Burger touts a panoply of classic burgers and sides.

The staff brought the food directly to my table. After a flurry of “arigatos”, I chomped into the teriyaki chicken burger first. Instead of the usual chicken breast, this patty was made of chicken leg. I was pleasantly surprised. The meat oozed with natural juices. It was moist and fleshy, but not rubbery as chicken legs often are when overcooked. The teriyaki sauce was not as sweet as the ones I’ve had in the United States, keeping the burger from being cloying. The regular bun was just a little warmer than room temperature, nothing special. The diced onions added some kick and that’s all it took for the burger to come together. Sadly I finished the small burger in just a few bites.

Eating the crispy chicken burger was a similar experience. The chicken leg patty was perfectly moist and the frying oil made the patty piping hot. Good thick layer of crisp.

I had high hopes after the chicken burgers, and the classic cheeseburger did not disappoint. The generously thick slices of tomato and onion were a welcome surprise. The patty is soft but maintains structural integrity when eaten. The beef is the focus of flavor, not the afterthought. There’s some drip, but the oil is less what I would put into a motor vehicle and more what I would rub on a baby’s bum.

The side dishes paled in comparison, but I would recommend the fried potato to round out a classic fast food meal. Like most Japanese cuisine, the fresh ingredients play the main act. It’s hard to say whether this joint serves the best burger I’ve ever eaten. But if you give me a choice between Shake Shack and Freshness Burger, I’d probably choose the latter.

Freshness Burger. Kyoto, Japan

June 2015