Burger & Lobster

Burger and Lobster, a UK based chain that opened last year in the Flatiron district, is a very popular restaurant with over 2,000 reviews on Yelp – and I can’t believe I just found out about it a few weeks ago! Their name pretty much encompasses their menu of just three items – a hamburger, a 1.5 pound lobster, or a six ounce lobster roll – served with a side of salad and fries for $20 each. I was a bit skeptical at first – $20 seems like a bit of a steal for a whole meal – but I was quickly shown the error of my ways. I actually ended up going 2 days in a row, with different people of course! Between my two visits, I was able to try everything on their menu.

The hamburger is perhaps what most people would think is the least best deal since lobster is more expensive, right? But you’re wrong! The burger is actually really, really delicious – and huge too! They use a custom blend of meats (tri-tip, brisket, and chuck) crafted by Pat LaFrieda and according to Eater, the beef has a 70/30 meat-to-fat ratio, which makes it a much richer burger. And clocking in at 10 ounces, it’s a bit bigger than most other burgers as well. We had our burger without any extra add-ons, which allowed us to really get a taste for the meat, which didn’t disappoint. They also have a “special sauce” that they smear onto the bun (which is a hybrid between brioche and potato bread).

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The lobster option comes in two cooking styles, steamed or grilled, and comes with either regular butter or lemon garlic butter as a dipping option. They give you a bib and all the necessary utensils to demolish your lobster. We had tried the steamed option and were perfectly satisfied. I’ve heard that the grilled lobster can get a bit tough but I’m sure it offers a bit more flavor!

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The lobster roll is perhaps their most unique – it’s bigger than most lobster rolls (Luke’s Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound contains about 4 ounces of meat) with 6 ounces of glorious lobster meat. The lobster meat is served cold, dressed with Japanese mayo (or Kewpie mayo for some of us) and inside a warm, toasted brioche bun. I really, really enjoyed the lobster roll – and I’m usually not a huge fan of chilled lobster rolls. It was very meaty – it’s very obvious that they use more meat than other places. I also really liked that they used kewpie mayo, which made it stand out among the other lobster rolls in the city.

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The venue is very big so they can definitely seat a lot of people. The catch, however, is that they don’t take reservations for parties under 10. And if you’re just walking in, they don’t give you a table until your entire party has arrived. But, there is a high turnover rate for tables since the menu is small and the food comes very quickly. Service was attentive on both of my visits. Extra stars for cooking our burger to the correct temperature!

How To Plan Your Trip To Japan

Planning my trip to Japan took a better part of 6 months – from the date I finally committed and booked my tickets to the date of departure. I didn’t plan every single day of those 6 months, but I did read up quite a bit. Japan is definitely not one of those places where you just take a plane there and wing it – although I’m sure tons of people do it that way. I’m a planner and a list-maker. It just makes me feel better to know that I won’t land in a foreign country (even one as safe as Japan) and not have anywhere to stay or not know where to go.

Two of the most invaluable resources that I used to plan my trip were –

JapanGuide.com – Japan Guide is free, up-to-date, and very informative. There are a bunch of day and half-day plans on the website that is very useful for first-time travelers.

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Fodor’s Japan Travel Guide – Fodor’s has always been my travel guide of choice – it’s easy to read, colorful, and offer great tips about the culture and etiquette with an abundance of general useful information.

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And now, I’ll walk you through the steps that I took in planning my 2.5 week trip to Japan.

Step 1: Pick where you want to go – Japan is much like America in the sense that going from one city to the next could take 1 hour or it could take 10 hours. Decide on which region or cities you want to visit.

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From JapanGuide.com: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e623a.html

Step 2: Pick when you want to go.

The best times to visit, in my opinion, are:

  • Spring from March – April for Cherry Blossom Season
  • Fall from late September to late October for Fall Foliage Season

The winters are harsh and cold and the summers are hot and humid – very similar to the weather on the East Coast/Mid-Atlantic area of the USA. I knew I didn’t want to go during these times because I get enough of that bad weather back home!

Step 3: Decide where you want your home-base to be – you don’t want to be packing up your luggage and traveling to another hotel, AirBnB, or hostel every 2-3 days. It’s a hassle as well as time-consuming.

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For me, I picked a central location in Tokyo (Shin-Okubo area inside Shinjuku) and for Osaka/Kyoto, I picked one of the two and traveled using the train to get to the other.

Step 4: Decide what you want to do. I found the most logical method was to divide Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto into location pockets and then look up the attractions in each pocket. This way, you don’t waste your time taking the train to and from different areas. Take some time to get to know each area and find what interests you. You don’t necessarily need to follow the “Must-See” lists because they might not fit you.

For example, to block out my two days in Kyoto, I spent one day exploring Western Kyoto and the second day exploring Southern and Eastern Kyoto. It’s definitely “doable” to try to do all of Kyoto in one day, but you won’t get to truly explore if you’re jumping from block to block to block.

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http://www.francejapon.fr/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/france-japon-kyoto-map-carte-10.gif


Step 5:
Think about all the tickets you’ll need to buy or reservations you’ll need to make in advance. A lot of places only take reservations or sell tickets 30 days in advance – be aware of your dates and when you’ll need to make reservations. For example, the onsen I visited in Hakone only took reservations for private rooms 30 days in advance.

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Hakone Yuryo, private room #3 – book 30 days in advance via email or phone.

Step 6: And lastly, just have fun! Go with a plan so you know you’ll do the things your heart is set on doing. For me, the Studio Ghibli Museum, Tokyo Disney, and Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory were a MUST (and none of them disappointed at all). But also give yourself time to explore and discover – have a list of things or areas that can be of interest, but don’t feel pressured to get to them all. You won’t see it all. Just think of it as a reason to return!

 

 

Japan Round-up: Kyoto Edition

And here is where I segway into the Kyoto portion of my round-up! Our favorite meal was an accident. I had bookmarked Arashiyama-Yoshimura Restaurant, located right on the river in Arashiyama, a district in the western district of Kyoto, for their soba. When we arrived at the restaurant after an energetic walk up to see the snow monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park (which I highly recommend!), the wait was 2 hours. Discouraged, we realized that their tofu restaurant had only a 30 minute wait. It was probably the best accident of our entire trip. The tofu meal was astounding – the tofu was soft and fresh and the whole meal just felt clean and light. The ambiance is also very calm and soothing – we were seated right next to their little outdoor garden and we felt like we were dining in the countryside.

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Another Kyoto highlight is the food stalls leading up to Fushimi Inari Shrine, known for its beautiful orange/red torii gates. Each gate is a donation to the shrine and there are over a thousand to date.

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I had some of the best taiyaki from a food stand along the path to the shrine. While the owner of the stall was a bit cranky, his taiyaki was top-notch – probably because he refused to make more until he sold out his previous batch. It meant the wait time was a bit longer than your usual taiyaki stand, but it also meant delicious, super fresh taiyaki.

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If you explore the Gion area in Kyoto, you’re bound to notice that matcha soft-serve is a big thing. But what’s even better is matcha soft-serve with little cakes on the bottom! We stumbled onto this little store than specialized in omiyage specific to Kyoto – but they also sold soft-serve as well as certain cakes to eat on the spot. We opted for this delicious vanilla-matcha twist soft-serve on top of their matcha sponge cake. Divine! Perfect after a long hike through the streets leading up to Kiyomizu-Dera temple!

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The thing with Osaka and Kyoto is that everywhere you go, there will be so much good food to eat – especially in the areas surrounding the major attractions. Sometimes, I think the food stalls on the side of a temple is more appealing than the restaurants! Don’t be afraid to walk up to a stand and try something new – you won’t be disappointed!

Japan Round-up: Osaka Edition

And now onto the second half of my trip to Japan – Osaka. Osaka is part of the Kansai region of Japan, which is further south than Tokyo is. Osaka is pretty much, in my opinion, very similar to Tokyo. It’s a big city with a very sophisticated train system and lots of residents. We stayed in the Namba area in Osaka, which is very close to the main dining area of Dotonburi.

In Osaka, one of the best meals we had was at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku Yokocho, located in the heart of Dotonburi, Osaka’s famous eating street. Matsusakagyu Yakiniku specializes in Matsusaka beef, a special kind of beef from the suburban area of Matsusaka city. Matsusaka beef, known as black-haired Wagyu, has a high fat-to-meat ratio and is considered one of the three big beefs, along with Kobe beef and Omi beef. We went with the Premium Course (7,800¥ per person) that featured their famous Matsusaka Marbled Beef Sushi and 4 different parts of Matsusaka beef. The beef itself practically melted in our mouths! The price is a big steep, but it is well worth being able to try such a delicious type of beef.

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Another one of our best meals in Osaka also featured beef – but Kobe beef this time. Located inside Namba Station is New Kobe, a tiny restaurant where customers sit around a counter and are given individual pots for shabu shabu. This was our last meal in Osaka before returning home, so we decided to go big and order their A5 grade Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu set. The meat was phenomenal! Usually with fatty beef, there is some residue when you eat it after cooking it in the broth. But there wasn’t any at all – the beef went down super smooth and the fat-to-beef ratio was out of this world.

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Anyone visiting Osaka should pay a visit to Kuromon Ichiba Market – or the kitchen of Osaka. This market runs down several streets – and then branches off to several side-streets as well. There is so much to eat that you literally cannot eat it all! There’s a lot of fresh seafood being grilled right on the spot as well as seafood that you can eat raw. You can even have them crack open a fresh uni for you to eat on the spot! And of course, don’t forget the Taiko-Manju, or drum-shaped sweets with red bean paste on the inside!

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If you don’t have time to take a trip to Kobe to have some Kobe beef, there are a few spots in Kuromon Market that will grill up Kobe beef for you on the spot to eat. We went to Maruzen because they have a tiny counter for you to sit and eat. The Kobe beef was phenomenal! We didn’t use any type of dipping sauce – just their special salt. The beef melted in our mouths – but wasn’t as fatty as the Matsusaka beef from Matsusakagyu.

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Another highlight of Osaka was eating all the street food from stands that pop up around major tourist attractions. At Osaka Castle, we had some of the best takoyaki. It felt more authentic than the shops in Dotonbori, who are cranking out takoyaki in faster than you can even say the word takoyaki! The soft-serve from tourist attractions are also top notch – do not skip out on that!

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