Daniel here. Reporting for JapanesePod101.com.
In Tokyo there are many wonderful places to eat. Of course, there are many places to eat sushi, tempura, gyūdon (beef bowl), and other Japanese dishes. But sometimes, you want the taste of home. There are many diners (known here as family restaurants) like Denny’s which have pasta and other western type dishes on the menu (one side note: many Japanese people are surprised to learn that Denny’s did not begin in Japan). However, I find that most attempts at American food, or western food to be adjusted to the Japanese palate. Among the few places that come closest to tasting like home are McDonald’s and Mos Burger.
But, if you want a really tasty burger in Tokyo, without having to fork out over ¥1500 at places like Hard Rock Cafe, the best place to go is Kua’Aina. Well, at least in my opinion. Yes, it is more expensive than McD’s and Mos. But it won’t break the bank, and their sets, which include a drink and fries, and for dinner, a salad, come in around ¥1000 for lunch, and ¥1200 for dinner.
As the name suggests, it is a Hawaiian-theme burger joint; not so much the burgers themselves (I don’t know anyone who’s even tried the Pineapple Burger). Rather, the interior has an island hut motif going. The walls and have wood and furniture have wood paneling and there are mounted surfboards, hanging leis, and photographs of authentic surf champions. Also, the staff greets customers with a robust “Aloha!” as you walk in the door.
Each type of burger comes in two sizes: 1/3LB and 1/2LB. The signature burger at Kua’Aina is the Avocado Burger. Other burgers include the Cheese Burger (sic), the Bacon Burger, the Hamburger, and the Pineapple Burger. They all come served on a kaiser roll. You can also add extra toppings; choices include cheese (five kinds: cheddar, American, provolone, Swiss and Monterey Jack), pineapple, bacon and avocado.
There is also a myriad of sandwich choices. They include Roast Turkey, Roast Beef, Pastrami, BLT, Avocado, Cheese, Teriyaki Chicken, Rosemary Chicken, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna. Each sandwich comes on your choice of kaiser roll, multi-grain wheat, or hearth rye. You can also add those same toppings of cheese, pineapple, bacon or avocado.
Other hot foods include Popcorn Shrimp, Onion Rings, and Clam Chowder. Salad choices include Green, Tuna, Avocado, and Turkey. Dressings choices are 1000 Island, Caesar’s, and Japanese (和風•わふう). There is also a variety of hot and cold drinks in American sizes (most other fast food places have undersized drinks). The more interesting drinks include Guava Juice, draft beer, bottled Kona Beer, and Momi Tea (like a Japanese version of tapioca).
As I mentioned earlier, the signature burger is the Avocado Burger, and so on the table there are instructions on how to eat it. This is because they give a half of an avocado for each burger! As you can imagine, it takes skill to eat this without the avocado squirting out the side and hitting the person sitting next to you in the cheek!
While Kua’Aina can only be found in two places in Hawaii, there are currently 12 shops in Japan listed on website. There is the Aoyama store where it all began. I managed to go there when it was the only one. It’s near Omote-sandō Station near Shibuya. I also frequent the Kanda-Surugadai location because it is near my church in Ochanomizu. The other stores I have visited are the Maru Biru store next to Tokyo Station, the Aqua City Odaiba store near Daiba Station, the Gotanda store and the Ikspiari store near Disneyland. I have yet to visit the Shibuya store, the Kamakura store, the Yokohama Aka Renga store, the Saitama Shintoshin store and the Yokohama Bay Water store. If you have been to any of these branches, please let me know in the comments.
I hope you enjoyed this review. And if you are near any of these locations, be sure to visit them when you get a craving for a great burger. You can find maps and more information at their website at http://www.kua-aina.com. Be sure to visit the blog at blogs.japanesepod101.com and leave a comment.
Until next time, saraba.