Last month, Becker’s, Japan Railway East’s hamburger chain, announced its venison burger, which put us in a bit of a quandary. It’s part of our life’s mission to try every intriguing bun-based sandwich we come across, but could we really bring ourselves to eat something as cute as a deer?
Sure we could!
November 1 marked the start of venison burger hunting season, as the Shinshu Jibie Venison Burger went on sale at 18 select Becker’s locations (where it’ll be sticking around until December 31). Strolling past our local branch, the large sign posted in front of the entrance made the venison burger look too tasty to pass up, so we headed inside and placed our order.
Each venison burger is cooked to order, and after a few minutes’ wait, the clerk handed us our takeout bag.
Looking at the wrapper, we felt just a little apprehensive. After all, the visual reality of fast food doesn’t always stack up to how things appear in the ads (we’re looking at you, Lotteria).
Thankfully, it turned out we didn’t have anything to worry about.
The Shinshu Jibie Venison Burger looked more or less as the advertisements had led us to believe, with a plump, 100-gram (3.5-ounce) venison patty waiting for us sandwiched between two sake yeast buns baked fresh at the restaurant.
Shinshu is the traditional name for the region today occupied by Nagano, and the meat is sourced from the mountainous prefecture. The same goes for the abalone mushroom and onions that accompany it.
For something this unique, it wouldn’t feel right to squeeze a packet of boring old ketchup onto it. Instead, the burger is seasoned with a red wine and venison sauce, plus whole-grain mustard.
From the very first bite, it was clear that this was something different than the beef and pork patties hamburgers usually use in Japan. The meat is primarily tender but pleasantly firm at its core, and lacks the sort of gaminess you might expect from venison.
But while the venison itself is the marque star, what really makes the sandwich great is the way all of the ingredients come together with their flavors working in harmony, especially the crisp onions, mustard, and red wine sauce.
At 690 yen (US $6.10), the Shinshu Jibie Venison Burger is a couple hundred yen more than what you’d pay for a sandwich at budget eateries like McDonald’s or Lotteria, or even more upmarket chains like MOS Burger or Freshness Burger. But between its gourmet ingredients, appealing presentation, and impressive flavor, it’s definitely worth it, so much so that we almost felt like eating it with a knife and fork like some sort of eccentric aristocrats with the dual passions of burgers and wild game.
[ Read in Japanese ]