If you’ve been paying attention to The Fourth Walls Instagram page, you would have noticed that I decided to spend the end of last year (along with the beginning of this one) throughout Japan. For this (my third) visit, my focus was spread across a number of checkpoints: exploring new areas, bands, buying as many records as possible, January 4 at The Tokyo Dome, puroresu in general and – of course, one of Japan’s greatest exhibits, food. Some of these were guaranteed – tickets were booked and there’s never a shortage of records across, but where do I start stuffing my face? Having returned from my 4 week expedition, I can now confirm that at least 20 bowls of ramen (not including the ones I didn’t take photos of), an undisclosed amount of Strong Zero’s and an entire herd of yakatori, were consumed in that time. But as great as all the miso, gyudon and convenient stores are, my gaijin upbringing needs the odd break from all that good stuff, for something a little familiar. With locations in Tokyo and Kobe, along with its interesting decor, WANTO Burger felt like a necessary stop for this ongoing pilgrimage, allowing yours truly to finally visit Kobe, while sampling some of it’s infamous beef produce.
Kyoto was averaging at 13° at the time and having a couple of days free to pretty much do as I please (no bands/digging the city dry, etc), it was perfect timing to bullet toward this unique burger bar. So with that, I got up early, grabbed my rail pass and proceeded to the nearest Shinkansen, skipping on food in exchange for a couple bottles of sho-chu and the considerably short 20 minute journey. Once in Kobe, I made a bee-line for the signature 5 letters of WANTO, passing through the energetic city surrounded by rich green mountains. After firmly establishing myself as a tourist outside (thanks to the number of photo’s taken), I was friendly welcomed into the restaurant by staff and seated at the bar. Behind me sat a handful of tables, filled with couples and a group of girls giggling at their latest Instagram post, burgers waiting in front of them. While I could have spent hours spinning around and exploring all the stickers and artwork conveniently placed around the interior, the menu in front of me was calling, as my taste buds were telling me to get a move on. Scanning the broad range of burgers: Camembert, Teriyaki, Hawaiian and Kiwi Fruit (before you wince, just think of a pickled kiwi replacing a slice of tomato) to name a few – I decided to keep it simple by ordering the cheeseburger with Kobe patty. After a quick 10 minute wait, the head chef handed me a stacked burger and lightly fried potato sides… we made it. A few bites in and you can tell that the WANTO Burger team has put a lot of care into the meals they serve, by presenting an evenly cooked piece of beef, that’s nicely pink in the middle, allowing the flavours of the meat to compliment the elements around it, with a bun holding it all together. Overall: it’s a great burger, one that lived up to the hype, so much so, that I ordered another… it’s was already kind of lunch time anyway. The Chicken Burger was just as tasty, even though it’s not my go-to burger, but if there’s any nation that know’s how to use chicken, whether it be grilled, raw (I’ve had it) or deep-fried, the Japanese would rank very highly. Consisting of the same parts as The Cheeseburger, the extra added crunch and flavour of the fried chicken was outstanding, making me think it will be a long time before I hear that kind of delicious noise again.
Having found another nearby puroresu show while eating, I unfortunately had to be in a rush before exploring this city a little more. As I made my way back to the station I stumbled upon a beautifully bright temple, just off the inner cities main street. With my stomach full and the thought of missing the first bell ringing, I couldn’t help but think of what else Kobe had to offer, from it’s food to contrasting visuals, offering a lot to seek. But whether it’s a short or long term visit, WANTO Burger is a great starting point, thanks to it’s tasty food, cheap drinks, friendly staff and central point within the CBD. I left the restaurant thoroughly fed and pleased that I made the quick journey over from Kyoto, it wasn’t on the top of my itinerary, but I’m glad I got to experienced this deliciously surreal restaurant and would recommend that you do too.