Wa Dining Okan's burger, topped with shredded daikon and zesty, salty sauce
3860 Convoy Street #110, San Diego
Drop what you are doing for yet another trip to Convoy Street. This time, it’s the hambāgu from Wa Dining Okan that ought to drag you out of your hiding place for an extended lunchtime binge followed by a food-coma naptime. The restaurant changes specials and menu items on the regular, so no promises that it’ll actually be around, but it’s worth a special trip.
Listed on the menu as “Japanese style hamburger steak,” the hambāgu is an oniony patty smothered with tangy, super-salty burger sauce and coated with a pile of shaved Daikon radish. Okan’s menu items come with an array of side dishes, like pickled vegetables, pureed yam salad, rice, and miso soup laden with veggies.
Despite the fact that hacking the burger to shreds with a set of chopsticks makes for a daunting task, the eventual reward of meaty goodness tempered by cooling radish, and the heroically salty burn of the sauce is just too good! The end result will have you salivating for more, and alternating bites of plain rice and rich, fatty meat with effulgent zeal.
Japan-ized versions of not-typically Japanese foods are the stuff that foodie dreams are made of. Curry (which Okan also does very well!) is practically the Japanese national food, and burgers are a close contender. This flies in the face of what most people think of when they think of “authentic” Japanese cuisine, but that’s only because they mistake “traditional” for “authentic.” Some people have made good cases that it’s not sushi or ramen (which is basically stolen from Chinese cuisine anyways), but curry and burgers that have become the most authentic Japanese food around.
Now, go, redefine your ideas of what it means to eat Japanese food. Have a hambāgu before they run out!