The air was laced with flurried winds that swept through our hair and ruffled our dresses, but despite the tumultuous weather our steps were permeated with purpose, the thought of gorgeous Japanese fast food at Yen Burger flitting through our eager minds. We craved slightly soft fries dipped in sirrichia mayo that lay in wait tantalizingly on the tip of our tongue, washed down with lychee that was not too tart, not too sweet. We devoured images of dumpling style burgers wrapped around tofu and avocado and consumed halloumi in mango sauce hungrily. But most of all we laughed, unwinding in a relaxed, intimate restaurant, woven with blossoms and graphic street art in a striking dichotomy of urban meets nature, where the two worlds collided in a graceful clash. Yen burger was within our reach and our quest for feel good fast food with a Japanese flair had begun. Overlooked by a graphic print of a woman who gazed upon our food with slight interest, we were tucked into a small table downstairs, preferring the aesthetic beauty of the floral blooms in the bar area, but nevertheless brimming with anticipation as we licked our lips with slavish hunger. You notice the staff are warm, friendly and ready with a winning smile as they glide from room to room, almost tranquil in the way that they move, so you welcome their arrival at your table with a ready smile too.
To start you opt for a cocktail that is charismatic, mysterious and alluring, Yen’s take on an evening drink that is bursting with personality, the lychee classic that is reminiscent of an Asian inspired mojito. It glides down your throat with the grace of a prima donna ballerina, poised and elegant as it takes centre stage. Marie has her eye on a ‘fast food classic’, a milkshake layered with oodles of oreo goodness, creamy but not too thick, smooth and velvety as it travels into your famished stomach. The music is low, but nevertheless welcome, a faint lulling background noise that accompanies your drinks with quiet dignity, but you almost hear a triumphant trumpeting in your mind as the food arrives with spirited finesse. There are sweet potato fries crying out to be coated in ‘Turn Up Sauce’ an exciting blend of sirrichia, mayo, and something a little extra, extra, while halluomi is tenderly placed alongside mango sauce, sweet sensations on a bed of salt. Angry wings and dashi fries are Marie’s side dishes of choice, finger licking succulent chicken coated in orgasmic envy, chips peppered with dashi flakes begging to be eaten by hungry mouths.The sweet potato fries are perfectly cooked, soft with a slight crunch, complimented beautifully by the turn up sauce that you desire to eat by the galloon, while the salted halluomi is perfectly balanced by the sweet mango sauce.
The sides were superb, but the burgers were supreme, large ‘dumpling’ style burgers evocative of the Asian influence that Yen Burger is so known for. You consumed the burgers hungrily with your eyes before they had even arrived, deciding to combine the ‘all veggie burger’ with ‘tofu’, as you had allergies to some of the ingredients used in both burgers. While wary at first, the chefs were all too happy to oblige and thus the ‘veggie tofu burger’ had arrived in its crowning red and white glory, while Marie’s ‘Finest Chick burger’ smelled delightful even to a vegetarian like myself. Despite the repeated mention of the allergies you had, the first burger came out with aubergine, but they were quick to rectify their mistake and make another burger that was free from the allergens you had listed. It almost had an imaginary fanfare as it arrived, a glorious dumpling bun laced with panko avocado, tofu instead of the mushroom it originally had, lettuce, tomato, red onion, lime and a splash of glorious blue cheese. In short it was heaven in measured, calculated bites, each bite bringing wave upon wave of unadulterated pleasure. The tofu was grilled to perfection, while the lime squeezed on crisp lettuce and tomato made the burger plump and juicy, a riot of sweet and savory sensations exploding in your entertained mouth. The blue cheese was a tart contrast to the panko avocado, which had a slight ripe sweetness despite its panko coating, while the delightful texturing between soft crumbly blue cheese and the crispy breadcrumb of the panko sent your sensibilities wild.
Marie’s burger was the ‘Finest Chick’, coconut emblazoned chicken breast with tomato, red onion and mango sauce, with the option to add cheese if you would like to. She stated that the mango sauce was a sweet contrast to the textured coconut flavoring, but said the chicken breast would be slightly bland if the sauce had not been added, although she enjoyed her burger nevertheless and enthused about the ‘Turn Up Sauce’ that we were both madly in love with. We ate with hunger in our eyes and love in our hearts, a remedial silence during the ritualistic eating of a Japanese fast food feast. It was a quirky and inspired take on what we see as a Fast Food in Europe, with elements of Asian influences in our dishes, from the use of kumquat in cocktails (orange-like fruit related to the citruses, with an edible sweet rind and acid pulp) to traditional Mochi ice cream, Yen Burger’s menu might be niche and small, but it was a niche that was well worth a visit. To finish strawberry mochi was the order of the day, and while you were disappointed by the portion given the price, nevertheless the mochi hit the spot, a rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The strawberry was sweet and pleasant enough as it teased your mouth with its iced heart but ultimately it was the hybrid Yen Burger that won your vote, rethinking the way that you looked at vegetarian burgers, a plant based delight with flavour to boot.
Brimming with flavour, it’s little wonder why Yen translates as ‘money’ and casual desire in English, all too evident from the relaxed presentation of the dishes, to the cheap price point, indicative of a ‘fast food joint’ with a dressed up flair. Each dish while tirelessly crafted comes across with easy finesse, a relaxed nonchalance with no frills trimmings that matches the laid back ‘cafe meets evening’ vibe, while the easy going staff and the friendly chefs show how Yen Burger builds its team and its craftsmanship on community values, where everything, even the food is a team effort. And it shows from their willingness to accommodate special requests and allergies to their ability to take criticism and turn it into something magical, it should come as no surprise that Yen Burger is the place to be in Southwark.
Have You Ever Tried Japanese Fast Food Before?
Please note we were invited as guests of Yen Burger through Love Pop Ups London for complimentary meals but all thoughts are our own and are not affected by complimentary services.