Friday, February 24, 2012

Freshness Burger フレッシュネスバーガー022-399-7130

Address: 仙台市太白区長町7-20-5 ララガーデン長町2F.
Located on the 2nd floor of the LaLa Garden Shopping Mall above the Nagamachi-minami Subway Station.  LaLa Garden is not The Mall, but it does have connecting walkways to The Mall on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  There is also a Freshness Burger on the 1st floor of Sendai JR Train Station, among other locations.

Map:  Click “Location” link below.

Special Half-Price Campaign running now thru March 1, 2012!!!
Well, not exactly half-off your order, but still not a bad deal if you plan to eat here again within the next month or two.  It works like this:  for roughly every 200 you spend now you get a 100 coupon for your next order.  
This evening, my Classic Burger (480), large Onion Rings (350 ), and tall Orange Juice (400 ) with tax came to a grand total of 1230 .  I received seven 100 coupons!  And I can use these all at the same time until May 31, 2012.  But, it looks like this offer is only valid at the LaLa Garden location.  If a Freshness Burger near you has the same offer, please let me know.

Classic Burger, Onion Rings, Orange Juice

And now on to the food … it’s pretty good, probably the second best burger in Sendai (Teddy’s Diner has tastier meat in its burger, but I’ll write a post on that later as soon as I get some photos).  But like the name says, it is fresh … mostly.  The Classic Burger has fresh tomato, lettuce, and onion, as well as a quarter-pound (113 grams) Aussie beef patty (more on this below).  Add ketchup, mustard, and other spices from their spice rack to your own liking.  When taking a bite of this big boy, be careful that the dripping grease doesn’t end up on your lap.  
The onion rings are usually great!  On a bad day they’re just okay.  Again, being Japan and all, the large size is probably equivalent to a medium back in your home country (unless your home country is Japan).
My wife likes the fish burger (shouldn’t it be a “fish sandwich?”), the hot dog, and the chai.  I used to order the regular Freshness Burger, which has a special sauce that is tasty, but now I prefer the Classic or Classic WW Burgers.  Their sphere-like doughnuts are also pretty good (actually, I just like the plain one, not the chocolate).
Oh, a couple of items that you don’t see on a McDonald’s menu that you will at Freshness Burger: 7-Up! and Lowenbrau.
The LaLa Garden location is quite spacious and has a separate enclosed smoker’s room.  The Sendai Station location is quite small and cramp, with the smoking seats divided only by an unenclosed glass window.

LaLa Garden in Nagamachi-minami

But I do have a couple of gripes about this place.  This used to be one of the few places where you could buy Pepsi.  Not any newfangled Pepsi concoction, just plain, good old-fashion Pepsi.  But not any more!  They’ve switched to Pepsi Nex.  Also, they used to serve a fantastic hot yuzu drink that really went down well on a cold winter night.  Again, not any more!   And last but not least … the beef.   On my trips back to my hometown I can’t wait to eat at my local In N’ Out Burger where the beef is “fresh, never frozen.”  I think it’s ironic that the restaurant is named Freshness Burger yet their meat patty is frozen.
That being said, I highly recommend Freshness Burger if your jonesing for an American-type burger! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Saboten Tonkatsu さぼてん

Location:  There’s one in the basement of S-Pal in Sendai Station but I usually go to the one on the third floor of The Mall above Nagamachi-minami Subway Station.  This is a chain restaurant and they are located throughout the country.
Map:  Click the "Location" link at the bottom.
The Mall hours:  11 am – 9:30 pm.
S-Pal hours: 10 am – 10 pm.
A familiar front-runner that I've formerly failed to feature.  Some days are better than others, but you really can’t go wrong here.   Sure they’re known for their tonkatsu, but their ebi-fry and kaki-fry also seem to please.  


And with unlimited free refills of rice, cabbage, and miso soup, this place is ideal for the big eater!
But, I’m not a big eater, just a picky one.  Yet Saboten never fails to satisfy this picky eater.
And Saboten’s take-out bentos are also great!  I often get these from The Mall in Nagamachi-minami.  The only thing I don’t like about the bentos is the nori furikake, but Saboten is quite happy to accommodate my special “nuki” request.
For take out, I usually order the 三元豚ロースかつ定食,but at the restaurant I usually just go for the regular ロースかつ定食. With the set meal, everything is good:  the tonkatsu, tsukemono, rice, salad dressing, and miso soup.  I especially like the fresh sesame seeds in a bowl that you crush to your own textural desires, which you then pour the tonkatsu sauce into.  Recently, I’ve noticed at The Mall that they have become quite frugal in the amount of sesame seeds that they serve; you can almost count them.  Still, the aroma of freshly ground sesame seeds adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the meal.


Occasionally, they will offer a layered tonkatsu called something like 重ねるとんかつ that comes with a ponzu sauce and is really delicious!  Unfortunately this is only seasonal and I’m not sure what season it appears.

How many sesame seeds are there?  One, two, ....

I’m also pleased with Saboten’s generous stamp card system.   It seems that I accumulate enough stamps to get a 500 discount quite easily.  Instead of the discount, you can opt for a take-out tonkatsu, but who wants to take home a hunk of tonkatsu right after they’ve just finished eating tonkatsu?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Aashriwaad Indian アシルワード 022-399-9216

Address:  仙台市青葉区一番町 3-1-16 Parm-City 131 ビル 3F.  Coming from Sendai Station on Chuo-dori there’s the souvenir shop しまぬき,next to that is the now defunct pachinko Parlor ABC, and then next to that is the entrance to the Parm-City 131 Building.  It’s on the 3rd floor.

Map:  Scroll down to the bottom.

Lunch: 11:00 – 2:30                  Dinner: 6:00 – 9:30
Closed Wednesdays.
A difficult restaurant to find when you don ‘t know where it is.  A couple of months ago while strolling down Chuo-dori I noticed their promotion sign outside.   But the other day when looking for this restaurant I had trouble locating it as they moved their sign to a less conspicuous area.
For lunch, Aashriwaad offers about six different set meals starting from 800円.  I went with the Tandoori Chicken Lunch Set (1000) that came with a piece of tandoori chicken, a curry of your choice, a huge slice of naan and/or saffron rice, small cabbage salad, small dessert, and a drink.  The choices of curry available on the day that I visited were chicken, mutton, and vegetable.  I chose the chicken.

Tandoori Chicken Set Lunch

The tandoori chicken on first bite, though tasty, didn’t seem all that spicy.  But as I kept eating I definitely noticed the spiciness intensifying.
The naan was very good.  Not the best I’ve ever had but definitely good enough to eat on it’s own with having to dip it in anything.  And the chicken curry … FANTASTIC!!!  So flavorful and spicy, enough to get those sweat beads forming.
The saffron rice and salad were just okay, but I had no problem with them as the curry was good enough to cover for their lackluster performance.  The dessert was a porridge-like substance with nuts.  This was also just okay, but it’s nothing I would order by itself.  Probably a normal eater would enjoy this but, me being a picky eater and all, I left half of it uneaten.
When I first ordered, I thought the one naan would not be enough and that I might order an extra one for an additional 100, but I’m glad I didn’t because I was full from the first naan.   
I will definitely come back to Aashriwaad!  Although there are a number of Indian restaurants in Sendai, I would have to say that this is at the top of the leader board.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tonkatsu Sugi とんかつ杉   022-283-1968


Address:   仙台市若林区志波町18-16.  Near a ヨークベニマル supermarket.

Map:  Scroll to the bottom.
Lunch: 11:30 – 2:00 Dinner: 5:00 – 8:00
Closed holidays and Wednesdays.
I’ve passed by this restaurant a couple of times on the weekend and always saw people lining up outside.  I figured that was a good sign that it was a great restaurant.  
I walked in on a Friday evening and it was quite busy.  I was seated at the counter in front of the kitchen.  I was surprised that the menu consisted of only eight different offerings.  I went with the regularとんかつ定食 for 840 円. The set meal came with the usual: rice, cabbage salad, tsukemono (or so I thought), and miso soup.
The tonkatsu was very tender and tasty, probably the tenderest tonkatsu I’ve tasted, with no chunks of fat.  I believe that the reason for this succulent sow was that each piece of pork and shrimp were breaded at the time of the order.  They were not pre-made nor frozen.  I saw first-hand as a new order was placed and the chef would take out his tray of bread crumbs and place each individual pork cutlet (or shrimp) in the tray before plunking it in the deep fryer.  And the portion size was just right.  Not overly generous but I feel I got my money’s worth.

The sauce was just right!  Not too sweet nor too tangy, and not overwhelming.  
They served a lot of cabbage, in fact, too much.  That wouldn’t have been a problem but the salad dressing was similar to plain mayonnaise and had very little taste.  Because of that I left most of my cabbage behind.  The macaroni salad was just so-so, and the tsukemono was actually just raw carrot slices.  The miso soup was quite nice.  
I noticed that this is not a place where one lingers.  People were off as soon as they finished eating.  
This is a non-smoking environment and it seemed to seat about 25 people or so.  Free parking for about eight cars is way in the back, but be careful because the side street closest to 杉 is a one-way street moving away from the restaurant.
I have to be honest, though, I don’t know if I’ll be returning to   I’m recommending this restaurant because I did like the tonkatsu itself, but I was not wow’ed.  Because of the long lines of people I had witnessed, I thought I would be wow’ed.  But I wasn’t.  Perhaps you’ll be wow’ed.  At the very least, you’ll be like me, and just simply satisfied.

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