top tokyo burger
Photo by Brian

Brian, or “Empty Brian” as named at time of writing on Twitter1, is a legend incarnate. Already on our list of top Tokyo Twitter accounts, he provides constant delight for his followers as he live (and occasionally drunk) tweets his own life as a humorously opinionated and extremely tall Dutch programmer working in the Eastern Capital. If you’re a Tokyo-based tweeter, you’ve probably seen him pop up in your feed as one of your friends will have invariably clicked like on one of his posts.

As a fellow techie and spectator of the world destroying itself on Twitter, I delight in following Brian’s antics every day, and was doubly delighted by the Trello board he created for displaying his Tokyo burger reviews. Trello is a organizational/task management tool, and it turns out to be a great platform for listing burger reviews also.

I caught up with Brian in between burgers for a quick chat and asked him a few questions about the method behind his madness (below). And for the impatient, the current top five burgers on Brian’s list are in order:

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1. Brian being a developer created a script called Name Changer to automatically change his Twitter username every 30 mins. The name consists of some random adjective and “Brian”, so for example “Desolate Brian”, “Total Brian”, “Angry Brian” etc.

1. Cruz Burgers

cruz burgers
Photo by Brian de Heus

2. The Great Burger

Photo by Brian de Heus

3. Hohokam

hohokam burger
Photo by Brian de Heus

4. Deus Ex Machina

Photo by Brian de Heus

5. Fellows

Photo by Brian de Heus

Interview with Brian de Heus

Can you give us a quick intro to who you are and how you ended up creating a Trello board for Tokyo burgers?

I’m Brian, a software developer who has been living in Japan for a little over 6 years. At risk of sounding like a Cool Japan ad: Japanese cuisine is ace. Sadly enough I dislike anything miso flavored which rules out 80% of what you can get in Japan. I always wanted a goal in life. Getting married, a career, having a kid. These things are nice but is this really what I want to be remembered by? No. I decided that my magnum opus is a rating of burgers in Japan. This will be my legacy to the world. The reason why I picked Trello is because it’s easy to add new burgers, easy to see my ratings, and it comes with comments built-in!

How long have you been collecting your burger data? And what geographical limits are there?

Because I’m a well-integrated expat, I take pictures of my lunch whenever I eat out. One rainy night I was going through my pictures and I noticed I developed a penchant for hamburgers. I decided to count them, and realized I was averaging about 2 hamburgers a month. At that point a voice told me to step up my game, and I started to take my hamburger reviews more seriously. Right now I’m limited to Tokyo, but once I finish my sponsorship deal with JAL, (If you’re reading this, JAL, please give me money to eat burgers on your dime!) I hope I can explore every prefecture and find the greatest burger Japan has to offer.

What are your key criteria for assessing da burger?

It’s important that you always pick the same type of burger. Otherwise the comparison wouldn’t be fair. For me, it’s a cheeseburger. I try to judge it on the following criteria:

  • The buns – They need to be toasted. Otherwise they’ll lose some points instantly. Sesame seeds are optional. The color of the bun I don’t really care about, but some burger places in Japan douse it in egg wash which doesn’t look very appealing to me. Preferably the bun adds a little bit of flavor, but again only subtle hints. I’ve had a burger once that tasted like sesame seeds. What is up with that.
  • The patty – The most important part of any burger. Coarseness of the ground, seasonings, thickness, type of grill (e.g., grill vs charcoal).
  • Condiments used – Some stores go overboard with the sauce. When I want a burger, I expect to taste meat, vegetables, and bread. It’s easy for the sauce to overrule a burger.
  • Toppings – Not too thick, not too thin. I prefer a 1:1 size ratio on the patty. For example if my patty is 1 centimeter high, I prefer no more than 1 centimeters in toppings. The order of the toppings isn’t important, but I prefer lettuce on the bottom to soak up the burger grease to keep the bun dry.

Is your assessment strictly of the burger (and fries)? Or do other factors like ambiance, staff demure, choice of mustard brand and height of the ceiling come into play?

Condiments go on fries, not your burger. If a store has homemade condiments it’s a plus, but it won’t affect the rating. Neither will the fries.

Are you a stickler for 100% beef? Does a little bit of porky or mystery meat cause any distress?

This is a difficult question.

Do you remember your first burger?

The first burger I had in Tokyo was in a place called “This is the Burger”. They had a one-kilo burger and it was amazing.

For our proper cheapo readers, any Tokyo burger stand out as best cost performance?

Hummingbird in Harajuku. They have a lunch set for about a thousand yen, with a great gourmet burger.

Best Tokyo burger for a date?

That depends on your date. I’m drawing from a well of limited information, but Gotham Grill is great if you want to impress someone. The atmosphere is great, and the burger is tasty. However the best hamburger place I’ve been to is Cruz in Yotsuya. It’s tiny, but they have the best burger in Tokyo. I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t like Cruz. Let alone continue to date someone.

I can haz cheezburger?

I think that if you go anywhere that serves burgers, you should always have a cheeseburger.

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Do you have anything to say to our fellow expat friends from the United States (who will inevitably vehemently disagree with all your choices and troll you in the comments)?

Come at me, bro.

Thanks Brian!

For additional stalking, here’s Brian’s website, and you can also track his movements on github.

See you in the comments on the Top Tokyo Burger Trello Board.

Photo by Brian

Want to try burgers with a vegan twist? Head to Ain Soph. Ripple for some of the tastiest burgers in town.

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