Never the Same after Martiniburger

Melissa Uchiyama

On my journey from life-long vegetarian to all-beef patty craving carnivore, I am stuck on Martiniburger’s done-right burgers. It is hopeless: Martiniburger is all I want.

At this very moment, I am rummaging around for some snack that will satisfy, and even planning my next lunch quest, but all I really want is another trip to Martiniburger. I’m even plotting how my work schedule can possibly allow for some time in Martiniburger’s neighborhood of Kagurazaka. They’ve messed me up good.

Maybe it was the thrill of ordering a frothy egg cream which sang of Brooklyn; maybe it was the creamy mustard aoili spread topping 200-grams of seared elegance. Maybe it was the combination of every masterful detail and ingredient in the restaurant and on our plates.

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Spritz of seltzer, cold cold milk, & a great squirt of chocolate syrup hits the spot. Absolutely “natsukashi”, or nostalgic. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Martiniburger’s interior is clean and graphic, like an Absolut ad, or even Absolut’s bottles–frosted, sparkly. clean. There is even a rounded fixture echoing this same cool image. From the light aqua tiles shining behind the bar, to the vivid wall of warm, bubbling colors, Martiniburger balances ice and warmth in juicy burgers and crisp lager; slick martinis and hot-off-the-press grilled sandwiches.

Not a bad lookout–Martiniburger woos with harmony in drinks and food, as well chic, strong lines, and comfort. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Eliot Bergman, to no shocking surprise, is by trade, a graphic designer and illustator. He is also a hands-on owner and a fine purveyor of taste. All seating has been customized and imported with American specs and sizes. While we were there, The Jetsons showed on TV, and a glorious array of jazz, R&B, and blues played on their sound system.

Everything is fresh; nothing is frozen or outsourced. The excellent buns are made especially for Martiniburger; but from sauces, NY cheesecake, and even the ricotta used in their dinner-lasagna, Martiniburger’s kitchen does it all, and with zeal.

“I wrote the original recipes with a fellow New Yorker who really understood what I wanted, and we’ve passed the torch to our new young staff, ” says Bergman. Since October of 2010, Bergman has tailored and expanded their original menu four times, in content and design. Mr. Bergman says he strives to provide quality and value. It seems he has done all this, while becoming a posh bar and restaurant, kind of like a grown-up clubhouse or diner,  a glittering gem in the neighborhood, and in Tokyo, for that matter.

Burgers: We ordered a fantastic range from the burger menu and each of us were mightily impressed. Note that all burgers are prepared medium-rare, unless requested otherwise, but the peppery-crispy searing and juicy, pink inside was for all of us, exactly right. For my first Martiniburger experience, guided by Bergman’s wife, Kiyono Tashiro, I gleefully went with their signature burger, a 200-gram honey-of-a-burger, enjoyed with the signature English muffin and Béarnaise sauce. Actually, I substituted this sauce to try the blue cheese. The pickle went nicely. I completed my burger with a side of decadent mac n’ cheese, a lovely take on this down-home dish.

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Signature burger arrives looking smart, not soggy. Sauce and toppings are waiting for me to put-together. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Others ordered The Brooklyn, the same juicy burger, this time with mushrooms, Gouda, and a delicious Béarnaise sauce; Fifth Avenue, a cheery meal of Gouda, Cheddar, and mustard aioli, all 1350 yen with side.  One hungry fellow from our group splurged with The Skyscraper–a tall tower of gloriously caramelized onions, crisp bacon, all-beef chili, avocado, mushrooms, Cheddar, and Gouda, 2,000 yen with side.

Next trips must include Chinatown, sweet hoisin and crisp scallions; a taste of Little Italy, melted mozzarella and spicy ketchup, a  trip to The Bronx for a bit of that homemade chili and melty cheese. Martiniburger also entices with four New York sandwiches, each 1,000 yen with cole slaw, as seen on this link:, as well as quesadillas 1,000 yen, & a deluxe-sounding salad of seasonal veg, gourmet greens, & grilled chicken or bacon, for 200 yen added to the 900 salad. You could become ravenous just reading their menu, and that’s not even getting into dinner choices.

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Again, the signature Martiniburger sauce is the Béarnaise  and the NY Burger Collection’s sauces are set, or perfected already. Guests may choose to customize beyond that, with this fabulous array of homemade sauces : Béarnaise,  blue cheese, spicy ketchup, hoisin, tzaziki, and mustard aioli.

For 100-200 yen, add an extra topping for a truly customized NY burger. Isn’t that part of what makes NY great? The personalization of what we love best as illustrated in this famous NY scene:

Each burger is complete with your choice of gorgeous creamed spinach, mac n’ cheese, a simple salad, scallion-creamed potatoes, or herbed roasted potatoes.

The B-town burger is an excellent choice, shown here with a rich side of creamy mashed potatoes. This is iconic food deserving the highest of superlatives. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Even with this delicious range of burger choices, Martiniburger captivates instead of overwhelms. And you know every item will be a winner; none with disappoint.

From homemade Béarnaise sauce, smooth blue cheese, side-dishes you’ll fall in love with, Colby-jack or Gouda, the house has only made winning available. Nothing is a filler to fluff the menu. Even on my first trip, it is clear that quality ingredients have the mic. They speak loud and clear.

Drinks Abound: With all the tough meal decisions you’ll make, there is but one great micro-brew on tap: Brooklyn Lager (500 yen for a medium, 800 yen for large).

Presto! A window into the heart of Brooklyn with this warm amber-hued lager. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Martinis flex their muscles in classic James Bond appeal (a double, extra-dry on the rocks or straight up, with a twist of lemon for 700 yen).

Other Absolut Martinis include: cassis, chocolate, lemon-lime, orange, and vanilla, for 700 yen, as well.

Cocktail-it-up with Absolute-made Cosmos, Bloody Marys, Lemon Drops, Screwdrivers, Vodka-colas, Vodka-tonics, etc, at 700 yen.

Martiniburger also serves Johnny Walker Red, as well as Wild Turkey Whiskey at 950 yen.

A glass of wine is 650 yen and bottles are also available.

Sip from a nice-range of juices and soft drinks, coffee, or tea, at 300 yen. (This is nice, when often, soft drinks are just as expensive as “real” drinks in this town.

My classic egg cream is 500 yen. I cannot wait for another.

Make room…there’s more: A fantastic NY Oreo cheesecake topped-off our lunch, complete with birthday candle, as we were celebrating.

Always room for cheesecake… especially Martiniburger’s in-house, dense masterpiece! | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Rich NY dessert-fare is always baked-fresh, enticing diners–weekly cakes, cookies, and pies will beckon weekly returns to gleam just what is being pulled from the oven, while classic NY cheesecake and Amitie’s NY brownie are classic standards (all 600 yen, or 750 yen for a cake/drink set).

If you are lucky-enough to live in the area or you actually rearrange your home and/or work to move there, take-out will be a prime option. But then, you wouldn’t get to hear young bloggers, ritzy hotel restaurant execs, or burger-connoisseurs fawn over each dish. You wouldn’t get to see just how attentive and down-to-earth both Eliot Bergman and his wife, Kiyono Tashiro, are.

You would, however, be just as hopelessly spoiled  and in need of a great Martiniburger fix as I am. Tell you what–I’ll meet you there. Just look for the limelight.

Location:a six-minute walk from Kagurazaka StationNakazatocho 31, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0804
(03) 6280 8920
Web: (English or Japanese may be selected)
Business Hours:Open 11:00–23:00 (22:00 LO), Tuesday–Saturday, 11:00–22:00 (21:00 LO) Sunday. Closed Mondays.           Visa & Mastercard accepted. Private parties welcome.
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Filed under: Eating & Drinking
Tags: Bars, Burgers, Diner, Hamburgers, Martinis
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3 Responses to “Never the Same after Martiniburger”

  1. Avatar
    Tatami53 January 10, 2013

    This is an utterly fantastic review, written beautifully. You’ve done this restaurant justice, and long overdue, I might add. Really, really great writing; I’ve been to the restaurant, I can attest to the accuracy of this review. Kudos all around.

  2. Avatar

    I lived in the Kagurazaka area for two years and agree with everything in the article. Martiniburger has fantastic burgers that I crave constantly. In fact I’ll go as far to say that it might be the best burger I’ve ever had.

  3. Avatar

    Eliot is my friend from college & is stupendously talented- I am over the moon that his restaurant is so great! (And so jealous that you are there and not me! LOL) It is absolutely on our Must-Do list if we’re lucky enough to get back to Japan!

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