Roy Yamaguchi is a celebrity chef, known by some as Iron Chef Asian on the short lived TV cooking conpetition Iron Chef USA (which featured William Shatner as the Chairman), and best known for his empire of eponymous Roy's restaurants. Yamaguchi started out in top L. A. restaurants such as L'Ermitage and Michael's, then came to fame during the '80s as the head chef of 385 North, a trendy restaurant on La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
I've eaten at Roy's a number of times over the years, mostly at the Hawaii Kai location, but also in Scottsdale, AZ. I feel that the food at Roy's has been good to very good, but not great. To be fair, I have never been to Roy's when he was in the kitchen...I understand he is an amazing chef.
Yamaguchi has entered the fast food business with Burgers on the Edge, which is in a shopping mall on Kapahulu Ave. (the one with the fancy looking Safeway). The theme is gourmet hamburgers and sides. Perhaps the most attention getting item is the Wagyu (similar to Kobe) beef that is an option for your burger (ground chuck is the other beef option; there is chicken, turkey or portobella mushrooms for those who eschew red meat).
I had lunch with my longtime friend from Pomona College, Val, a Punahou grad, who really gets much of the credit for introducing me to many of the great food places in Hawaii. When the soba place we were first going to go to was closed, she suggested Burgers on the Edge. I was very excited, since I had heard about this place for a long time.
I ordered Roy's "My Own Burger," his custom burger consisting of Nalo Greens (the best mesclun salad mix of all time), Maui onions, Tillamook cheddar cheese, A-1 Steak Sauce, and a fried egg (perhaps he's been to Fatburger?). I opted for the 1/3 pound Wagyu beef for the protein (you can also get a 1/2 pound patty as well) and the regular bun (whole wheat is the other option, which Val got on her standard Wagyu burger).
Okay...what you must know about me is that I am one of those guys originally from Southern California who thinks that In-N-Out Burger is the best ever (I'll tell you why in a future post). You either agree, or roll your eyes and cry, "What is the big deal?" I also grew up loving Tommy's hamburgers and Fatburger as well, so you will know my bias.
So what did I think of my burger? Well, for the good stuff: I thought the bun was great - soft, with good flavor, and not too big. My complaint about burger places like Teddy's and Kua Aina is that the buns are too big, and they overwhelm the meat. Roy's bun is thoughtfully paired with the meat. I also loved the greens, which were much better than the greens Teddy's, for example, puts on theirs. The Maui onions are the best to put in a burger because they are milder than regular onions and don't overpower the rest of the sandwich.
The Wagyu beef itself was terrific, but unfortunately, it was cooked to medium-well, so the benefit of having such great meat was diminished. I think I want to go back and try the 1/2 pound burger and see if there is a difference. The fried egg didn't seem to add anything, and though I liked the A-1, most people I know are not neutral about it, so it depends on your palate.
Val liked her burger, too, but thought that the whole wheat bun wasn't as good as the regular one.
Something worth noting are the sweet potato fries, which are excellent. Very lightly coated, they are very crispy on the outside (hard to do with sweet potatoes), and tender and full of sweet potato flavor on the inside. They have regular potato fries as well, and while they were fine, I would put them below McDonald's (which is still good, as I think McDonald's has great fries).
So what's the final verdict? I would say that Burgers on the Edge was like my other experiences at Roy's restaurants: good to very good, but not great. As it happens, the day before going to Burgers on the Edge, I ate one of McDonald's new 1/3 pound Angus burgers, which I thought was pretty good. I would definitely take Burgers on the Edge over McDonald's, but if you gave me a choice, I would take a Double-Double from In-N-Out 9 times out of 10. But I would take Burgers on the Edge over Teddy's and Kua Aina by a small margin.
For more information, directions, and the menu: http://www.burgersontheedge.com
Grace and aloha,
P. S. My friend, Jane Shohara, told me she has ordered the Rob Bell video, "Everything Is Spiritual," that I mentioned in an earlier post. I hope others will follow suit, especially those who are skeptics of religion. He uses quantum physics and other scientific perspectives along with a brilliant explanation of the Creation Story in Genesis. You might not come to faith watching it (although there is a good chance), but at least you'll come away having to admit that the plausibility of God is high.
You might also check out Bell's Nooma videos, which I mentioned earlier as 12-14 minute video talks which are visually interesting and features Rob's riveting narrative. Nooma is a clever phonetic spelling of the Greek word "Pneuma," which means wind, breath, and spirit, from which we get the term Holy Spirit. You might recognize this word in such English terms as "pneumonia," an illness of the lungs, where breath comes. If you were starting out with Nooma videos, I would recommend: "Lump," which is a powerful way of explaining God's grace; "You," which helps explain why the early Christians chose Jesus in the midst of a bunch of other gods and even another prominent figure first called "The Prince of Peace"; and "Dust" which is great for those who feel that they don't quite measure up to feel comfortable talking about God or serving God. Start with those, but don't miss the others, because nearly all of them are great.