The 10 Japanese Fast-Food Joints That Should Be Exported Immedately

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Friday, January 16, 2009 at 5:01 am

5) First Kitchen
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First Kitchen doesn't want to be associated with fast food since it calls itself a "city convenience restaurant." Sure, you still pay at a counter, the same suicidal teenager takes your order, and all your food is served in wrappers. But First Kitchen does have a ton of variety for a fast food joint - your usual run of burgers, chicken and fish sandwiches, yes, but also bowls of noodles, pastas, soups, salads, mini-pizzas, ice cream floats, multi-flavored French fries, and even cakes and hot chocolate. It's actually one of the few fast food places you'll see single gals, since they serve shit you eat with a spoon. First Kitchen is also notorious for touting their heavy usage of mayonnaise, to the point where it's dripping off the food like a Carl's burger (which, come to think of it, probably looks pretty terrible to everyone but Americans). There's even a "flavor sauce bar" for your fries, and it's entirely made up of different tastes of mayo. The above burger doesn't actually have mayo but tartar sauce, which is so much less disgusting.

4) Mister Donuts

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Donut dining? Believe it! If you've been groomed on Krispy Kreme balls of congealed sugar, Mister Donuts might be lacking in the sweetness department, and the donuts themselves aren't quite as chewy either. But not only are there seasonal varieties of Mister Donuts, with frostings and fillings such as green tea, chestnut, pumpkin, and sweet potato, but there are even donut hot dogs, donut croquettes, spicy chicken donuts, and donuts filled with ham and cheese. Some Mister Donuts now serve Chinese food, which makes no sense at all, unless dumplings are considered in China to be some kind of donut. Best of all, you can get Donut Points and earn free donuts or donut-related merchandise, like a set of donut-adorned plates or donut wear, like a donut blanket. Donut! Donut!

3) Mos Burger
Nothing fancy here. Just good, fresh, well-made burgers. Mos Burger has thrived on no gimmicks - like the Japanese In N'Out, their burgers are made to order, use fresh produce, and the higher salaries of their employees make them seem more professional (and less suicidal). Their sides and premium burgers can easily set you back a ten spot, but you can pick from desserts, soups, and Mos Rice burgers, which are like beefs bowls in a burger shape. Each Mos eatery uses the best meat and vegetables from local farms in the area, and they'll advertise where each ingredient is from right when you walk in. They're still pretty secretive about the chili sauce on the Mos Burger, but some things are better left in the dark.

2) Tenya
Can you really go that wrong with tempura? Tenya's tempura is pretty damn good for being prepared in less than five minutes. Depending on what's fresh in season, they'll have specials of fried crab, scallops, oysters, or even octopus. You can order a platter like the one above, or you can grab the incredibly cheap Ten-don which, at about five bucks, includes tempura shrimp, fish, squid, pumpkin, and green beans over a bowl of rice, covered with the house special sauce, and served with a cup of miso soup. Perhaps Tenya is ranked higher because it serves not only beer, but graciously-poured vials of Japanese sake. If you stop in on your way home from work, you might start crying once you realize you're drinking alone in a fast food establishment. This, and big gulps of Dewars "for the road," is why American fast food doesn't serve alcohol.

1) Ichiran Ramen
Ramen isn't especially fast food, per se. You can't take it to go unless you want to eat your noodles with a knife and fork. But Ichiran Ramen is constructed entirely for single people in a hurry, and isn't that the essence of fast food? Once you step inside the red-tinged interior, you aren't greeted by a hostess, but a machine in which you deposit your money and get a meal ticket. A wall of blinking lights designates when a customer has left his seat. Each seat is partitioned off not only from the people around you, but from the cook in front of you - there's a curtain where you place your ticket, and then your food will be slid in front of you (the waitress will still bow to you through the curtain). It's like a confessional booth, but instead of being absolved for your sins, you indulge in a gluttonous bowl of noodles.

Eating at Ichiran is a completely isolated, lonely, and somewhat depressing experience. Thankfully, the ramen is fucking good, or you'd commit seppuku right then and there. Full of thin, Hakata-style noodles, a rich and flavorful tonkotsu pork broth, slices of chashu, and a dab of Ichiran's special red sauce, Ichiran's ramen is one of the best ramen chains in Japan for its taste, speed, and presentation. There have been rumblings that an Ichiran branch is opening in Brooklyn but for "members only." Ramen is not a meal for wispy elitists. It's a food for the masses that should be available to all. They need to get on that.
Tags: Food, Japan
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