What do ramen and burgers have in common? Apart from both being quick and dirty guilty pleasures, you can now get either option at a little corner of Wellington's CBD.
Karaage Burger is the latest project from the team behind The Ramen Shop who have rebranded their Victoria Street outlet into a trendy Japanese-fusion fried burger and snack spot. While the noodles are gone and a giant burger logo now adorns the entrance, the interior will mostly be familiar to fans of the erstwhile ramen joint. The space is clean and open, with a mix of tables and bar seats. And while you're there, don't forget to check out their monthly special blackboard for a cute surprise.
We wasted little time getting straight into what we came for — burgers. If there's one thing the menu offers, it's balance. At the time of our visit, there were exactly four burger options available: two chicken and two cauliflower, and it was a no-brainer to try one of each.
We started with the cauli-cheese burger ($12), which had a ridiculously hefty kakiage fried cauliflower patty as its centrepiece, accompanied by a cheese sauce and sesame miso slaw. Surprisingly, the fried cauliflower was nowhere near as heavy as we thought it would be, instead delivering a refreshingly crisp crunch, assisted by the slaw. The cheese sauce, while not making its presence overly felt, also played a role in adding a bit of depth and balance to the burger.
Meanwhile, the Pirikara Hoot ($16) featured a free-range chicken karaage patty so big it was positively spilling out the sides. The patty is slathered in both a spicy Hoot sauce and sriracha mayo, and this two-pronged spice attack proved to be a real winner in our books, packing a deftly balanced level of heat. The Japanese pickles and sesame miso slaw provided the necessary counterbalance, helping to cool down the overall flavour of the burger.
We couldn't resist adding a snack to go with our meal, but the loaded tots ($11) were an area for improvement. It's a novel offering, with the tots topped with furikakae salt, katsuobushi, and cheese sauce for a faux-takoyaki feel, but far more sauce was needed to offset the overall dryness of the dish.
It's always refreshing to see household names try new and bold things, and while Karaage Burger needs some fine-tuning to compete with Wellington's myriad burger heavyweights, it's doing a laudable job of carving its own niche.