While walking around Hollywood last week, heading South on Cahuenga, we were shocked to find a really bright new burger place called Fuku Burger. The place literally seemed to have popped out on that strip out of nowhere and was seemingly blasting club music out of its open garage doors. Typically, this is all a very big turn off: the party songs playing, girls whose bras were showing serving food, people drinking lots at–like–2PM, sports games blasting on television, “street art” on the walls, etc. It wasn’t our vibe at all. But, the food did sound intriguing, as Fuku puts a literal Japanese flavor into their burgers. Moreover, KCET posted an article that included their chicken sandwich as one of the best in the area. We were all ears and had to try it.
Fuku has not been open that long, which is why we and most people may not have noticed it until recently. When you visit the place, it is apparent they are new as everything is spotless, the waitresses–although in questionable uniforms–are on top of their service, managers constantly hover around everyone, and, naturally, their computers kept going down, one of the perks of a new restaurant. We were a little turned off walking in; but, the food on the signs and that promise KCET made to me, seemingly personally, kept us trucking forth to grab a spot at the bar.
Stylistically, there’s a ton going on, some of which is good and some of which is bad. The good is that large David Trubridge lights hang above the bar (and cannot be knockoffs as those lamps themselves are extremely new), the sweet upside-down-right-side-up wallpaper, the white marble countertops and how that plays with the bright red and blacks, and all the crazy draft beer handles. The bad was the “graffiti” mural, the somewhat exposing garage doors that leave no gap between you and the street, the loud (and awful) music, the pushing everywhere for drink specials and shooters, the red, disorienting glass, and the waitresses’ uniforms, a combination of exposed bra, wolverine attacked t-shirt dresses, and various heeled boots.
An atmosphere can kill a place and we weren’t killed here, no: it was just annoying trying to have a conversation over the visual and audial noise (not to mention the family behind us who seemed like they were having a Fuku catered quinceñera). Alas, we stuck it out and ordered the Tomago (“Egg”) Burger, the Chicken Katsu (“Crispy Chicken”), and the Garlic Fries.
The food came super quickly, which was great and unexpected as we had no idea how long we were going to have to wait. The food is okay. It has some heavenly moments and some brutal bleh moments. First, the good, which is the above Tamago (“Egg”) Burger. The burger is the Fuku patty “topped with fried egg, furikake, crispy onions, teriyaki sauce, and wasabi mayo.” The combination was brilliant, the burger lean and juicy, the onions a well balanced crispy, and the furikake, teriyaki, and wasabi mayo a modest amount individually but a force when combined. Oh, and the egg! It oozed into it all to really solidify the power of this burger. It surprisingly was not messy and was not as heavy as most egg topped burgers. It was one of the best culinary surprises we’ve had in town that definitely inspired an “Oh my God.” in the first bite.
Now, the Chicken Katsu (“Crispy Chicken”). Well. Dang. It wasn’t that great, I’m sad to report. I am a lover of fried chicken sandwiches and, truly, think they are one of the best dishes on the earth. When done correctly, the sandwiches are brilliant and, as they are hard to fuck up, they are usually brilliant, which is why so many have been trying to improve upon the simple premise to create something extraordinary (see: Chick-Fil-A and Son Of A Gun–we have yet to try the others on the KCET list, but we will). I was pumped to try this one and was pumped when it arrived but was so underwhelmed. I kept waiting for it to click but it never did.
Let’s breakdown what it is: “panko crusted chicken breast topped with shredded cabbage, katsu sauce, and crack sauce.” That all sounds great, right? It is…well, all but the chicken. The cabbage is a nice, traditional choice and the katsu and crack sauces–like the Tamago’s furikake, teriyaki, and wasabi mayo–blended in quite well, although a little later in the game than the Tamago. The problem here is the chicken: it sucked. It was over tenderized, which made it literally flat and bland, only the panko crust being the flavor. It wasn’t even over fried: it was just a snooze. I was terribly disappointed and am skeptical about the rest of the KCET picks since this one was definitely NOT a good chicken sandwich. Intriguing and different, yes. Good? No.
The Garlic Fries were also a bit of a bore, unfortunately, thick and covered in togarashi with a boring garlic sauce and ketchup on the side. They weren’t crisp enough either. The secret to making them great? Ask the waitress for a side of the wasabi mayo to dip your fries into. That makes them about thirty times better.
We didn’t have any cocktails (again: 2PM and we didn’t want to be “those” people, like many of those people in there); however, they were all super, SUPER cheap. That may be Fuku’s theme: everything is cheap. Our order, while flawed at points, was $20 flat in the end. All but one of the burgers on the menu are under ten dollars, the chicken was the cheapest, and the fries were three dollars. It’s possible to break the bank here but very difficult, which is nice. It is certainly the cheapest burger place in blocks, aside from Jack In The Box on Cahuenga and Sunset.
Fuku Burger’s food is not bad. Certain items shine brighter than others, sure, but it is by no means bad. Moreover, the environment isn’t bad. Certain parts are flawed and somewhat annoying–but they aren’t bad. Maybe Fuku is just trying too hard…who knows? Nevertheless, you need to try the Tamago but not the Chicken Katsu. We will likely be back and will report any other good finds there.