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Seattle Burger Review: Katsu Burger’s pork offering tasty but taxing

Katsu's pork burger had its upsides, but ultimately proved difficult to handle. (Tom Amato, KTTH)

I’m on a mission to find the best burger in the city of Seattle. I travel to various burger joints within city limits and rate the establishment’s most popular burger on a scale of 1-10. Of all the measures I use, taste is most important.

First, let’s understand what Katsu is: It is meat that’s been pounded thin before being cooked. The meat is also consistently seasoned and spread with breadcrumbs.

Katsu Burger has three locations in Seattle: Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Georgetown. I went to the location on Capitol Hill, which doubles as a bar. It’s a convenient spot, as you can probably find free parking in the neighborhoods a block up. Make sure you don’t walk into Katsu Bar the block before. I accidentally did, and was very confused when I didn’t see a burger on the menu.

The first thing I did when I walked to the register was ask what their most popular burger was. I had heard rumors that it was a pork-based burger, but I had to hear it from the horse’s mouth. When they confirmed the “Ninja Deluxe” was the number one choice among customers, I went ahead and ordered it.

The burger is absolutely huge, stacked high and spread out.

The breaded pork extended behind the fluffy potato bun. It comes with Tillamook cheddar cheese, bacon, Japanese mayo, and Tonkatsu sauce, a soy sauce-based ketchup. Or a ketchup-based soy sauce? Either way, it’s a combo of ketchup and soy sauce. They also add a few things you won’t see on the menu listing: Tomato, raw red onion, and dry coleslaw lettuce.

I hope you’re not on a date, because they stack this thing with onion, even more than I would prefer. The sauce stands out immediately, as the mayo and Tonkatsu sauce team up for a nice, tangy flavor. Altogether, it was a slippery meal, as the potato bun won’t absorb the sauce, creating a slick surface between the vegetables and cheddar cheese. Hold it tight from the beginning, and don’t let go.

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Let’s jump into the main attraction: The pork burger. It’s a thicker-than-thin slap of pork that’s crispy as all get-out. If you like some crunch with your burgers, this is the meal for you. However, even if you’re not a fan of crispy meat, but you’re an omnivore who enjoys a quality burger, this will still be the meal for you.

It’s tasty! Think of eating a giant pork tenderloin, but with some foreign, sweet sauce you’ve never tried.

I talked to one of the cooks about the differences between grilling a beef and pork burger: He said they use fresh pork and cook it all the way through, constantly checking the temperature and ridding it of any pinkish color, something I never thought would be associated with the creation process.

He also said when cooked to perfection, it’s hard to distinguish the difference between pork and chicken. I’m not sure I necessarily agree with that, but I can see how the two could taste similar.

With that being said, I think there’s a reason Americans have almost unanimously gone with beef as their meat of choice. Beef can have various levels of moisture, and has a chewier texture that mixes well with vegetables and add-ons.

There are also more ways to cook beef than there are pork, and pork can come across as heavier. That’s what I experienced with the Ninja Deluxe. The taste does get old and fatiguing about two-thirds of the way through. It’s very filling, and I had to set it down and question if I was full or tired of the taste. The answer was probably a combination of both. An average-size human will have trouble finishing it due to those two factors.

While I started out loving it, I didn’t end with the same enthusiasm. I had to mix in some fries along the way and take a couple of breaks. Honestly, maybe if it was smaller, it might leave the customer less fatigued and wanting more.

The burger is $10.25, but it’s bigger than some of the burgers you’ve spent more money on. It’s worth the price, but I think the main thing holding the Ninja Deluxe back is the tiring taste of pork. It probably wouldn’t work as well if it wasn’t breaded, or Katsu.

The décor inside the restaurant and bar is magnificent; a truly wonderful atmosphere to have lunch or dinner. There are pictures on the wall, a map of the world with pins identifying where people came from, and comic book art, including a Godzilla-themed piece stretching an entire panel.

Biggest strength(s): Katsu, size, sauce, pork
Biggest weakness(s): Pork can get fatiguing, immense amount of onions, bun

Go check out Katsu Burger and Bar on Cap Hill. I’ll give the “Ninja Deluxe” a 7.5/10.

What do you think of their burger? Is a pork-based burger a “burger?” What defines a burger? And where should I go next? Tweet me @NewProducerTom on Twitter.

Past reviews: 8 Oz. Burger (7.5/10), Little Big Burger (8/10), Uneeda Burger (5/10),Li’l Woody’s (7/10), CaliBurger (6/10), ShakeShack (8/10), Red Robin (7/10), BurgerMaster (4/10), Sam’s Tavern (7.5/10), Great State Burger (6.5/10), Zippy’s Giant Burgers (8/10), Red Mill Burgers (7.5,10), Henry’s Tavern in Bellevue (9/10), Blue Moon Burger’s “Impossible Burger” (1/10)

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