Nagoya: Japan’s fourth biggest city, right? Well, for some of us who have been here for a while, that used to be a bit of a joke. You see, it’s not that long ago that Nagoya, for all of its industry and commerce, was really just a big city in name alone. However recent years have seen exponential growth: skyscrapers have shot up; new restaurants, bars and shops abound. Things are on the up.
The latest area of stratospheric expansion is Sasashima, five minutes’ walk from Nagoya Station. While the name – literally ‘bamboo island’ – may not conjure up images of urban opulence, it is no less a continuation Meieki’s explosion in ultra-modernity, entertainment and retail, particularly in the new Global Gate building.
You probably know Sasashima best for the 109 Cinema, and in the past it’s been a pretty woeful area to hang out for those wanting to grab pre/post-movie dinner and drinks. Your best choices have been limited to Saizariya or Mos Burger. Not too enticing right? Thankfully this has now changed with the coming of The Corner Hamburger and Saloon.
“Now hold the god-dammed phone, Mark”, you are probably saying, spitting out your sushi in exasperation. “I know The Corner! It’s that amazing burger place in Endouji. You’ve got that all wrong, you limey dip-shit!” Well, if you’ll hold your xenophobic horses, I’ll explain.
Due to The Corner’s overwhelming popularity (and you’ll know what I mean if you have been amongst the throngs of customers desperate to get in at lunch and dinner times) they have opened up a second branch right opposite the cinema and, unlike the mooted Magnum P.I. reboot (you just don’t fuck with Sellick), this one is a hit. The ceilings are lofty, and the seating is open. You can choose from large, comfy sofas, or intimate tables, and despite this increased size they neither cram in tables to maximize customers, nor are there empty, hollow spaces. It’s a perfect balance of comfort, intimacy and roominess.
Now, if this is sounding all too different from the cozy Corner that you undoubtedly know and love, then you’ll be relieved that the awesomeness of their burgers is one thing that is retained in their second home, burgers that are some of the best in the city. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, ask around. It’s most definitely the joint of choice for Nagoya’s burger aficionados, and as I crossed the road from 109, I was hit with that unmistakable Corner scent.
Once inside I scanned the menu momentarily, but I knew that if I wanted to see how this new offshoot measured up, there was only one choice: The Corner Burger, a 100% beef burger, made in-house to the special Corner recipe, topped with bacon, homemade smoked cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce and a fried egg balanced inside a sumptuous toasted bun. And how does it compare? Well, it’s difficult to say.
You see, I live quite close to the original Endouji Corner and I pass by quite regularly, often stopping to chat with owner Ban-san or manager Takanori-kun. And so, feeling loyal to those guys I am finding it tough to comment on the new branch. You see, I love their place, it’s awesome, so obviously I don’t want to hurt their feelings. But for you, my dear, dear readers, I must. Because…
… this was the best The Corner Burger I’ve had. And I’ve had a few. No, scrap that, I’ve had a lot. And don’t get me wrong, they have all been excellent, but this one just surpassed it. (Sorry Ban-san and Takanori-kun.) Of course, it has the same great taste, with the rich bacon balancing the egg like a wonderful English breakfast, and I presume the burger itself is made with the same patented recipe. But as I bit into it the juiciness was exemplified by the shock of reddish-pink rareness inside. In fact, it took me aback to such a degree that I had to stop and stare at it for a while. It is not often in Japan that you see a burger cooked so well.
I only realized how long I had been gazing at this royal fantasy of rarity, when I noticed that my dining companion Carter, esteemed editor of NagMag and fellow burger lover, had fairly demolished his own Bacon Cheeseburger. I tried to inquire as to the quality of the rapidly vanishing burger in his hand, but the string of mouth-filled, eye-rolling complimentary expletives are not appropriate to put in print in a family magazine. It’s fair to say that he enjoyed it, though.
Longstanding customers of The Corner will know that it’s not just top-notch burgers that they do, but also great beers. In fact, The Corner was well ahead of the curve when it comes to craft beer, and their new branch continues in this tradition. Here you’ve got Japanese beers from *takes deep breath* Hichitano Nest, Coedo, Shiga Kogen, Minami Shinshu, Baird, Sankt Gallen, Minoh, Hideji and Nagoya’s own Kinshachi. Then you’ve got bottles from *takes another deep breath* America, Mexico, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Jamaica, Spain and Germany. Oh, and you’ve got Brooklyn Lager, Guinness and Kirin on tap. And then there is the huge wine list, cocktails and some amazing shakes (the blueberry one is great, the Oreo one even better). Cripes, there’s quite a bit when I look at it in print like this.
In fact there is so much to say about the new The Corner, that I am suddenly aware that I have gone way past my word count and am yet to even mention the great atmosphere and the even better (if slightly camera shy) staff.
Yes, Nagoya is changing. It’s getting bigger and it’s getting better. But fortunately, one of the things that made the city so great before its expansion, The Corner, is still here. But it too, is getting bigger.
And, yes, dare I say it, better. (Again, sorry Ban-san and Takanori-kun!)