Oshi Burger Bar (CLOSED)

Faux Gourmet?

NOTE: The restaurant is now named "Oshi Asian Kitchen."

Recently, another restaurant has entered the Memphis burger scene. Located on Main Street, Oshi Burger Bar serves hamburgers with an Asian flair. That alone would have been enough to warrant a visit, but the fact it's owned by the same person who also owns Local Gastropub, home of one of my favorite burgers, made it a must-see for me. For those of you who follow this blog, you know that Local Gastropub ranks high on my list of favorite burger joints because of its signature burger that someone on Foursquare... er, Swarm said was "amazing" (I miss my "mayorships"). Given Local's past success, I was confident that I would have a great experience at the Japanese-themed burger bar.

For my first visit, I intended to get Oshi's namesake burger but changed my mind after looking over the menu. Instead, I chose the 50/50 Burger whose name derives from its half ground bacon, half ground beef blended burger patty. Despite its composition, the 50/50 wasn't much different from a typical burger that anyone can make. The burger comes with cheddar cheese, onions (as in "onion jam") mustard and pickles contained in a nice artisan-style bun. Overall, it was a decent cheeseburger with pork belly/bacon flavor that was somewhat impressive. Fortunately, the 50/50 tasted better when I dipped it in Oshi's spicy house ketchup. Although it isn't detailed in the menu, I believe the ketchup has a bit of Sriracha sauce in it (or maybe wasabi). It definitely livened up an otherwise small, mediocre cheeseburger. I hope that I'm not being harsh, but the 50/50 burger didn't bowl me over.
To go with my burger, I got a side of Kimchi, Bacon, Beer Cheese Fries. The fries were spicy, although I couldn't determine if it was from the kimchi or the cheese. The kimchi slaw was tasty because it was sour without the pickled tartness. I didn't taste the bacon until I was halfway through the fries (it was near the bottom). The fries cost $4.50, although menu list it as "+$2" (as in $2.50 for the Skinny Fries plus two dollars for the kimchi, bacon and beer cheese). The Kimchi, Bacon, Beer Cheese Fries are really good with burgers, hot dogs and as a snack. When I paired it with the 50/50 Burger, the fries were its saving grace.

Underwhelmed in my first visit, I wanted to give Oshi another chance at impressing me with its burgers. For the second visit, I got the Oshi Burger featuring Wagyu American Kobe Beef. Until then, my only experience with Kobe beef (or so I thought) was with a burger at the former Stella Restaurant, a Downtown location that's currently occupied by Flight. If the beef in the burger was raised by traditional Kobe standards, then it should have been rich in unsaturated fat that comes from marbling. From what I read about it, the rich content of fat in Kobe beef makes it very tender, to the point that it literally melts in your mouth. I can't remember if the so-called Kobe burger that I had at Stella did that when I ate it, but I'm certain it wasn't the real deal because it only cost fourteen dollars. A genuine Kobe burger (something that very few American restaurants serve) should cost fifty dollars or more. Putting that aside, my faint memory of the Stella burger was memorable because it tasted different from anything that I had before. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the Oshi Burger, for its "Kobe" ground beef didn't taste any different from a typical burger. Even after taking into consideration that the meat was "American Kobe" as opposed to its Far East counterpart, the beef was indistinguishable from most burgers that I'm familiar with. After paying twelve dollars for the Oshi Burger, I don't believe that I got good value when compared to other places that serve better burgers for less money.

SIDE NOTE: If you noticed in the last paragraph, I correctly spelled "Wagyu" (which translates as "Japanese cow/cattle") when referencing the meat in the Oshi Burger. However, the burger bar spelled it as "Waygu" seven times in the menu that I got from the restaurant (Oshi's website spells it correctly). As someone who a) typesets for a living and b) has gotten clowned in the past for poor spelling, I believe that misspelling the name of one your feature menu items can undercut your credibility. I know this seems like I'm giving the Oshi guys a lot of shit (a word that shouldn't get confused with "Shiitake," another word that the burger bar misspelled), but "Waygu" is a glaring mistake that people who are more knowledgeable than me will notice. Speaking of that, check out this article in Forbes that goes in-depth about Kobe beef and how not to get duped by restaurants that claim to have it.

UPDATE (March 23, 2015): After going back to Oshi recently, I found one "burger" that I really like. The "burger" is the Tora Toro, a ground Ahi tuna sandwich with sweet Asian slaw and crushed avocado that all go really well together. Although I won't consider this a burger in the truest sense, it's a great alternative that's as good as some of the better beef burgers in Memphis.

With Oshi's burgers being a bit of a disappointment, I decided to try some other items on its menu. The Rajun Asian Wings are decent appetizers despite lacking qualities that belie its name. Like the Thai Meatballs that I had at the Silly Goose, the wings (aside from the sprinkling of peanut crumbs) don't have much in terms of Asian-defining seasoning. Ditto for the "Rajun" tag, for the wings don't have anything (Cajun or otherwise) that I could sense as spicy. I was hoping for something similar (but better) to what the Flying Saucer served when it had Asian/Thai wings on the menu. Those wings were more "Rajun Asian" than Oshi's. On the positive, most people won't get messy while eating Oshi's wings that come in a Japanese bento box that separates the drummies and flappers. Like I said earlier, the wings are a nice appetizer/snack to have with beer or (given the restaurant's Japanese theme) sake.
Another non-burger item from Oshi's menu is something that I really like. The Seoul Patrol is a beefy hot dog with kimchi slaw, Korean barbecue short rib, chili aioli and cilantro that really nails it in terms of taste. The best part of it is the hot dog itself (made with Wagyu American Kobe Beef) that is very good and on par with noted hot dog restaurants like Chiwawa and Bardog Tavern (the latter serves a broader menu so it isn't strictly a "dog" place). The tangy kimchi slaw and short rib were good toppings that nicely complemented The Seoul Patrol for a genuine gourmet experience.
After a few visits, I can say that Oshi Burger Bar didn't impress me. Although the hot dog, fries and ketchup were very good, the burgers were a huge disappointment. Even after putting aside the debate about the authenticity of Oshi's Kobe-style beef, the burgers are good but not worth the money. For what I got, I can go to restaurants like the Majestic Grille or Huey's for a bigger and better burger that is somewhat cheaper. In a bit of irony, I can also go to Local (Oshi's sister restaurant) for its signature burger that is far superior to the Oshi Burger for about the same price. While it's not a likely burger destination for me, Oshi's service is very attentive and friendly. For those who like to stay out late on the weekends, Oshi stays open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. I can see myself hanging out there on a late Saturday night, trying one of its non-traditional burgers like the lamb-based Mo-Rockin or one of its burger or hot dog specials. I believe that Oshi Burger Bar has a lot of potential, but it needs to step its game up if it wants to appeal to burger lovers like me.

Website: OshiBurger.com

Oshi Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

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