After Hours: Stone Burg near Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan
October 18, 2010
Foreigners who have eaten out in Japan for a while have likely come across yoshoku, even if they don’t know the word.
Technically, yoshoku simply means Western food. But in the right context, it can also be Western food that isn’t quite what its original designers intended.
Yoshoku originated about a century ago, when the Japanese didn’t know much about Western food. Today, it may look like textbook Italian pasta or French beef bourguignon from a glance, but the first bite reveals tastes and textures rarely, if ever, experienced outside of Japan. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good; it’s just not what you might expect.
Stone Burg, a Western-style steak restaurant located a 10-minute walk from Yokosuka Naval Base, falls into that category.
The cowboy hat-clad servers and 1950s American diner soundtrack set the mood for the restaurant’s focus — the “hamburg steak,” as chopped meat without a bun is known in Japan.
The meat is served on a hot stone plate, along with a side of grilled bean sprouts and corn.
The hamburg is cooked medium-well, but with a pleasingly soft texture I’d normally associate with a medium-rare.
What it lacks is a seared crust; the criss-crossing char marks on each cut are a tease, revealing none of the texture that a blast of high heat would add to the restaurant’s signature dish.
Nevertheless, it’s tasty and while expensive by most U.S. standards, 1,570 yen for three-quarters of a pound is an excellent deal in Japan. Smaller sizes are also available, and so are more traditional sirloin and rib steaks.
As a special, Stone Burg also offered a bowl of taco rice for 1,000 yen. The taco rice only loosely resembled the cheaper versions popularized on the streets outside of Okinawa’s U.S. military bases. I consider this a good thing.
The dish included a base of buttery rice, a couple of planks of meat topped generously with cheese, and was finished off with taco sauce, lettuce and a few tortilla chips. I’d recommend it ahead of the plain hamburg.
For dessert, Stone Burg offers vanilla ice cream with frozen fruit and nuts that can be mashed together with a pestle. Fortunately, I don’t think it’s possible for me to dislike ice cream, but Baskin-Robbins downstairs is a better choice.
Stone Burg’s take on Western food won’t cause you to forget your favorite American steakhouse.
Then again, the Japanese aren’t the only ones who adapt other people’s food to their own tastes. Remember that the next time you’re in America and you see a sushi roll filled with cream cheese.
Location: Yokosuka, Japan
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturdays until 11 p.m.; last order is 30 minutes before closing.
Prices: Lunch specials until 4 p.m. run between 1,000 yen and 1,700 yen; dinner from 1,000 yen to 3,000 yen. Alcoholic drinks are generally 500 yen to 800 yen.
Specialties: “Hamburg steak,” regular steak and other beef dishes.
English menu: Yes
Clientele: Mostly Japanese, some foreigners
Directions: From Yokosuka Naval Base’s Womble Gate, walk down Blue Street to Yokosuka Chuo Station. The More’s building is behind the station. Take the elevator to the 9th floor.