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Humble Potato: The Day After (Japanese-Inspired Hamburgers)

I’ve read some mixed reviews about Humble Potato, but nearly all of the negative ones were focused on the opening night, when the wait for food occasionally crossed the hour mark, and some of what came out of the kitchen were not ideally prepped (cold buns, unmelted cheese, etc). Fortunately, most people seemed willing to chalk it up to the overwhelming crowds that night (apparently at one point 75 people arrived at the same time) and would give HP a second chance in the future, and I sincerely hope they will, because the meal I had the day after opening night was quite good.

I arrived just before 2 PM and parked at the lot to the north of the establishment. Several of the staff, all decked out in black Hambaga t-shirts greeted me brightly. The space was quite open, with tables lining the main wall on the left, and the half-wall separating the kitchen from the dining room. A row of stools under a counter at the front window rounded out the seating. The decor is clean yet mildly kitschy, with Japanese knicknacks and toys on shelves above the half-wall. The bathroom had some cute posters inside.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, having perused the menu online the day before, so I approached the counter and placed my order for a Battle Royale (burger), Shichimi & Garlic Parmesan Fries, and HP Jasmine Iced Tea.

The iced tea came out first. Even though jasmine is mentioned in the name, the tea was a little more fragrant, almost perfumy, than I’d prefer. It also tasted slightly sweetened. Not bad at all, but not what I was expecting. If you like hot jasmine tea, you should like the iced tea. If you like more straight unsweetened black or green tea, you might want to ask for a sample first.

The burgers and fries came out in short order:

The Battle Royale (presumably named after the Japanese novel/film that has a similar premise to, but pre-dates, The Hunger Games series) is described on the menu as “Organized chaos! fresh Angus beef, ‘fried egg-splosive’, avocado, romaine, thick cut tomato, onion, Applewood smoked bacon, HP spicy sauce”.

It was quite a tall stack of food and properly messy to eat. The ingredients all tasted very fresh, and well balanced. The patty was cooked medium-medium-rare. The “filler” vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion) did not bulk the burger up unnecessarily. The slices of avocado were generous. The bacon did not hog (sorry) the palate. The thing that tied it all together was the sauce. It just seasoned the entire burger really well, imparting a solid kick of flavor (and a mild kick of heat). Reviewing a Japanese-influenced eatery, I feel obligated to use the word umami at least once, and I’ll firmly affix that description to the sauce.

The Shichimi & Garlic Parmesan Fries, despite the name promising some bold flavors, couldn’t quite compete with the burger. The fries themselves were decent, but the seasoning was not as balanced as the burger. The idea’s definitely interesting, mixing tried-and-true parmesan and garlic with with shichimi togarashi (seven flavor chili pepper).

However, I think the fries I had suffered from a bit of an identity crisis. The garlic and parmesan was not very apparent in the taste. I’m sure I’d miss the flavors if they were removed, but they got lost in the shichimi. On the other hand, I really wanted more shredded nori on the fries, but if they’re part of the shichimi mix, I could see how that might overseason the dish. The spicy dipping sauce overwhelmed the flavors in the fries, so I didn’t use much of it.

Overall I was impressed with the burger and quite happy with my meal. I would definitely come back to try some of the other items on the menu. The Koke Kokko sounds interesting; apparently the chicken is triple-ground. The curry fries (with a fried egg on top) will most likely be the next side I try there.

Humble Potato
8321 Lincoln Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
323-989-BAGA (2242)

[Full-size pics, with captions, at http://theoffalo.com/2012/10/humble-p...]

 
 
 
 
 
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  1. We went on Sunday afternoon a picked up the hambaga, curry baga and 9 to 5 baga along with the shichimi garlic parmesan fries as well. Concur on your points about their burgers - nicely made from very good ingredients. Their only "fancy" hybrid burger - the curry baga - has the flavor of "real" curry - not the Japanese-style - but even that showed restraint in a good way. Curry can easily overpower just about any other flavor, but this was a very light sauce that contributed to the other flavors - lots of umami as well. We were in Japan this past summer, and after trying the much-talked-about Moss Burger, I was not impressed with Japan-style burgers. If Humble Potato's version is what a Japan-style should be, then Moss Burger should pay closer attention. imho, their burger exemplifies what a straight-up burger should be like Japan-style or not.

    Our fries were kinda opposite of yours. The garlic and parmesan were very noticeable - what I found at fault were the actual fries - very oily. I'm not sure if the oil was from the frying process or from the garlic being applied (assuming it was sauteed), but the fries were oily and there was a small puddle of oil in the bottom of the tray.

    I am sure they are smoothing out various aspects of their operation. But considering they seem to truly aim to please, I'm betting they'll iron out any shortcomings soon. HP has the sense of Japan-style service in things like their greeting customers as they walk in and offering water to folks waiting for take-out orders. If the counter folks had greeted us in Japanese, I would have sworn this was a Japan-based operation.

    My one hope for this place - which imho would make them far more popular - is a beer tap or even bottled beers. The Kirin Free is something that I've tried and just don't care for. It's like club soda infused with beer flavor. I know securing alcohol licenses aren't an easy-do for various reasons, but if this first attempt is successful, I would urge them to lock in this aspect in any additional units.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bulavinaka

      Your comments on the curry baba really gives me great hope that my Battle Royale wasn't just a fluke. When I think of how good it was, I keep going back to the word "balance". No one flavor overshadowed the others, but yet it wasn't that the ingredients were bland or blended into each other so much that they became monotonous. If all of their burgers and sandwiches can pull off this balance, then they will do well.

      My fries were a bit oily as yours, but not as bad as yours. You're probably right that it's part and parcel with standard garlic fries prep--usually it's not just chopped garlic tossed in, but sauted garlic in oil.

      I liked how the cashier at the counter asked for my name first, greeted me by name, and said "Nice to meet you." Like you said, the only thing missing would have been an "Irasshaimase!" as I entered.

      I'm not a big drinker, but I appreciate a good accompaniment with a meal, and burgers and beer definitely go together. Here's to hoping they add that down the line. Some Asahi Kuronama perhaps.

    2. Hoping for a "dogzilla" style experience on the Westside. Friendly, but slow service-- Fries were flavorful but noticeably limp--as though they sat around on a steam table. Just a little crispness would have done the job. They served a sample of the signature avocado shake. It tasted like the fruit needed more ripening. Hot dog and fries, no beverage, was $11.00 It reminded me of how good the L.A. Dog is - from the cart outside B&B Hardware. and its a fraction of the price.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sassille

        Ahhh...the vendor by the B&B Hardware parking lot is Pablo. I really love his street dog. Bacon wrapped (from some vendor that it seems lots of those street sellers use, "Meadow Gold" I think is the name) and he grills them up with onions, peppers and puts on the usual dressings like mayo, ketchup, mustard. He also puts on a freshly made chunky guacamole. Grilled jalapenos are also optional (and fee). Just $3. It's a hard to beat deal and he stocks bottled sodas from Mexico like Coke, Pepsi, Fanta (orange), and Sprite for $2. I've waxed eloquent (or maybe not to 'hounds) before about Pablo.

        1. re: sassille

          I want to be fair. My post below is about the cart by B&B, but it's hardly a fair comparison to put it against this burger establishment. First of all, they have a much broader menu and have to prep a lot more stuff which are of generally higher level price/quality. They have a brick and mortar and a big staff. They both have their place and reading my post immediately below sassille's is comparing apples to oranges.

        2. Went to Humble Potato tonight around 8pm and the place was packed. I had their Battle Royale Burger with egg, bacon and their spicy HP sauce and it was really good, Meat was flavorful and juicy, the bun held up well and didn't fall apart. Had the Shichimi & garlic fries too and they were tasty and crispy, not greasy at all. My son loved their Abocado Shake (chocolate & avocado). Really nice guys run the place too, they really wanted to make sure everything was ok. If you are in the area it's well worth a stop and I will definitely be back.

          1. So you're saying they are open and serve all day? No wonder they were better prepared, you went at 2 in the afternoon. Good strategy for those that want to avoid crowds, but the proof is in what they can do and handle when they are packed and overwhelmed.

            1. I want to go back soon and try their Kastu Sando with buttermilk panko-crusted fried chicken, yuzu jalapeño slaw, tonkatu sauce and curry. Sounds so good. They serve until 11pm on Fridays and Saturday.
              http://www.humblepotato.com

              1. We stopped in last night for dinner. They were going to close early for NY's Eve, so we got there about 7 PM. First of all I'll praise them for their very friendly and helpful service. This is an order at the counter and then they bring your food to you deal, so the service component went above and beyond the normal in my estimation with someone either checking with us or bringing my wife some mayo and then some romaine lettuce for her "yakiniku sando."

                I had the Battle Royale with the fried egg. I was a little underwhelmed by the meat patty. Sort of a disk of very firm beef, almost Spam like in its consistency. But the rest of the ingredients were quite tasty.

                The fries were quite tasty. We split an order of the Shichimi & Garlic Parmesan cheese version with some of their spicy ketchup (which is also on the sweet side).

                I tried the abocado and chocolate sauce shake/smoothie. Another disappointment for me. Not enough avocado taste.

                If and when I go back I intend to get the Little Tokyo Doggu
                J-Town Dog: juicy beef frank, Applewood smoked bacon, grilled onion, soy pickled jalapeño, HP spicy sauce – $6.50

                1 Reply
                1. re: Servorg

                  I haven't tried those dogs yet, but the menu does sound good.

                  They are eager to please and friendly, but I am sensing some serious growing pains.

                  Hopefully I'll try it again very soon.

                2. Just got back from trying Humble Potato tonight. I wasn't sure what to expect with the mixed reviews here, but it is 9 months later.

                  First off, this place struck me more as a Japanese American take on the hamburger and not so much Japanese from Japan; And there is a big difference between the two cultures. That rock/sissors/paper/Godzilla poster in the restroom was funny, as was the ninja poster, and a person from Japan would NOT understand that humor. And maybe because I identify with JA culture, I appreciated this place more.

                  My wife ordered the hambaga and I the Royale. she loved her burger, and I loved mine; a real explosion of flavors as the menu stated. As big a stack as the burger was, I was able to press it into a manageable size and enjoy all the flavors.

                  Our shichimi fries were very, very crispy and fairly well seasoned, not soggy or oily at all. I really liked them.

                  I'm wanting to go back and try some of the other burger/sandwiches.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ogawak

                    i recommend that you get their yuzu slaw added to your burger/sandwiches.
                    their slaw is terrific and includes thin slices of fresh jalepeno pepper.
                    they dress with a citrus vinaigrette just before serving it to you.
                    this means that the slaw is CRISPY, and NOT wilted
                    ( the slaws i've had at other restaurants are normally pre-dressed and therefore wilted.)
                    also, the dressing is NOT oily/greasy/mayonnaisey like normal slaw dressing.)

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I really like the slaw and dressing also, just wish there was more of it, and more chiles! But very tasty. I liked the chicken katsu a lot, just wished it had more curry sauce on it. The curry fries were addicting...really good. Want to try the burger next time I have an lax pickup....

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        to get more slaw, just tell them you want two servings of it instead of one. at $1 a serving, it's a cheap thrill.

                        also, i'm sure that they'd be happy to give you extra curry sauce too. (even if there was an upcharge, it would only be $1, well worth it)

                        in my experience, the people who work there are very nice, friendly, and accommodating. they WANT to prepare your food just like you like it.

                      2. re: westsidegal

                        I'm going to have to try that, although my wife will likely choose that, while I try different fries and we split the difference. Definitely coming back.

                    2. Revisiting this old post: My wife and I went down to Humble Potato in Westchester because I just needed to get out of the craziness in Santa Monica.

                      Really enjoyed my chicken katsu sando; Just the right crispness and moistness of a nice size katsu breast on a bed of thinly sliced cabbage. The shichimi and garlic parmesan fries were just the right balance of flavors. I really love this place. I need to come here more often.

                      Also this place is not so much Japan-based as it is Japanese American based. The Gozilla joke written on the restroom wall is something more for Sanseis and Yonseis (American-born Japanese) and not people from Japan.

                      I also understand they're going to expand to Culver City.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Ogawak

                        This place has really done a great job on their fries, particularly when comparing the current version to those from a couple of years ago (at least to my tastes). More in the direction of a steak fry, perfectly golden brown, and crisp enough to hold up to a 10-minute car ride and still be all that fries should be.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          there's a short list of spots that do a good burger and good fries. i'll have to check HP out

                          1. re: jessejames

                            Tried it for the first time tonight. Might tasty. Ham-baga was relatively juicy, not overcooked, and relatively tender. I had one whole one for myself, and then partner and I split a curry-baga. Curry by itself was quite spicy but totally mellowed out when combined w/ the burger. Bun held up nicely, not too oily. Shichimi fries were also good. Also enjoyed their version of a philly cheesesteak.

                            Proprietor was super nice. And, when we asked them to split the curry-baga, the waitstaff brought out an extra lined tray without us having to ask. Classy.

                            1. re: jessejames

                              I'm not down in that area often, but when my kids & hubby picked me up from LAX in June, I took them there... They all loved it, my kids thought it was super cool decor.

                            2. re: bulavinaka

                              Yes their fries do rock. Especially when covered in curry sauce.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                Sounds promising! Time for a revisit!