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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