As predicted, the bread bun is facing its imminent extinction.
"Is that a ramen burger?" a woman in a likely- vintage jumper asked her friend as they pushed through the crowd gathering on East 9th Street today at noon.
The two debated what a group of Japanese business men, the growing line of East Villagers and curious bystanders were all waiting to enjoy. The answer, simply, was a rice burger.
Yonekichi, which means "lucky rice" in Japanese, is the latest trendy food spot to open in the East Village. Located on Ninth Street between Second and Third Avenues, an area dubbed "Little Tokyo" for its growing cluster of Japanese restaurants, Yonekichi serves a creative, New York-ified version of a favorite Japanese snack food.
But if you're looking for Shack Shake style patties, you're in the wrong line. Yonekichi serves their crisp rice buns with a variety of made-to-order fillings: ginger mujifugi features sweet bites of pork shoulder ($8) and the saikyo salmon includes a fresh fillet marinated in miso ($9). For a more traditional burger, the tsukune, a chicken meatball patty topped with shishito peppers ($7.75), most resembles your average quarter pounder. Vegetarian options, like the Kinpira made of sautéed lotus root, carrot, sesame seeds and togarashi ($6.50), are also available.
Yonekichi's menu also includes Furi Furi, Japanese for "shake shake," which are crispy, thick-cut potatoes topped with your choice of salt, pepper, yuzu or wasabi, and served steaming hot, ready to be shaken in their thick paper bag for optimal seasoning coverage. The pickle dog, a spicy Japanese cucumber on a chopstick, limited to fifty per day, is a refreshing cold treat, ideal to munch on during the wait for your main order.
Yonekichi's soft opening will run all week, from 12 p.m. - 10 p.m. The burgers aren't fast food though: as of now, it takes the kitchen staff of four about twenty minutes to create their masterpiece in the tiny Yonekichi kitchen.
But the wait is well worth it.
A cook serves up made-to-order rice burgers at Yonekichi. Arigato! (Credit: Melissa Kravitz )
The line at Yonekichi grew as curiousity, and tantalizing scents, spread down East Ninth Street.(Credit: Melissa Kravitz )
Order the rice burger of your choice at the tiny window. Get an iced green tea or pickle dog while you wait!(Credit: Melissa Kravitz )
An adorable porcelain cat accompanies you as you wait for your order number to be called. (Credit: Melissa Kravitz )
The kitchen at Yonekichi is petite, just like their Japanese treats.(Credit: Melissa Kravitz )
Yonekichi packages all their food to go, to be enjoyed in nearby Astor Place, Tompkins Square Park or while standing in line to place your next order.(Credit: Melissa Kravitz)
The Tsukune, a chicken patty, is a popular rice burger choice. Add a soft boiled egg for $1.25!(Credit: Hiroshi Kishiro)