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Famous Japanese Wagyu chef brings burger and bourbon pop-up to NYC


It’s a tough job finding the best burgers (and pizzas and bagels) in this city when there are so many of them, so t takes a lot to get our attention. For one night only, however, Japan’s most notable Wagyu chef, Kentaro Nakahara, is serving New Yorkers his popular melt-in-your-mouth burgers. But you can’t buy your way into this pop-up dinner that Legent bourbon is hosting on October 7 at an undisclosed location.

Here’s the deal: You can sign up online here. Guests will be picked in a random digital drawing, and the winners will be notified 24 hours beforehand about the time and place. We’re told the “intimate dinner” will include appetizers, cocktails, a Legent bourbon tasting, Nakahara’s famed burgers and a dessert. The best part? It’s free. 

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A post shared by Kentaro Nakahara (@kentarohenry) on Apr 28, 2017 at 5:52am PDT

Nakahara made a name for himself in Tokyo with his barbecue restaurant Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara, a high-end spot serving the prized cuts of Wagyu, a breed of cattle known for its rich flavor and marbling (aka, the ribbons of fat you see in a cut of beef). He’s known to attended weekly auctions to source the beef and meet the producers.

He later opened two cafes called Henry’s Burger and the patties have been renowned ever since. The American-style burgers are prepared simply: the meat is handcut, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled. In Japan, it’s served in rolls made in-house with tomato, lettuce, cheddar cheese and a special sauce. It’s been described as tasting almost like a steak but with a texture of the best burgers.

“Simple & high quality. This is my way,” Nakahara wrote on an old Instagram post.

Photograph: Courtesy of Legent

Nakahara’s collaboration with Legent makes sense. The bourbon melds Japanese and American techniques in producing the brown spirit. Fred Noe, the seventh-generation master distiller with Jim Beam, distilled the Kentucky straight bourbon before Shinji Fukuyo, the chief blender at Suntory (which is the house behind the respected Japanese whiskey), developed the recipe for Legent.

At the New York pop-up, one of the cocktails on the menu is the Rising Sun, a mix of the bourbon, apricot liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup that’s served in a rocks glass. You can expect the rich, oaky flavors mingling with brighter, smooth notes.

Photograph: Courtesy of Kentaro Nakahara

Nakahara also has a pop-up with Legent planned in Chicago for October 10th at the Loyalist, which sells one of the best burgers in Chicago. We’re told that so far more than 3,500 people have submitted their names for a chance to attend the dinner.

“We’ve been following Chef Kentaro’s craft for a while, and appreciate his approach to redefining the traditional burger through innovation and meticulous attention to detail,” a Legent spokesperson told Time Out via email. “His mastery of Wagyu offers a perfect parallel to the craft that goes into Legent Bourbon, and we loved the idea of bringing a ‘one night only’ experience to New Yorkers that offers a classic American pairing (bourbon and burgers) but with a completely new, boundary-pushing twist.”

Photograph: Courtesy of Legent


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