Three months after opening a second Senpai Ramen in Burwood, chef Chase Kojima has launched a tasty new dish. Introducing Senpai Burger, a burger-nori roll hybrid. The bun is swapped for seaweed-wrapped rice, then packed with a Japanese-inspired filling, with options including miso salmon and Impossible (vegan) beef. This isn’t Kojima’s first foray into the sushi-burger world: back in 2016 the Sokyo executive chef launched Gojima, a casual eatery that put an array of fillings between sushi rice and nori (he’s no longer involved with Gojima).
“We season the rice like sushi rice, then air-fry it, so it comes out crispy and light and delicious,” Kojima, who co-owns Senpai with Howin Chui (owner Ni Hao Bar, Kowloon Cafe), tells Broadsheet.
Five versions of the burger are on the menu. Kojima’s favourite is the salmon miso: raw salmon doused in miso sauce, then layered with cheese, cucumber, radish and lettuce. Other fillings are spicy tuna, crispy chicken and juicy beef – plus vegetarians can tuck into Impossible “beef”. Kojima describes it as “amazing”. “It’s 100 per cent meat free, but absolutely tastes just like beef. It’s my kids’ favourite.” Umami fries, seasoned with Japanese kelp, come as an optional side.
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The launch of the Senpai Burger heralds Kojima and Chui’s plans to rebrand their restaurants in Burwood and Chatswood (previously known as Senpai Ramen) as Senpai Concept. Each will keep serving Kojima’s popular ramen, but gradually add other innovative dishes to the menu. Coming up are Senpai Steak and Senpai Teori, a “more elegant version” of the sushi handroll, Kojima says.
Also in the pipeline is a new omakase restaurant opening next-door to Senpai Chatswood, around early September. “We’re going to try to do something completely different,” says Kojima. Where typical omakase is expensive and lengthy, he’s planning on a more affordable, less time-consuming approach, and will be experimenting with international flavours.
All these changes are driven by Kojima’s irrepressible need to pursue his creativity. “To be honest, I was trying to restrict myself to ramen, but I was struggling because I’ve always been a fine-dining chef,” he says. “I feel like I have a lot to give. I always want to be researching and developing my skillset and rolling out new concepts. My happiness is when I make something delicious, and customers eat it and enjoy it. That’s my ultimate goal.”
The Senpai Burger is available at Senpai Concept in Chatswood and Burwood.