Kitchen Miki opened in Tokyo before Yasuyuki Yamauchi was born.

Now 50, Yasuyuki is the second-generation proprietor of the Western-food restaurant that has remained popular among students of Waseda University for decades.

Although he now handles busy lunchtimes with finesse, he had limited cooking experience when he took over the business from his mother, Kimie, 81, in 1992.

He says he had never prepared the patty for the Hamburg steak that was a popular item on the menu.

In those days, Yasuyuki held a clerical job at a cleaning company. And instead of beating eggs for his mother’s restaurant, he would rather beat the drums he played in a band.

He took a hard look at his future when he got married. Seeing his busy mother who was well-liked by the students, Yasuyuki decided to take over the restaurant when he was 25.

His decision came as a pleasant surprise to Kimie, who was ready to close down the restaurant when she was done.

At first, Yasuyuki went through Kimie’s intense training. He would open the lid of the frying pan too often to check how far the Hamburg steak was cooked, or kept the heat too high and burned it.

“My mother often gave me an earful even in front of the customers, saying, ‘You have to start over. That’s no good,’” he recalls.

He kept trying, and it took three to four years until Kimie could hold her tongue.

He says he can now “tell how the meat is cooked by the changes in the sizzle.”

Yasuyuki shared the key to making the popular Hamburg steak with cheese.

At Kitchen Miki, he chops and sautees the onion in bulk the day before and cools it in the fridge. He says if the onion is still hot, it will heat the meat when mixed together. That way, the fat will melt and the meat will lose its flavor.

He places a slice of cheese on the Hamburg steak and pours hot demi-glace sauce prepared according to the restaurant’s secret recipe. The combination of the succulent gravy and melting cheese will surely enhance your appetite.

Yasuyuki serves the Hamburg steak with cheese with: shredded cabbage; macaroni flavored with mayonnaise, salt and pepper; some green leaf lettuce; and 250 grams of rice that happens to be the normal amount at Kitchen Miki.

INGREDIENTS

(Serves two)

Ingredients A (120 grams ground pork and beef mixed [aibiki-niku], 40 grams bread crumbs, egg wash of 1/3 egg, bit of nutmeg)

Ingredients B (2 Tbsp each of ketchup and mayonnaise, 1/2 Tbsp French mustard)

120 grams onion

2 slices cheese (melting type)

METHOD

Finely chop onion, sautee in frying pan over low heat without oil until transparent. Cool in fridge for about 10 minutes.

Place Ingredients A, onion and a bit of salt and pepper in bowl and mix until they turn sticky. Halve mixture and form into ovals that are 1 cm thick.

Heat 1 tsp of oil in frying pan over low heat, lay patties and cook for 2 minutes with lid. When they are somewhat brown, turn and cook for another minute with lid. Turn off heat and steam for about 30 seconds. Serve on plate and top with slice of cheese.

Although the sauce is not the demi-glace sauce served at Kitchen Miki, it is one that is easy to make at home. Mix Ingredients B, bring to a brief boil in pan, and pour on cheese.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column