We need to talk about calories. They are, in the words of “Panmas” — the avuncular owner and chef at The Panhead’s Heaven Saloon — the “concept” upon which his towering burgers are built. By his count, the Cheese-Bomb has more than 2,000 units loaded into it. Bear in mind that the average male requires about 2,500 calories a day to maintain their weight. The Cheese-Bomb will almost do that by itself. Throw in the fries, onion rings and a few cans of Yebisu and you’ll be ready to get in a sumo ring — if you can get off your chair.
Before we get to the burgers, a little about bikes, because that’s the other concept behind Panhead’s. There are motorbikes outside and inside the saloon; for all I know there could well be one in the kitchen because Panmas — a portmanteau of “panhead” and “master” — is a bike nut. His obsession is Harley-Davidson; the panhead was a Harley engine from way back. But The Panhead’s Heaven Saloon is not just a biker bar. It ropes in those whose eyes are bigger than their bellies.
The first time I visited Panhead’s was more than five years ago, but not much has changed. Even back then it was the burgers that lured me. Panmas has been making his style of burgers — “artisanal” burgers with an emphasis on unrestrained indulgence — well before the current craft-burger boom.
The other thing to note is that though the portions are enormous, the price isn’t: his most expensive burger — almost as big as a Harley — is ¥1,200.
If you’re going all out, and I recommend you do, you’ll be choosing between the aforementioned Cheese-Bomb Burger Special or the 5inch Burger Special. Here’s how they measure up: by height they both clock in at almost 13 centimeters with patties that are at least 5-cm tall. In the calorie race, they’re nearly tied, and they take about 20 to 25 minutes to cook (and as long again to eat). So how to choose?
Well, the Cheese-Bomb lives up to its name. Inside the patty there’s a pocket filled with melted cheese, and under the patty there’s a layer of cheddar. Cascading from underneath the top bun is a cheese sauce made with garlic, peppercorn, butter and white wine. It runs a course over the fried egg, bacon, lettuce, pickles and tomato.
My lunch partner chose the Special, which came with a caramelized onion sauce that was a tad too bitter.
When I finished the Cheese-Bomb, Panmas was congratulatory. My friend was unable to finish and Panmas threatened to put him to work washing dishes. They may be whopping-big burgers, but the Cheese-Bomb in particular is no spectacle; it’s outrageously delicious. I’ll be back in a few years — once it has digested.
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