Showing posts with label menu madness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label menu madness. Show all posts

Friday, July 27, 2012

McDonald's Japan International Burgers (product info.)

I'm on the fence about how I feel about fast food places incorporating what appear to be higher class ingredients into their offerings. On the one hand, it's kind of nice that they want to mix things up a bit. On the other, they almost always dumb things down in such a way that they're not really all that one might expect. I've read far too many reviews of sauces which are little more than mayonnaise mixed with some core ingredient to simulate an international flavor without straying too far from what a pedestrian palate will tolerate. We want our fast food to be only marginally more interesting than what we're used to because nobody goes to McDonald's for adventurous cuisine, not even the Japanese, who generally will tolerate a wider flavor range than the average American. 

In the case of McDonald's international burger options, they're offering the following:

All images from the McDonald's Japan web site.

Le Grand Tomato:
A beef patty on ciabatta bread (which is Italian, not French, right?) with mozzarella cheese (again, Italian), gravy, butter sauce, lettuce and tomato. This burger seems slightly more on the international side, or at least it suffers from a bit of a nationality identity crisis.

Le Gran Sausage:
A beef patty on ciabatta bread with mozzarella, mustard sauce, and sausage (German?) with the requisite lettuce and tomato.

These sandwiches are currently available and were introduced on July 18. 

Hot Gold Masala:
A bun topped with cornmeal houses a crispy chicken patty with tomato, lettuce, onion, cheese, and a spicy curry sauce.

Mild Gold Masala:
This is the same bun with a mild curry sauce flavored with honey and a mayo chutney. What was that I said about the special sauces just being something mixed with mayo?  However, McDonald's recommends this for chili wusses. (These sandwiches haven't been introduced yet and will be available from August 2.)

Aussie Deli:
Aussie beef pastrami on a bun that has been steamed to plump it up. Yellow mustard, possibly with stone ground seeds, is added to boost the flavor profile.

Cheese Aussie Deli:
The same as the aforementioned sandwich, but, with, you know, a slice of cheese. (These sandwiches haven't been introduced yet and will be available from August 3.)

Chicken nuggets with basil sauce:

Your favorite chicken-like product with mayonnaise mixed with basil. (Introduced on July 18 and currently available.)

Chicken nuggets with curry sauce:

And the same thing mixed with curry. I must admit that I would actually buy this if they served the nuggets on a silver tray as pictured here. (To be introduced in August)

Any time that an international version of any food is introduced, it's a reflection of a foreign country's perception of another country's cuisine as well as their own tastes. In America, anything labeled "French" which is not a fry would be served on a croissant or a baguette. In Japan, I'm guessing ciabatta bread is the closest they can come to something which isn't a regular burger bun which is easy to store and handle (and cheap to produce). The inclusion of sausage and mozzarella cheese on the French sandwich mystifies me, but I am a dumb American with little exposure to true French cuisine. It's all butter, long loaves of crusty goodness, cold potato soup, and pastries to me. For all I know, mozzarella is the national cheese of France (though I would've expected it to be brie) and they are sausage sucking fiends (read into that what you like).

The Australian option reminds me of Arby's, except without the American beef option. As I've mentioned before, the whole mad cow scare was amplified to the point where the dial was definitely at "11" in Japan so the local consumers don't feel comfortable with cows that were born in the U.S.A. The Fukushima situation has them none too thrilled with the idea of native beef, but they have strong confidence in not being somehow poisoned by cows that like to add a "y" to the end of most of their words (choccy, prezzy, grundies, etc.).

All in all, I would not be compelled to buy fast food because of these new options, though if I already had a hankering for something, I might try one of these out. If I were even slightly tempted, I'd want to try the hot gold masala, if only because it sounds like slang for a disgusting sex act. ;-)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Domino's "American" offerings (product info.)

Images from Domino's Japan site

People often scoff at what passes for foreign cuisine in American restaurants. They deride Americans for sullying the food purity of other cultures to suit their pedestrian tastes. What they don't talk about, and yet remains a fact, is that all other cultures do exactly the same thing. I've heard that there is an "American" pizza sold in Italy which has French fries piled on it as a topping. That's okay because I've seen that same pizza in Japan that was also billed as "American pizza". Though it is possible that some place in the U.S. does offer such a pie, I have never seen it here. French fries are from Belgium. Pizza is Italian. Putting French fries on pizza is not something Americans do. I'm not sure how the components of this foodie equation add up to anything "American".

While I am bemused at the foods that get called "American" in Japan, I'm not really bothered. Well, that's not exactly true. I only became bothered when students would insist that I ate things I never ate because they ordered things at restaurants which ostensibly originated in my home culture. I don't like being told what I eat by people who have never watched me consume a morsel, especially when they're telling me I eat a lot of trash that I don't eat. If we're going to ascribe junk food to my diet, then at least let it be the nutritionally deficient morsels that I'm actually consuming and not the slapdash efforts of restaurants and food manufacturers which they are offering as "American" food to non-Americans.

The thing that never bothers me is the idea of authenticity. I don't care if other cultures take some original American food and give it a native twist. In fact, I say, more power to you because it's interesting to see what they do to suit their palates. When I discovered that Domino's Pizza in Japan was offering up a "Great American" pizza, I prepared to exercise my wit on just how outlandish the toppings were going to be. I'm afraid that they disappointed me. 

The pizza is what they call a "quattro" in Japan, which means that it has 4 different sets of toppings. In this case, each portion is supposed to represent a different area in the U.S., Hawaii,  Philadelphia, Texas, and California. As a native Pennsylvanian, let me say that I am bemused by the fact that only one region is known by a city name rather than the state name. That's because Japanese people are familiar with the city of Philadelphia, but not the state of Pennsylvania. 

As a little game, my readers may want to ask themselves what sort of toppings they'd guess represent each of these areas. For instance, you know that pineapple will be on anything which calls itself Hawaiian. The topping for that section is simply called "tropical", but it is pretty much ham and pineapple. Philadelphia is "Philly cheese steak". California is a little harder to guess, except for the fact that we know anything "California" has avocado and this does (along with shrimp, which doesn't strike me as very Californian). Of course, if it were truly authentic, it should include some weed. Texas is represented by chipotle chicken. All in all, they let me down because there is nothing there for me to point and laugh at as a funky distortion of American food culture. 

Beyond this American offering, they are also selling "black chili", which oddly is not black at all. It looks like pretty normal red/brown chili. The lesson to take away from this is one that I learned a long time ago and that is not everything in Japan is weird. We tend to see the funky stuff because it is unusual and much of the time, what you're not seeing is run of the mill. 

However, if it makes you feel any better, they still put corn and mayonnaise on their pizza. The original quattro pizza includes not only mayo, but broccoli as well. And the concept of a quattro, which divides a smallish pizza (even the large pizzas are small in Japan) into 4 sections because Japanese people value novelty, is about as Japanese as it gets.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Random Picture #112

Image pinched from Domino's Japan's web site

I used to teach a lesson about holidays to my student during which I taught them the term "Hallmark Holiday". The awesome thing for Japanese companies is that they not only had their own versions of these types of holidays, but also were continuously folding in more Western holidays. The potential for profit would bring a tear to the eye of a Ferengi (if you're not dorky enough for that reference and too lazy to read the Wikipedia page I've linked to, substitute "capitalist pig" for "Ferengi"). In my last several years in Japan, I had noticed that there was an effort being made to insinuate Easter as a holiday into Japanese culture. I'm sure that it will eventually be just as successful as Valentine's Day as the year's go by, as a hollow mockery of a holiday that gets people to open their wallets even though their hearts are empty.

Mother's day is the next Hallmark Holiday on the horizon and Domino's Japan has an unimaginative offering for those who prefer to phone in their gift and have it delivered to mom's doorstep. They're selling a small heart-shaped pizza with a simple topping of tomato sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella for 1300 yen ($16.29). The size isn't given, but it says that this is good as 1 or 2 servings so it must be pretty small. I guess that it would be considerate of Mom's health not to feed her too much pizza.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Random Picture 40

All I could think of when this menu arrived in my mailbox was "in Japan, pizza eats you." It looks like something is trying to crawl out of there to get me. I'm not sure if this is meant to scare kids into never wanting to eat pizza again or to make people want to buy pizza, but I know on which side I'd land.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Variety Friday: Domino's Millefeuille Pizza

Japan is well-known for its weird pizzas. I've been here long enough that most of them don't even catch my eye anymore. Tuna and corn has become as normal to me as pepperoni and onion. Even artful lattices of mayonnaise squeezed across the top of a pizza elicits a yawn from me after all of this time.

Recently, I got a menu from Domino's in my mailbox which contained a pizza that made (even) me take pause. This one went above and beyond the normal weirdness into a whole new realm of culinary adventure. Domino's has stepped through the pizza looking glass and they've come up with this:

Click this image for a somewhat bigger one on which it is easier to see details.

The basic concept behind this pizza is that it imitates a millefueille pastry by layering thin crusts. The diagram you see on the right under the actual pizza describes the layering as follows:

bottom: Italian crispy crust
2nd layer: baloney sausage and mozzarella "mix cheese"
3rd layer: Italian crust with Camembert pepper cheese
4th layer first half: roast chicken, apple slices, almond slices, tomato sauce
4th layer second half: baloney sausage, grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, red pepper, tomato sauce

If all of this is just a little too adventurous for you, you can order a pizza with only one side of the toppings. The apple version is called a Normandy Millefeuille and the eggplant and zucchini side is called a Bologna Millefeuille. There may be a place where apple and almonds on your pizza is mundane, but such a land is beyond my limited imagination.

I like apples and eggplant, but I'm not prepared to go for these funky pizzas. They may be incredibly tasty, but I'm just not adventurous enough, particularly when it comes to something which I regard as a relatively expensive indulgence. If I order a pizza, I'm going to be sure it's something I like that is worth the calories and the cash. For your reference, a 25 cm./10 in. medium is 2700 yen (about $26) and a 36 cm./14 in. large is 3950 yen (around $38).

teriyaki chicken, roast chicken (top right), shrimp mayonnaise, jalapeno (middle right), and meat sub (bottom right)

On the bright side, the same menu mentions that Domino's is starting to sell 15 cm. (5.9 in.) hot subs and those are in far more mundane varieties and much less pricey (550 to 680 yen or from about $5.50-$6.80). Such sandwiches are generally only available from places like Subway (of which there are none in my neighborhood) or somewhat expensive coffee shops in Japan. I'll be giving one of these a try, and passing on the funky pizzas.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Variety Friday: McHotdog Mega Sausage

Image pilfered from McDonald's Japan.

The food that people choose to eat for breakfast has always been more interesting to me than any other meal of the day. We're all willing to be a little adventurous at lunch or supper time, but the type of food that one is willing to shovel into one's face after stumbling out of bed is generally more limited. If people are going to be conservative about their eating habits or eat whatever is considered "traditional" for that meal in their culture, you're going to see that reflected more often in breakfast.

What does all of this talk of breakfast have to do with the McHotdog Mega Sausage? Well, believe it or not, this item is only available for breakfast. If you want to get your over-sized wiener on, you'll have to get to a Mickey D's before 10:30. The ad on the site offers (in English, no less) the following words about this dog: Energy? Fun? Love? Beyond! I'm not sure what the obsession is with putting "love" into product ads where we wouldn't consider inserting such a word, but given the massive size of this sausage, the implications are interesting.

The advertising also says that this dog is 200% tastier for its huge size. I guess if it's bigger than the usual McHotdog, then there's probably more taste, but personally I find that Japanese wieners taste funny. They always have a bit of a strange funky taste. I'm guessing this is simply a reflection of different meat products being used in them, likely more pork. Japanese "hamburger" is laced with ground pork because they favor it over beef.

The interesting thing about this sandwich, and I'm sure that's the inescapable conclusion everyone who has glanced at the picture has reached, is that the bun seems Lilliputian compared to the sausage trying to make a home in it. It looks funky, but it's probably not a bad idea. The bread looks sized mainly to provide a tidy way to hold the hot dog rather than as something to be evenly portioned as you eat it. That means more protein and less carbohydrate which makes for a more energetic morning start. The nutrition information for this sausage fest states that it is 506 calories and 33.5 grams of fat (eep), so eating one may not be so bad on the carb front, but it's not really good for you either.

Personally, I can't see myself scarfing down a big wiener for breakfast so I'm not likely to rouse myself before 10:30 and traipse off to the local McDonald's. I'm generally pretty conservative about breakfast and favor a bit of toast or some other typical American carbohydrate-heavy food. If you're more adventurous, you'll want to get one of these sooner rather than later because the Mega Sausage is going to be around for a limited time.

Oh yes, all the possible double entendres in this piece should be interpreted in the worst possible way.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Variety Friday: KFC Coffee

If you live in Japan long enough, you lose perspective on how those who have not lived here view the culture. That is, you start to find things funny which really are not because your perspective is warped from years of exposure. You become like one of those Monty Python geeks (and I'm actually one of those, too) who finds a reference to someone saying "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" funny. People who have never watched the show don't get it, and they think you're a huge dork.

I don't know if the topic of this post is the result of me finding something funny because I'm a huge dork or if it's actually funny. Bear in mind that I'm aware of the potential lameness of what I'm about to talk about, but that some of us living the inside joke in Japan found this entertaining. When I say, "some of us", I mean my husband and I. We don't need people to tell us we're weenies. We know it already.

At present, KFC in Japan is selling coffee with a new advertising campaign called "Tasty Café". The campaign itself isn't funny as I could see a coffee shop named so, though honestly, the idea that KFC has its own "café" and sells quality coffee is probably hilarious to most people. Fried chicken isn't generally coupled with coffee house culture.

The part which struck my husband and I as weirdly amusing is the that the plain coffee is called (in English): "tasty coffee" (テイスティコーヒー). The latte and cappuccino, however, are just plain out "latte" and "cappuccino". I don't know about you, but if I walked into a shop in America and the menu said "tasty coffee", I'd wonder what the other alternatives were. "Moderately palatable coffee"? "Execrable coffee"? In the West, most plain brewed coffee is just called "coffee" or "brewed coffee". Name it "yummy coffee", "great coffee", etc. and seems like they're trying too hard to convince you of something.

The Japanese don't perceive this as weird. They believe it just makes it sound more appealing. For all I know, other foreign folks see it thus as well, and they'd simply perceive me as the weird thing. At any rate, I have never purchased KFC's coffee because 220 yen ($2.25) for a small cup of plain coffee that almost certainly sat around in the pot on a hot plate for awhile is ridiculous to me. Also, I'm not really sold on the notion that it's actually "tasty," despite this campaign.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Variety Friday: Kinako Mousse from Pizza Hut

How do you know when a particular flavor has made the journey from flash in the pan to genuine fad? You know when the major fast food joints start including that flavor in its short-lived side dishes and extras. Kinako, toasted soybean flour, officially has "arrived" as the food fad of this winter/spring when places like Pizza Hut maneuver dishes incorporating that taste into their menu.

This dessert is a light vanilla mousse with a kinako top layer. One of the selling points is that the soy flour is produced with 100% domestic soybeans. There has been a lot of anxiety over the past year or so about food grown in China and consumers feel reassured when they learn something is grown in Japan. My feeling has been that the safety issues with Chinese food have been overblown to boost sales of more expensive Japanese agricultural products.

These desserts are delivered to you frozen so you can't eat them right away. They're about 20 cm (7.8 in) in diameter and cost ¥1200 ($12.20). I've had many varieties of these and they are always the same thing. There is a base made of sponge cake or light pie crust topped with a layer of light, fatty mousse which resembles whipped cream. It's not too sweet, but also not intensely flavorful. Often, there are two layers of mousse of different flavors, though not always.

In the past, I've tried chestnut (marron), chocolate, and vanilla varieties, but I have not sampled this kinako number. The reason for this is that, though the Pizza Hut mousse desserts are always kind of nice, they're greatly over-priced for their quality and quantity. You could buy 4 nice fresh cakes at a premium cake shop for the same price as 4 servings of this mousse. Pizza Hut is hoping to get people to overspend and buy something with their pizzas because they happen to have a craving for sweets and are too lazy to go out in get something. This might be worth it at half the price, or if it was fresh rather than something they keep stacked up in their freezers.