Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Japan Fast Food Part Deux

Surprisingly enough, the most popular post (in number of hits) from my last trip report was my entry on Japanese fast food. So why not make it a two parter?

This trip was about equal parts McDonald's and MOS Burger. Oh, sure, I ate my share of teriyaki burgers and deep-fried pies. I also tried my first "Ebi Filet-o", the shrimp sandwich I mentioned in my earlier report that McDonald's was heavily promoting at that time. It was okay, though nothing special - didn't taste much different than a Filet-o-Fish. This year, McDonalds' new sandwich is called, funnily enough, the "McPork".

If you say it like the Japanese say it, it's not as goofy of a name. They call McDonald's "Mac" to begin with, so this is a "Mac Pork" sandwich, not a "McPork" the way we'd say it. I love the logo - took me a minute to notice it was the shape of a pig.

I didn't try one, but my guess is it's just a teriyaki burger without the teriyaki. Probably pretty good, actually, depending on what other sauce they're using. The poster next to it above is for another new sandwich that's a hamburger topped with fried egg and bacon. Talk about a heart attack on a bun, that's a quadruple bypass right there! (Speaking of which, McD's in Japan has gotten a lot of press lately for the "Mega Mac" burger - a giant hamburger even by US standards. Well, like Pepsi Ice Cucumber, it's gone. So you can quit talking about it. It was a limited time thing.)

By the way, even Japan has its share of weirdos that take half an hour to order at McDonald's, even though the menu's exactly the same at every single one (in Japan that means prices and all). This guy was right behind us in line and he literally wasn't done ordering until we were done eating:

The amazing thing to me, though, was that he actually ordered a pretty decent amount of stuff, and when it was all done, the McDonald's clerk actually brought his food to his car for him. That's service! I don't mean he was waiting in his car and she walked out with it; I mean he walked out alongside her carrying nothing as she carried his bags of food for him. Some westerners would probably look at this and misunderstand it as some sort of sexist subservience thing, but it wasn't - this is just Japanese service. It would have been the same had he been a girl and the clerk a guy.

I love McDonald's in Japan, but this was the trip when I discovered the "Spicy MOS Burger". This is basically just a MOS Burger - a freshly-made burger topped with chili sauce - stuffed with jalapeños. And I mean spicy jalapeños! The Japanese don't do anything half-assed; if they say it's spicy, they mean it. The first one I had was like when you drink your first bottle of Vodka... by the end, you swear you're never going to do it again. Then the next time you're around one, you can't resist. Here is a Spicy MOS Burger in its native habitat:

That's it on the right, along with my melon soda. The other sandwich is my wife's regular MOS Burger, sans jalapeños.

The habitat itself:

Tokyo regulars will probably recognize that as the MOS Burger on Chuo-Dori in Akihabara. I find it interesting that the sign says "Japanese fine burger & coffee." That's not a combination I'd ever think of having.

Not all MOS Burger signs say that. In fact, not all MOS Burgers have English signs at all. Here's how to find a MOS Burger outside the city, where they care less about attracting western tourists:

Just look for the giant "M". By the way, this MOS Burger is literally a shack in the middle of a rice paddy. It's surrounded on all sides by rice farms.

I also wanted to finally try some Japanese pizza on this trip. I railed a bit about Japanese pizza on my post about random stuff last time around, and I've had it homemade at a Japanese friend's house in New York City. But I've never had Japanese pizza in Japan. I was actually a little disappointed to find that Japanese pizza is now getting a lot more authentic. Even Dominos, which used to have soba noodle pizza and lots of pizzas with hard boiled eggs and other weirdness as toppings, is now pretty standard. They even have an "American Special"!

It's actually possible now to get real Neapolitan-style pizza in Tokyo, which it didn't used to be. That's actually a theme now - a lot of ethnic food that used to be either terrible or just unavailable is now common in Tokyo, and with good quality. It's become a lot more of a "world city" even in the eight years I've been visiting. Still, I wanted to try some damn Japanese pizza. We ended up picking a place that looked not too terrible but not all that authentic, either (on purpose) - it's a chain called "Miami Garden" that, for some reason, specializes in Italian food. (Or a Japanese interpretation of it, anyway, which is what we wanted.)

I know, that probably doesn't look very good. Part of it's the lighting, and that was the best I could fix it. But yeah, it wasn't the greatest pizza either - though it wasn't bad! It was prosciutto and asparagus, which is not entirely in-authentic, but not common on pizza in the US. The pie itself was very light - I finished all of it, which would be impossible for a pizza like this in the US. (My wife did have a slice or two, but then I had a few bites of her doria.)

Here's a totally different sort of fast food - this is called an "Akiba-can":

It gets its name from the fact that they're available only (or at least mainly) in Akihabara. This is ramen and other full meals in a can. You can heat it or not - most people don't. They're meant to be eaten on the street - you can see one can even comes with utensils. I didn't try it but my wife did, and she said it was disgusting. Definitely can't hold a candle to this:

I covered this in my ramen shop post. This is what real ramen looks like.

Lastly, Japan's got its fast food desserts too:

Yeah, Doughnut Plant New York City. This is a funny place, because they apparently have one shop in New York City... and nine in Tokyo. It's like they only exist in NYC so they can lay claim to the name for marketing purposes. I've honestly never even seen the one in New York, but I always see it whenever I'm in Tokyo, and this was the first time we tried it. The doughnuts are expensive - 300 to 320 yen each - but that's par for the course in Tokyo. Mister Donut, the largest donut shop in Japan, is not much less than that if I remember right.

Anyway, I can honestly say that this place has the best store-bought donuts I've ever had, bar none. They're really like home-made; they have that dense, doughy flavor that you only get with fresh, hand-made donuts. I like Mister Donut too, but this place is on another level. And come on, you have got to give props to a donut shop that advertises Twin Peaks DVD's on its web site.

Of course, nobody can forget Japan's favorite fast-food dessert, the crepe:

I'll be posting more about that when I write about our latest visit to Harajuku. That's where that crepe came from. Watch for that post soon!

1 comment:

  1. The "egg" burger is the Autumn "Tsukimi" special... Mari-chan wrote a few articles mentioning this for her English-language blog...


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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