Black (Burger) Thursday

The Burger King “black burger” received quite a bit of press in America, probably more so than here in Japan. If my friends didn’t mention it to me on Facebook, I might have easily missed the fact that Burger King Japan launched its second foray into the “black burger” market. Anyway, I got multiple requests from people to try and report on it. I haven’t eaten at an American style fast food restaurant since we got here (if you disallow the McD’s melon shake we tried one hot summer day), so this was a special just for you.

If you don’t know what the Burger King “Kuro” burger is, it’s basically a hamburger with a jet black bun, black cheese and a black sauce replacing the catsup. The bun and cheese are mixed with bamboo charcoal to give it the black coloring. The sauce is reportedly colored with squid ink. The meat itself is marketed as “black” but doesn’t look anymore black than a slightly overcooked regular patty. Apparently it is seasoned with black pepper, but enough black pepper to turn the patty black would be pretty horrific to actually eat. So let’s just call it a darker shade of brown.

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The nearest Burger King is at a station a couple stops away from ours, so my friend Mark and I boarded the train and set out on our quest. Sure enough, outside the restaurant there is prominent advertising for the Kuro Diamond and Kuro Pearl. Just so you know the difference, the Diamond has lettuce, onions, tomato and mayo and costs a lot more than the Pearl. Other than that, not much difference.

We both ordered the Kuro Diamond set, which came with a Coke or a Coke Zero, which are both black. Kuro shei-ku o motte imasu ka? Do you have a black shake? My lame attempt at a joke elicited a slight giggle from the staff. No kuro fries either, gaijin.

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The first thing you notice is that the size of the burger is pretty small, about the size of a regular hamburger in a Burger King in America. The difference is that hamburger costs you 99 cents, this one 690 yen with a drink. And, did I mention, it’s black?

The second thing you notice is that it is wrapped in a black wrapper. Many years ago when I first came to Japan, one of my friends insisted I visit Burger King and order a hamburger because, in his words, “they make it look exactly like it does in the advertising!” And indeed, it was handed to you in a little box, perfectly made like the one in all the pictures. Well some things have changed in Japan, at least at Burger King. Because of the tight paper wrapping, the hamburger comes out looking a bit squished, just like one made in America. And because it is black, perhaps it comes out looking just a little more morose than a regular burger. You be the judge.

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But how does it taste? That’s what everyone really wants to know, right? Well, with apologies for being anti-climactic, just so-so. In fact, it tastes pretty much like any other Burger King hamburger, with a little more pepper and a salty flavor from the black sauce rather than the sweet, vinegar flavor of catsup. Of course, it looks far more disgusting than a regular hamburger and costs a little more too.

Stealing a few glances around at the rest of the patrons in the restaurant, not one other person was eating the Kuro burger. The guy at the table next to us was drinking an iced coffee and reading a newspaper, in fact. What do you think this is sir, a Starbucks? Apparently, we were the only suckers falling for this gastronomic trickery today.

After this, I’m seriously going to have to think twice before accepting any food challenges from the folks back home. Hey Todd, did you try the fugu yet? How about the natto ice cream? I mean, why can’t someone challenge me to eat the Lemon Cream Cheese donut at Krispy Kreme Japan? Or the Pineapple Whip Cream Pancakes at Eggs n Things in Odaiba?

Anyway, now I have eaten this creature so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. Until next time, eat well and eat safe!

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