The Dreaded Black Burger of Tokyo

I’m pretty strict about keeping this blog developer-related, so please forgive me this one off-topic post.

I’ve been in Tokyo this week for work, and on Monday I was walking passed a McDonald’s in Ochanomizu when I was struck by the following poster out the front.

Why, McDonalds, why?

My first reaction was one of amazement. Amazement that McDonald’s had managed to make itself even less appealing to me than it already was.

The longer I looked at it, the more I was puzzled: What were those things that look like raw egg yolks at the top? What was the sauce that looked like an oil spill at the bottom? What had they done to the bread to make it look like it had been left, forgotten for a month, at the back of a student’s fridge?

But the biggest question I had was: Why would McDonald’s, a successful, seemingly smart company, purposely make such an unappetising looking burger?

So I snapped a photo, posted it to Facebook with a smart-arse comment, and kept on walking with that special feeling of renewed self-worth that only comes from Likes and Retweets.

Over the next few days however, these questions kept nagging at me. I increasingly needed to know if this thing tasted as bad as it looked. It was a Halloween special that would very likely not be available next time I was here, so by the second-last day of my trip I’d decided I had to taste one.

Burger Container

By this stage I’d roped one of my colleagues who was visiting from the US, Brad Moore, into joining me on this little quest, so this afternoon after our last meeting, we headed off to McDonalds. Fujii-san and Iga-san decided to join us, in Iga-san’s case I think mostly to see if we were really stupid enough to eat it, but by the time we got there we’d convinced him to have one as well.

Like most fast food, the real thing looked even worse than the picture in the ad, which in this case seemed impossible.

Yikes, it looks even worse in the flesh!

I did however get the answers to some of my questions:

  • that isn’t raw egg at the top, it’s the weirdest looking chipotle sauce you’ve ever seen. You can see it at the top of the photo below, mixed with the deep fried onions. It’s basically the same colour as McDonald’s cheese, in other words, the most un-cheese-like shade of yellow imaginable.
  • the black oil slick at the bottom is squid ink sauce. In fact at this point Fujii-san translated the name of the burger: the squid ink burger, which also explains the blue bread roll.

The innards laid bare

A little disappointed that it all seemed so mundane and, well, edible, I took a bite.

Yes, I did indeed take a bite.


Hmmm, that was unexpected, so I took another bite just to be sure.

Wow. It’s really, really yummy.

The bread roll tasted exactly like a McDonald’s bread roll, but the squid ink/oil slick sauce was a little salty, but not unpleasantly so. The chipotle sauce, despite it’s looks, tasted pretty good. The fried onions were crisp and gave a nice crunchy texture alongside the meat.

As a combination of tastes and textures, it works.

Easily the best tasting McDonald’s burger I’ve ever had. I realise that is not a very high bar to jump, but this thing is a good burger by any measure.

Good enough that I’m glad they don’t have these in Australia, or I’d be forced to start eating at McDonald’s back home.

Good enough that Brad and I went back for seconds.

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