Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Mos Burger

This evening we went to Mos Burger, which I believe is supposed to mean "MOSt delicious Burger," if you follow. This is one of Japan's more successful fast-food chains to challenge the global hegemony of McDonald's, Burger King, and the like.

My basic opinion: it's rotten. Don't bother. Each burger is about $3 (¥320, give or take). The menu can be found at this website.

Now Sam wanted a hot dog, Sarah wanted a kinpira rice burger, and I decided to go for the Spicy Mos Cheeseburger. Here's what we got.

Here is the Spicy Mos Cheeseburger. It's quite a bit nastier than it looks. "Spicy," I take it, is used in that broader sense of karai (辛い) that means salty and/or odd-flavored. The goo between the tomato and the cheese is unidentifiable weirdness, some sort of glop that they insist on calling "special sauce." I hope the ingredients are secret on this particular special sauce, because otherwise they could probably be prosecuted. Imagine that you found weird pickles in the back of your fridge left over from who knows when, chopped them fine, stirred them into that jar of ketchup that somebody gave you when they were moving out ten years ago, and then for good measure you decided to add a little vinegar. The cheese wasn't, let's just put it that way. I mean, McDonald's cheeseburgers have plastic that resembles cheese a lot more than this. The burger was essentially a circular slice of meatloaf, without any flavoring whatever, which meant that it had that strange smooth mouth-feel you get on over-processed meatloaf, but without the possibility of flavoring that usually is the saving grace of over-processed meatloaf. I should note, in passing, that they seem to love over-processed meatloaf here, and indeed serve it with a thick goo they mislabel "demi-glace" sauce, the result being hanbagu (as opposed to hanbaga, which is a hamburger). So I'll pass on Mos Burger's Mos Delicious Burgers.

Then we come to the kinpira rice burger. Kinpira gobo is stir-fried burdock with various flavorings. The "rice" in the rice burger comes from the bun, which is basically a soft rice cake. So you put the one inside the other, and you have the kinpira rice burger. Now this, as the inspector said to the maker of Crunchy Frog, is extremely nasty. I had a bite, disliked it intensely, and then as I reached for my ginger ale got a truly horrendous aftertaste. I don't know what they're putting into these things, but it's foul. See all that yummy carrot and stringy brown stuff? The brown stuff is gobo, and the carrot is cooked with it to be sure that it has no flavor of its own, and the whole thing is wet and gloppy and has a strange acid-sweet taste that resembles low-quality Southeast Asian fish sauce more than anything else I can think of. I think if you wanted to make this at home, what you'd do is you'd take a plain rice cake, cut it in half horizontally with a thin knife, and then leave it out in a humid place for a couple of days to get nice and squodgy. Then you'd take thinly-sliced carrot, burdock, onion, and pencil shavings, and boil them in soy and fish sauce until good and slimy, and then leave this mess to drain overnight on the counter so it takes on a delightful "leftover" flavor. Sprinkle with stale black sesame seeds, toss with a tablespoon or so of corn oil, salt heavily, and you're in business.

Sam's hot dog was really not at all bad, albeit very much unlike what Americans think of as a hot dog, and with far too much ketchup. The dog itself was certainly passable as a mild sausage, with some bite to the skin, a little hint of spices and actual pork in the meat, and a distinct juiciness. I was sort of impressed on this one, I must admit. The onions weren't as fresh as they might have been, and the mustard had minimal flavor, and the bun was simply bad, but all of those things were well up to the high standards of, say, Wendy's or Burger King. If I had to eat at Mos Burger again (please God, no), I'd order a plain dog and fries. The "spicy" dog apparently has sliced jalapeños on it, which sounds rather a good idea, but I'm not going to chance it, I think. If I could get the hot dogs by themselves at the supermarket (probably I can, but I haven't tried), I would make this at home much better than they do at Mos Burger, and I'm not being immodest in saying so.

I was still hungry, despite the mediocre, rather limp and overly hot fries to go with my hideous Spicy Cheeseburger, so I decided, what they hey, why not try the new Teriyaki Chicken Burger? Honestly, how bad can it really be? Can it possibly rival the Spicy Cheeseburger or the Kinpira Rice Burger for vileness? How dreadfully can you make teriyaki chicken, anyway? Actually, it wasn't nearly that bad. Bad, yes. Unpleasant, slimy on the outside and dry on the inside, flavored in a trashy chemical sort of fashion and without any saving graces. But at least it wasn't actively awful. I mean, unlike the Spicy Cheeseburger, it didn't leap out and say, "Hi there, I'm really vile." And unlike the Kinpira Rice Burger, it didn't actually follow your shuddering palate as you sat up in horror and say, "Hey, you didn't get enough noisome evil!" I could eat it without more than a grimace. Why they feel the need to chop the chicken into small chunks, making it impossible to eat this as a sandwich without dropping bits all over, is beyond me, but perhaps the executive chef types who are responsible for Mos Burger were thinking, "gee, this really isn't all that bad; how can we do something inexpensive to undermine any sense of quality here?"

Certainly I think whoever is responsible for this hideousness known as Mos Burger deserves a good slapping, and should never again be allowed anywhere near the food industry.

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1 comment:

S L said...

i only like one thing at mos burger, and that is their unagi rice burger. the others are awful, the fries were too hot, the chilli too spicy, and the onions taste weird, but the meat taste weirder. but i won't go there again, because it cause a fortune and yet is smaller than my fist.