Despite Japan’s image as a country where people mainly eat fish and pickled vegetables, the truth is the country has some serious carnivorous tendencies. Aside from scores of independent hamburger joints, you’ll find branches of McDonald’s and Burger King, along with home-grown chains such as First Kitchen and MOS Burger.
MOS Burger’s name becomes less intimidating, if no less nonsensical, when you find out it stands for “Mountain Ocean Sun” burger. With over 1,000 locations across Japan and a reputation for high-quality ingredients, MOS has legions of fans, so it was big news when the company announced a major change to its burgers.
Like many other Japanese burger establishments, MOS used a mixture of pork and beef in their patties. That changed on April 23 when the chain’s burgers became all-beef, topped with a redesigned special sauce. But as New Coke and the Ford Mustang II taught us, newer isn’t always better. To put MOS’s new offerings to the test, we dispatched our team for a late-night back-to-back burger binge.
To try out the new patties as quickly and thoroughly as possible, we dispatched our hungry team of reporters to multiple 24-hour MOS Burger locations on the night of the April 22 to snag sandwiches with the old patties. After making sure that the new patties would be available at 12 a.m., we patiently waited, stomachs growling, until we could begin our test at the stroke of midnight.
In the name of science, we ordered up a regular burger, a tobikiri (“gushing”) cheese burger, and a double cheese burger, all of which use the new patties. Resisting the urge to plow right into our meal, we first performed a visual check. The new patties seem to be cooked a little more well-done than the old ones, but aside from that we couldn’t spot any differences.
▼Old MOS burger (left) and new (right), with their tasty sauces:
▼Old and new tobikiri cheese burgers, both delicious:
▼Old and new double MOS cheese burgers, where we really noticed the new flavor:
With visual comparisons out of the way, we dug in. So how did we feel after eating our six burgers, other than stuffed?
Sorry MOS, but your new patties just can’t top the old version. Not only were the mixed pork/beef patties juicier, they had a certain mild suppleness in flavor that’s lacking from the all-beef ones.
Aside from the tiny loss of juice and a slightly harsher flavor, the new patties also have a slightly rougher texture. We know we’re nitpicking here, but individually, none of these are anything to have a cow over. They’re all annoyances though, and we didn’t have to put up with them with MOS’s old patties. Three tiny complaints might not seem like much, but since we had none before, we can’t help but notice them all the more.
The new burgers’ buns and other ingredients are the same high quality we’ve come to expect from MOS, but that still doesn’t make up for our disappointment over the patties. The nail in our sacred cow’s coffin was that the new sandwiches just don’t have the wonderful interplay of flavors with the sauce like the old ones did. More than anything, that was what made a MOS burger a MOS burger, and without it the whole experience suffers.
Don’t get us wrong, though. This is still MOS we’re talking about, and their burgers remain in the top class of Japanese chains. Putting aside our patty preferences, we have a serious soft spot for the tobikiri cheese burger. It may look like an ordinary old cheeseburger, but the flavors of the cheese and patty swirl together for a great one-two punch. But with great food comes great responsibility, and we expected just a little more.
We realize there’s no accounting for individual taste, though. We’re so convinced the new burgers are a step down that we can’t imagine we’re alone in our opinion, but we still recommend trying one for yourself, preferably a double with two patties so you can get a real feel for the new flavor.
[ Read in Japanese ]