Long ago, American automobile manufacturers dominated the industry, until Japanese producers started steadily offering superior products through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. But following years of eroding sales, U.S. companies have finally stepped up their game and returned to competitiveness, with luxury marquee Cadillac recently recording its biggest sales spurt in decades.
Likewise, fast food restaurants from the U.S. initially dominated the hamburger field in Japan, but Japanese brands such as MOS Burger and Freshness Burger have been progressively eating into their market share. Will history repeat itself with a resurgence of quality American burgers? We sent one of our reporters, on assignment in the U.S., to McDonald’s to try its latest creation, the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder. Would it prove too much for the Japanese palate?
McDonald’s menu already includes a few variations on its iconic Quarter Pounder, including the Quarter Pounder with Cheese and the half-pound Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Just as the name implies, the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder comes slathered with sauce made from the super spicy habanero chili. Sure, you also get strips of bacon, cheese, a large leaf of lettuce, and a thick slice of tomato, but the star attraction here is the fiery flavor. Incidentally, the “ranch” in the burger’s name is here to convey a feeling of farm-freshness, and the sandwich is devoid of any creamy white ranch dressing.
With a level of spiciness over 20 times that of Tabasco sauce, the habanero chili can and will wreck you form the inside. But McDonald’s didn’t become the world’s biggest hamburger chain with extreme tastes that alienate the average fast food patron, and the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder’s ingredients work together to ensure that just about anyone can enjoy it.
The key to the burger’s accessibility lies in its vegetables. The lettuce and tomato both retain plenty of moisture. When combined with the juices from the patty, it forms a protective shield that spares your tongue from the brunt of the heat. The effect on the sauce is similar to tranquilizing a grizzly bear: you’re left very much aware of and must respect its power, but you’re no longer in any real danger. But while the sauce becomes mild and rich on your taste buds, the habanero sauce will still pound on your sinuses with the full force appropriate of its pepper pedigree.
Unfortunately, while McDonald’s patrons across North America can enjoy the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder, it’s only available in a selected few international markets, and right now Japan is being left out of the party. McDonald’s Japan has shown in the past that they’re more than willing to tweak their menu with seasonal and other limited time items, so here’s hoping we get a chance to try one soon, since our reporter didn’t have room in his suitcase to bring back enough for the whole office.
▼ Unless, of course, he just ate them all before he got off the plane.
[ Read in Japanese ]