The Adventures Of Fatrick: McDonald’s Japan Idaho Burger

January 30, 2011

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about McDonald’s Japan’s new line of “Big America” burgers, the main point being that while the American version of the chain attempts to be more healthy, its Japanese counterpart is seeing huge success by going immensely unhealthy. The first installment, the Texas2 Burger, boasted a calorie count of 645. The to-be-released Miami Burger clocks in at about 100 calories less…despite featuring tortilla chips and taco-seasoned beef placed on top of a regular beef patty. Yet it’s the current specialty item available that truly sums up this year-removing trend – the Idaho Burger, featuring a hash brown resting on top of a patty amongst all sorts of less terrifying additions, weighs in at 716 calories.

Besides being an unhealthy monolith, the Idaho Burger manages to do what no other item in the series could do – be a near parody of what people think America is like. The main idea behind the Big America series from the original Texas Burger (ahhhh those were the days) has been “what extravagant foodstuff can we put on a somewhat bigger bacon cheeseburger?” The first four were definitely more intimidating than anything else on the McDonald’s Japan menu…only the Double Quarter Pounder out-disgusts these things, and I wouldn’t wish even my most hated rival to have to eat one – yet also not as bizarre as they could be. Just a little bigger. Yet the four new high-calorie contenders up the game significantly – these slabs of junk food seem completely ridiculous, meat stacked on meat stacked on melted cheese. The most ludicrous of all – the Idaho Burger.

The first thing you notice when you pop open the yellow-and-silver cardboard box encasing the Idaho Burger is the overhang. Originally, the most ballyhooed aspect of the Big America line was the bigger patty, yet none of the previous entries seemed that big to me, an admittedly stereotypical American. The Idaho Burger bun, though, doesn’t come close to covering the beef – the brown-ish circle sticks out awkwardly. It’s actually pretty big, and so unexpected you momentarily forget that you can also see a breakfast hash brown poking out as well.

The Idaho Burger also pulls off another coup – it’s the best Big America burger yet, slightly tastier than the original Texas Burger. Such a distinction comes with one big caveat: it’s also a thoroughly disgusting affair, eating this creation. McDonald’s ultimate strength is their research-laboratory-like ability to create these horribly addictive treats by selecting the perfect elements to pair together to create something both somewhat revolting yet delicious – see the Big Mac. The Idaho Burger shouldn’t be good, right? Yet everything comes together just right, the crunchiness of the hash brown being the obvious highlight but also the way the two sauces (barbecue and some sort of mustard concoction) mix just right. The only non-entity, as it always seems to be, is the bacon, tasteless and lost in the shuffle.

Size does end up hurting the Idaho Burger a bit. The way the meat just juts out from the bun means that, at some point, the eater must face the unpleasant experience of just nibbling on an unadorned McDonald’s beef patty. The chain’s strength lies in the combination of condiments to create a slurry of deliciousness, yet the actual patty is less of a food item and more of a blank canvas waiting to be smudged with a palette of “secret” sauces. More simply put – the patty itself tastes like absolutely nothing. Though not fast-food torture, it’s also no fun.

Of course, the real downside to the Idaho Burger…and, for all purposes, every item on the McDonald’s menu save, I don’t know, a single McNugget…comes after the meal when one starts feeling like walking death. I came into the McDonald’s restaurant expecting to fill my afternoon running errands, maybe cleaning my apartment. I ended up laying down on my couch for four hours listening to CDs because nothing sounded more ridiculous to my hash-browned brain than “going outside” or “walking.” At the time the Idaho Burger tasted divine. A couple hours later, it felt more like I had become Atlas, chiseled physique replaced by flabby skin and BBQ-sauce for blood. Thank goodness this thing adheres to another trend favored by the Japanese…you can only get it for a limited time.

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