Sunday, January 31, 2016

I'm toleratin' it

I try not to make a habit of eating at American chain restaurants while I'm overseas. It can get expensive, the quality isn't always great, and more often than not there's a local place that is just as good, if not better.

That said, sometimes nothing else will do. This weekend was one of those times. I'd just finished a walk through the Meiji Shrine grounds and was in the mood for something quick and unhealthy. Unbeknownst to me, though, the Burger King and KFC near my closest train stop are undergoing renovations and will be closed for two weeks.

That just left the old standby, McDonald's, a couple blocks away. As it turned out, it was quite the opportune time to grace the Golden Arches.

McDonald's has recently had some difficult years in Japan, and not all of their problems stem from Japanese consumers losing their taste for the iconic American brand.
In late 2014, the firm was forced to restrict sales of fries after industrial action at US ports affected shipments of thousands of tonnes of the chain’s staple accompaniment to a burger to Japan.
Earlier the same year, officials in China closed down the firm’s poultry supplier amid allegations that it had deliberately mixed fresh chicken with expired produce.
Last year, its Japan operation was hit by reports of foreign objects –a piece of plastic and what appeared to be a human tooth – in McDonald’s chicken nuggets and french fries.
McDonald’s Japan, which operates almost 3,000 stores, reported a group net loss of ¥29 billion for the first nine months of 2015. It was expected to suffer a ¥38 billion ($318 million) net loss for the full year, with sales forecast to drop 10%. Last year, the firm said it would close about 130 stores in Japan and refurbish 2,000 others in the next four years.
How do Ronald and Friends hope to reverse their fortunes? It all starts with this slice of fried gold -- chocolate-covered fries, officially known as McChoco Potatoes.

If you squint just right, it kinda looks like okonomiyaki.
When I saw this abomination/revelation (delete as necessary) on Gimmeabreakman's YouTube channel, I knew I had to try it. At worst, it would be a glorious failure along the lines of Crystal Pepsi and stuffing pizza crust with hot dogs. At best, it would live up to the hype in the press release and actually create "a wonderful salty and sweet harmonious taste". As has been shown elsewhere on this blog, throwing some sweetness in with the savory can work out quite well.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. I was thoroughly relieved to learn the white substance that went on the fries was white chocolate, not mayonnaise (a prospect too gruesome to contemplate). There were plenty of fries to go around -- which makes sense as the dish costs 330 yen ($2.72 as of this writing) -- and the sweetness blended well with the saltiness. Still, the appeal of McChoco Potatoes is as much in its novelty as anything else. It's not the sort of thing I would eat with any regularity; in fact, once is probably enough.

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