Burger King’s black bun in Japan is weird, but not much fun
By JAMES KIMBER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 23, 2014
At Burger Kings throughout Japan, black is the new brown. It’s also the new yellow and red.
On Sept. 19, Burger King brought back the black buns it made famous two years ago. Only this time, the fast-food chain went the extra mile and made the cheese and ketchup black as well. Instead of using food coloring, BK opted instead for bamboo charcoal smoke and squid ink.
According to the now-viral news release, the buns and cheese are smoked with the charcoal, and the squid ink is part of the sauce. Add a peppered all-beef patty, and even the meat takes on a darker shade.
The result is as unappetizing in appearance as it sounds, but not quite as horrible-tasting as it looks. I volunteered to be a taste-tester, putting my nearly 15 years of Naval training in consuming vast quantities of normally inedible foods to good use.
The burgers come in two forms. The Kuro Pearl has only the unique black condiments; cheese, ketchup and bun. For roughly a dollar more, the Kuro Diamond has the same plus regular lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo.
The Kuro Pearl and the Kuro Diamond are sold at nearly every Burger King in Japan. I went to the franchise right outside Hachioji Station’s north gate.
The burger is wrapped nicely in a black wrapper and, if you opt to get it to go, comes in a black bag to match. Once you open the wrapper, the burger sits there looking as sad and pathetic as any other hastily-assembled fast-food burger.
And that cheese. That strange-looking plastic-like thing hanging off the sides of the bun looks like the blown tire tread on the side of the freeway.
Oddly, the burger gets more strange-looking after you bite into it. The air bubbles are black, too. It looks cake-like in texture, but smells like liquid smoke.
Here’s how it tastes: First, you’re hit by a heavy smoky flavor, followed by the tang of the squid-inky ketchup. The black-peppery burger that follows doesn’t taste or look like a typical BK burger. No, it tastes more like a TV dinner meat patty and looks more like a veggie burger.
However, after you get past the looks, you realize that marketing must have been lying about the cheese, because it tastes like American cheese. The inky ketchup is actually and surprisingly good, especially considering it’s made by Burger King.
Regardless, $10 for the meal (if you get fries and a drink) is high for any fast food, even by Japanese standards, and the burger patty is too much like a microwavable Salisbury steak to be worth a second go. But it does make for great photos.