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Posts tagged ‘unamerican activities’

Un-American Activities: KFC and Domino’s Japan

kfc-christmas

I was blessed to be in Japan in December because I got to witness first-hand the phenomenon that is KFC at Christmas. However, I wasn’t able to partake in it because all those displays and set menus plastered on the wall (Sparkling cider with the Colonel’s face on it! Chicken cordon bleu! A $50 whole turkey with its own tote!) are for pre-ordering only. I had no idea.

kfc-trio

So, I settled for a four-piece meal with biscuits, no finger sheaths provided. I love how even at fast food restaurants (well, at least KFC and MOS Burger) if you order iced coffee you receive a little plastic container of simple syrup and the creamer comes in an even tinier plastic container (even though I take it black).

 

Twitter knows me far too well, as evidenced by Pizza Hut’s enticement of online ordering (no human interaction!) in English (bonus!). But after a solid 20 minutes on their site and being surprised that pizzas cost $30+, I kept getting a garbled message after inputting what I thought was my postal code, which I took to mean I was out of their delivery zone even though I was in a centrally located neighborhood. I was not going to give up ordering pizza to my Airbnb even though it had a wonky address that confused multiple cab drivers.

Plan B. Domino’s, similar oddball flavor combinations (roasted pork with demi-glace and mustard sauce,  crab gratin and something called Mayo Jaga with potato, corn, sausage, and mayonnaise obvs) also offering online orders in English, and no less expensive. I, no joke, spent a half hour trying to type my address into a form so the system would recognize it.

dominos-screenshots

I thought with near 80% certainty that I would be charged, and then like an hour later would receive an angry call in Japanese and I would have no way to direct the driver. I clearly have been living in in NYC too long because in Tokyo you could track your pizza every step of the way. I registered for the service (and received a 1000 yen coupon for another order) about ten minutes into waiting and was shocked to see the pizza was 9 minutes away, marked with a cartoon reindeer (despite Domino’s shelving reindeer delivery in Hokkaido) and moving fast. I could also read about the driver’s favorite pizza, music, and sports team, except that I couldn’t read them.

dominos-duoI made my boyfriend put on pants and run down to the street from our second floor (first floor in everyone else in the world’s parlance) to intercept a potentially lost driver, still not convinced we were actually going to receive our pizza. No worries, two friendly guys on mopeds showed up and the box was handed off (I love no tipping culture even if it results in a $33 pizza).

I was the proud owner of Cheese ‘n’ Roll Quattro Delight. That meant a surprise cheese-stuffed crust, and one quarter each of Margherita, deluxe, special seafood, and garlic master. I kind of was the Garlic Master. Japan can thwart visitors in so many ways–procedural, cultural–so I felt a strange sense of accomplishment for having conjured a pizza to my door without speaking the language. Also, I wonder how long my coupon is good for?

 

The Week in Un-American Activities: All-Asian Edition

This re-grammed spread from Dominique Ansel Tokyo reminded me that I haven’t posted about some good old fashioned international intrigue for a while, mostly because it’s not the best use of my time, but look at those milk tea cronuts.

What else happened this week?

Tokyo will have a second Shake Shack soon.

Well, there’s now a Burger Joint in Singapore. Just the usual, though, no sambal spreads, mantou buns, or whatever else one might imagine could be done with burgers in Southeast Asia.

Slightly stranger is the PDT reproduction in Hong Kong with site specific cocktails. Lucky Peach uses its Meehan connection to bring us recipes. I am feeling the Rice Milk & Honey

Starbucks in China isn’t exactly big news (there are already 2,000 in the country) but 2,500 more are planned over the next five years, which is crazy I suppose. Separately, Starbucks will be subsidizing housing in China.

Un-American Activities: Have Yourself a Kentucky Little Christmas

It turns out that #KentuckyChristmas is real cornucopia on Instagram.

I went looking for this:

But was also treated to this:

Tell me more…

Day 7 Bright #decemberphotochallenge #bright #lightsunderlouisville #kentuckychristmas

A photo posted by Karen Stratton (@karen.stratton) on

Sweet.

It’s Kentucky cookies, Y’all! #kentucky #kentuckyhome #kentuckychristmas #cookies #cookiecutter #baking #lexington #sharethelex

A photo posted by Kentucky Everything (@kentuckyeverything) on

Cute.

A photo posted by Becky Eaton Creech (@antbecca) on

Cute and sweet?

#kentuckychristmas

A photo posted by Kelly Snowden (@ksnowds) on

Ok, bye.

Un-American Activities: Hard Rock Cafe Japan’s Eho-Maki Burger

Like black holes of the international chain restaurant scene, Burger King and KFC suck up all of the black bun attention. Now Hard Rock Cafe is playing me-too, and quite charmingly, with a series of “locally inspired burgers,” unique to particular branches, one which happens to employ a black roll.

Universal Citywalk’s offering in Osaka, the eho-maki burger, is meant to mimic the girthy, un-sliced good luck sushi eaten on February 3. It uses seven ingredients “to represent the 7 gods of happiness,” which include an 8 oz patty, onion, tomato, lettuce, monterey jack cheese and bbq and doro sauce (the Worcestershire-esque sauce served with takoyaki and okonomiyaki in Osaka).

Happy Birthday Hard Rock! From Osaka Universal #今日は70年代気分 #ハッピーバースデー #ハードロックカフェ

A photo posted by Hard Rock Cafe UCW Osaka (@hrcucwosaka) on

Apparently, the roll must be eaten in silence while making a wish for the new year, which kind of contradicts the whole hard-rocking concept.

Un-American Activities: Brooklyn Donuts & Jars

Mister Donut, the American brand that turned Japanese, is the latest to appropriate the borough of Brooklyn for added cachet. For the new year, the chain has created a donut-danish mash-up called Brooklyn D&D (croissant donuts were so last year) available in flavors like chocolate-banana and strawberry.

If danishes don’t read as particularly Brooklyn, the other component to this promotion, so-called Brooklyn jars, kind of do even though they shouldn’t.

And now that Kraft has also started suggesting that home cooks serve food in Mason jars, can restaurants in Brooklyn and beyond begin retiring these folksy vessels in 2015?

Un-American Activities: Burger King India

Any American chain that seeks acceptance abroad knows it must do at least a little surface tweaking to appeal to local tastes. And India might just have the most un-American menu of all since roughly 40% of the country’s population doesn’t eat meat and there are both Muslim and Hindu dietary practices to consider. Restaurants are forced to get creative with non-beefy-and-porky options that translates to a lot paneer, chiles, potatoes and a little chicken and lamb.

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts, which only arrived in 2012, has seen success with its yam, corn, potato, and chicken Tough Guy burgers (and recently introduced an insane line of donut flavors for Diwali, including guava and chile, rice pudding, and saffron cream and pistachios).

It’s arguable whether or not a Whopper is still a Whopper when formed from vegetables, chicken or lamb, but that hasn’t stopped Burger King from taking on India with its first store of 12 opening in New Delhi over the weekend. Burger King certainly had time to benefit from the lessons of those who went first–McDonald’s and its beefless Maharaja Mac have been in the country since 1996

As is the way of the internet, there are detractors on the brand’s Facebook page that, well, have a beef (sorry) with the lack of red meat. Burger King in Spain already got into trouble back in 2009 for being insensitive to Hindus, so playing it safe is probably wise.

There doesn’t appear to be an India-specific Burger King site yet, but based on Facebook the most localized items besides the Whoppers look like the Spicy Bean Royale, trying to draw in newcomers with a scattering of dried kidney beans…

and a series of Melts and Cheezos. Yes, Cheezos.

 

 

Un-American Activities: McDonald’s Italia McChicken

Like 9/11, the possibly goth (heshers get the black Indonesian chicken) Japanese Burger King “Kuro Burger” is something nearly everyone feels the need to weigh in on. I’ll say nothing on either subject except that it’s very sad that there’s a world out there where black cheese is considered palatable for the masses while Wendy’s slapping a slice of smoked gouda on brioche is intended to be upscale. (The last time I thought smoked gouda was classy was back in the early ’90s when I’d get my dad to drive me to Costco for big yellow cylinders of the stuff.)

Anyway, an entire Tumblr could be devoted to cataloging fast food quirks in Asia. It would be an exhausting endeavor (I tried once and gave up, as I’m wont to do). Our European and Latin American counterparts don’t generally go so wild, instead opting for more logical localization and more demure limited time offers.

In addition to serving pasta salads, snacky wedges of wrapped parmesan, and pizzarotto, tomato sauce and mozzarella-stuffed turnovers that we’d call calzones, McDonald’s Italia thinks McChicken is the new black, so there.

Italian blogger Homo de Panza only gives the curry version a 6 out of 10, but gets points from me for using palate correctly (of course, palate and palette are not homophones in Italian) or as Google Translate said, “The proof of the palate, however, has upset the cards.”

Un-American Activities: Localization of the Week: Wendy’s Philippines Salad Bar

Salad bars used to be a big deal in the pre-kale era (don’t even get me started on the glory of the Wednesday baked potato bar at my middle school cafeteria). Probably because it was an excuse to load up on shredded cheese, bacon bits and thousand island dressing in the name of health.

Wendy’s is credited with introducing the first fast food salad bar, in 1979. The concept had a two-decade run before fading into American history.

In July, Wendy’s in the Philippines brought the salad bar back to life. Being 2014 a hashtag #WeDeserveThis has been deployed and a crowdsourced Facebook campaign solicited salad items to be included. With the exception of lychee gelatin, the offerings wouldn’t likely throw Dave Thomas into fits. The spring rolls, spaghetti and salisbury steak on the regular menu? Maybe.

The salad bar technique appears to be borrowing lightly from the Chinese Pizza Hut playbook.

 

Un-American Activities: Sizzler Bangkok

I had recently been thinking how I never ever think about Sizzler. It's a non-entity in the casual dining universe of New York City suburbs. The chain's prominence in Thailand really threw me for a loop. At prime dinner times, groups were actually crowded around the entrances waiting for seats. Maybe this merited a visit?

Bangkok sizzler facade

Of course it did. We hit the end of a lunch rush, lots of office groups and predominantly Thai, if you must know. No Malibu Chicken, the caloric charmer of my youth. The lure appeared to be the salad bar (which I didn't realize until later was all-you-could-eat). Iced tea so sweet it makes its southern relative taste like a health tonic, was also unlimited.

Bangkok sizzler salad bar

The salad bar wasn’t wildly different than an American one, but there were certainly differences like the pumpkin cashew salad and spicy pork. I don’t imagine we have tom yum soup in our buffets either.

Bangkok sizzler salad

The blue cheese, however, was nearly thick and unspreadable as refrigerated peanut butter.

Bangkok sizzler toast

Portions were very un-American, completely reasonable yet petite. The Texas toast cut into halves was meant for two.

Bangkok sizzler steak

I was certain they'd bungle my medium-rare request, and the steak, which I only ordered out of duty wasn't bad. I was expecting the dull, blandness that you get from places like Outback Steakhouse. This little filet actually had flavor and a pleasant texture. I have no idea where the meat comes from. Obviously not Australia since imported beef from down under is a special weekend promotion. Bangkok, only, though.

Bangkok sizzler dessert

I was owed a dessert so I picked up the mauve fluff instead of the brown fluff. It just tasted like artificial raspberry-flavored (oops, it’s supposed to blueberry—see? It’s impossible to tell) whipped cream.

Sizzler * CP Tower, 313 Silom Rd., 2nd Fl., Bangkok, Thailand