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Earlier this week, our hearts were Kentucky-fried aflutter over the news that KFC will soon be opening an all-you-can-eat buffet in Osaka. As it turns out, though, that’s not the only big development for the restaurant chain. Right now, the world’s most popular fried chicken outfit has added something to the menu of its Japanese restaurants that we never thought we’d see at KFC: hamburgers!

It’s been a tumultuous year in the Japanese hamburger arena, as reigning champ McDonald’s has struggled through one of its toughest years to date in the country. The Golden Arches are trying to regain their footing with localized tasty temptations like anko sweet bean pies, but the time is ripe for other chains to eat McDonald’s lunch by providing meals to customers who’ve been avoiding the burger behemoth.

Against that backdrop, KFC Japan recently rolled out its new Coarse-Ground Mustard Cream Baked Cheese Hamburg Sandwich, which is a really fancy way of saying “cheeseburger.”

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Like many hamburgers in Japan, KFC’s burger is made from a mix of ground beef and pork. It is, however, 100-percent chicken-free, and also not fried. Anxious to see how KFC could handle an entree outside its two professed fields of culinary expertise, we decided to give the new sandwich a try.

At 490 yen (US$4.10), KFC’s hamburger comes in a few tiers above the cheapest burgers at McDonald’s or similarly budget-priced Lotteria. As a matter of fact, it’s roughly the same price that Burger King charges for its Whopper here in Japan. Still, our first impression was good, as the packaging is all class for the Coarse-Ground Mustard Cream Baked Cheese Hamburg Sandwich (which we’ll just call the KFC burger, for the sake of brevity).

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The illustrated directions on the wrapper explain to tear the paper open along its perforation, then slide the burger out far enough to take a bite. Unless you’ve got a napkin handy, we recommend following the directions, because KFC is very generous with the amount of cheese and sauce here.

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As a matter of fact, there are two different kinds of cheese used. In addition to the slice of white cheddar atop the patty, the burger comes slathered with a camembert cream sauce, in addition to the mustard. Speaking of which, despite its prominent billing in the Coarse-Ground Mustard Cream Baked Cheese Hamburg Sandwich, the mustard isn’t overpowering in the way you might expect from a fast food sandwich. Instead, it works with the rich cheese, whole wheat buns, and meaty patty to produce a well-rounded, thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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Granted, 490 yen is a bit pricy for a fast food sandwich, and compared to the comparably priced Whopper, KFC’s burger is somewhat lacking in size. But if you’re looking for a sandwich that punches above its weight class in flavor, this is a great example of affordable, and edible, luxury.

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