Could a burger like this end up going mainstream?

Customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to burgers in Japan, with local and foreign fast food chains bringing out limited-edition menu items on such a regular basis it’s hard to keep up with them all.

The latest new offering to tempt us is the Venison Burger from Lotteria, which is being marketed as “wild game” on the menu, and includes a double serving of deer, both in the patty and the ragout sauce that comes with it.

▼ The “spicy venison ragout sauce” contains 20 percent venison and spices such as garam masala.

Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa considers himself a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to wild game meats, having tried everything from deer through to boar and bear, so he was keen to give us an honest review of Lotteria’s new burger. It’s not the first time they’ve released the burger, but Seiji had always turned his nose up at it, as venison to him is a luxury meat, and not something that could be perfected by a burger chain.

At 720 yen (US$6.86) plus tax, the burger was much cheaper than other venison offerings he’s had in the past, so Seiji couldn’t help but wonder if the patty really would taste like venison or if it would be a poor man’s version, with a greasy, washed-out fast food flavour.

It sure looked neat, but Seiji knows better than anyone that looks can be deceiving. So he cleansed his palate with a sip of cold water, opened his jaws wide, and went in for a bite.

The first thing he noticed was the curry flavour. The hamburger patty uses ingredients like nutmeg while the sauce contains garam masala, so the overall taste is quite Indian curry-like. As he chewed, he became impressed by how well the soft buns gently delivered just the right amount of sauce to his tongue, so as not to overpower the meat.

As for the meat, he was surprised to find there was no scent to it at all, which is a good sign that care has been taken from processing to transportation, as a strong-smelling meat can be a sign of poor quality.

As Seiji wondered if a burger like this could go mainstream and be on the menu year-round at a big-name fast food joint, his spirits dipped as he realised this probably wasn’t possible. The satisfaction of eating a meat like this just wasn’t on the same level as eating a beef burger, and for a lot of people, the craving for meat, and the feeling of satiety that comes with it, is what prompts them to buy a burger in the first place.

The Lotteria venison patty was better than Seiji expected, but it was lacking the rich flavour of beef. According to our game meat connoisseur, this proves that venison is best enjoyed outside of a burger, as a steak, where you can get that feeling of meaty satiety. In a patty, the flavour is too light for it to be really appreciated.

Still, Seiji is glad to see a major fast food chain like Lotteria dedicate space on their menus to venison, and he hopes this gives more people the opportunity to try something they never have before. Because once you open the door to new food experiences, there’s no telling where you might end up!

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[ Read in Japanese ]