Moon-viewing shrimp burger and guilty-pleasure cheeseburger also arrive in our stomach.

Japanese fast food chain Lotteria usually finds itself in an underdog position. It can’t match the time-traveling marketing muscle of McDonald’s, and fellow rival Mos Burger’s reputation for quality is hard to top.

In order to compete, Lotteria often has to think outside the box, and so with all of Japan craving tsukimi (“moon viewing”) burgers this month, they’ve come up with two strategies: a special “Japanese-style” sauce, and applying the tsukimi concept to more than just a regular beef-patty hamburger by also bringing out a tsukimi shrimp burger and a tsukimi pork rib sandwich!

Since you’re reading SoraNews24, there’s a good chance you’ve got a preexisting interest in burgers and/or Japanese linguistics, but as a refresher, tsukimi, in a burger sense, refers to adding a fried egg to the sandwich, since the egg’s round shape looks like the full moon (the celestial body, according to Japanese tradition, is at its most beautiful during the month of September). Lotteria has made its tsukimi sandwiches even more Japanese by crafting a special soy sauce enhanced with ginger, sanonto (a brown sugar-like syrup made by heating sugar three times), and a dash of oyster sauce.

This “Japanese-style ginger soy sauce,” as Lotteria calls it, is used in all of the chain’s tasukimi sandwiches, and we decided to start off with the 464-yen (US$4.25) Japanese-style Soft-boiled Exquisite Cheeseburger.

▼ Or the Tsukimi Wafu Hanjuku Tsukimi Zeppin Cheeseburger, if you’re ordering in Japanese (yes, the name is a mouthful in either language)

As mentioned in the name, Lotteria’s tsukimi burgers use soft-boiled eggs, and when you combine that with the Japanese-style ginger soy sauce and a moist patty, you’ve got a very juicy burger here. But while eating it can be messy, the flavor is anything but…even though it seems like it should be.

There’s a lot going on with the special sauce, with the individual ingredients all having pretty strong sweet, salty, or sharp flavors, but the rich, melty egg blends them all together and smooths out their edges, resulting in a flavor that’s both very complex and extremely inviting. Since the egg is soft-boiled, it continues to mix with the sauce and cheese as you eat the burger, and the overall sensation is of a guilty pleasure that’s heavily weighted towards the “pleasure” end.

Next up: the Japanese-style Soft-boiled Tsukimi Shrimp Burger (Tsukimi Wafu Hanjuku Tsukimi Ebi Burger, 446 yen).

Deep-fried shrimp cutlet burgers are popular mainstays at Japanese fast food joints, but tsukimi-frying them is something most chains haven’t tried. We think Lotteria is on to something here, as adding an egg gives their shrimp burger a unique flavor and texture, with the egg dripping into all the little nooks and crannies of the cutlet breading as you eat.

However, we couldn’t help think that maybe they should have ditched the tartar sauce. While it works fine with a regular shrimp cutlet burger, the tart notes of the tartar sauce sort of overpowered the egg’s gentler creaminess, and also didn’t leave the Japanese-style ginger soy sauce much room to shine. Luckily, though, this problem is easy to rectify, since when ordering your tsukimi shrimp burger you can just ask for “tartar sauce nuki” (“no tartar sauce”).

And last, we come to the Japanese-style Soft-boiled Tsukimi Pork Rib Sandwich (Tsukimi Wafu Hanjuku Tsukimi Rib Sando Pork, 519 yen).

Like McDonald’s McRib, Lotteria’s Pork Rib Sandwich is actually a pork patty. Because of its oblong bun, the sides of the egg peek tantalizingly out from underneath the bread, almost like it’s beckoning us to come on in and take a bite.

When you do, you might be surprised to find that the meat isn’t particularly oily, and that this is actually the least heavy-feeling of Lotteria’s tsukimi trio. It’s also the only one with any sort of vegetables, in case you’re craving some greens with all the gooey gold egg.

The Lotteria tsukimi sandwiches are on sale now, and if you’re looking for justification for purchasing up all three to eat at once like we did, the fact that they’re only available for a limited time should do nicely.

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[ Read in Japanese ]