This chain thinks it’s time for Japan to have a new representative burger, so we put it to the test.

If you’re in Japan and looking for a burger you won’t find anywhere else, the first option you’re likely to find is a teriyaki burger. On the menu at a number of big chains like McDonald’s, teriyaki burgers are filled with a sweet soy sauce that imparts a very distinct Japanese flavour, but having been around for years, it’s about time diners had some more exciting options to choose from.

That’s been the mindset of Japanese fast food chain Freshness Burger, who recently decided to conduct a poll with 113,453 of their customers, asking them to help devise a brand new burger with a Japanese flair. The chain’s mission was even publicised on its website, with a message that reads:

“When it comes to Japan-born hamburgers, the teriyaki burger is famous, even overseas. No hamburger to surpass it has yet appeared. Therefore, as our first challenge to mark the 30th anniversary of our founding, Freshness Burger, which is committed to using domestic ingredients born in Japan, has developed a Japanese burger that can aim for worldwide fame.” 

Whether that means there will be a series of other ‘challenges’ giving us new burgers to mark the chain’s anniversary is yet to be seen, but for now, we’re being blessed with a unique burger you won’t find anywhere else: the Atsuage Tofu Japanese Burger.

▼ Promotional posters for the new menu item appeared at branches from 26 April, when it made its debut nationwide.

Though we’d previously tried a similar-looking burger at Dom Dom two years ago, the mouthwatering promo posters at Freshness Burger suggested this new one might be far greater.

▼ Dom Dom’s burger was previously sold for a limited time at a special branch called “Tree & Tree’s by Dom Dom”, which has since closed down.

We were keen to find out if Freshness Burger’s new offering was good enough to surpass Dom Dom’s 2021 atsuage burger — as well as the nation’s world-famous teriyaki burgers — so we picked one up as part of a set for a taste test.

The burger contains atsuage (thick fried) tofu as its main ingredient, and is available in two varieties — one is garnished with spicy Mentaiko (pollack roe) Mayo, and the other is filled with Kurozu-an (black vinegar), which has a sweet and sour flavour.

▼ We opted for the Mentai Mayo Sauce version.

Priced at 650 yen (US$4.83) on its own, with the regular set of drink and fries costing an additional 500 yen, this burger was substantially cheaper than Dom Dom’s, which cost 990 yen for the burger alone.

▼ Plus, this burger contains a soy patty, which Dom Dom’s didn’t have.

This was a thicc burger, and when we lifted the top bun, we could see that the fried tofu chunks had been topped with a few onion rings, a shiso (perilla) leaf, and drizzled with the mentaiko mayonnaise.

The one thing we couldn’t tear our eyes away from was the deep-fried silken tofu, which looked plump and delicious, and just the right size for eating.

Beneath the tofu chunks, we found the patty had been garnished with a dollop of soy sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds as a secret ingredient.

According to Freshness Burger, this beauty was created after 50 prototypes had been tested. Just by looking at the ingredients used, you can see how original and ingenious this idea was, but…how would it taste?

Upon first bite, our teeth sank through the crispy exterior, with the texture becoming noticeably softer through the bun and down into the fried tofu, creating a tantalisingly varied mouthfeel. The shiso and soy sauce provided a strong Japanese flavour to the mix, with subtle notes of ginger in the background.

It was a fantastic mix of textures and flavours that delivered a very Japanese taste in every mouthful. It was more flavourful than the Dom Dom burger, however, we couldn’t help but think it could be improved with more ginger and perhaps some plainer buns, as these tasted quite sweet.

So is this a burger that surpasses teriyaki? Well, that’s a tough call to make. It is very different to anything else on the market right now, but we’re not sure if it has enough of that teriyaki-like addictiveness to have you going back for more.

Still, coming up with a new burger to surpass the world-famous popularity of a teriyaki burger is a challenging task. It’s a valiant effort, and a burger well worth trying, but given that it’s only on the menu until 30 May, here’s hoping Freshness Burger will be giving us another competitor to rival the teriyaki in their 30th anniversary year!

Related: Freshness Burger
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