Is mushroom season an acceptible substitute for tsukimi season? We find out!

Tsukimi, which takes place in September, is the season for appreciating the full moon–and thus also the time to eat food that looks like the moon. For most burger chains, that means adding a sunny-side-up egg to their sandwiches. But not all of them; some have different ideas completely.

▼ “We’d like to call it a Tsukimi Burger…I mean we think mushrooms also look like the moon when viewed from above…Right?”

Japanese burger chain Freshness Burger bucks tradition by completely ignoring tsukimi season in favor of celebrating mushroom season. Every year for four years, they’ve been serving a Mushroom Cheeseburger in September in lieu of anything with eggs on it, and this year, they’re adding a brand new mushroom burger to the seasonal roster. Naturally, our Japanese-language reporter and burger aficionado Mr. Sato had to try them out.

The autumn-only Mushroom Cheeseburger (830 yen [US$5.64]) was their top selling new burger in 2018 and continues to do well every time it’s sold. It was released on September 6, in addition to a new mushroom burger in town for the season: the Nama Donko Shiitake no Kurozu An Burger (Fresh Donko Shiitake Sweet and Sour Burger), which is also 830 yen.

Donko shiitake are mushrooms that are picked before fully opening, so they’re small and thick, have an umbrella that’s still curled under, and have a stronger flavor than the more open koshin shiitake. That’s bound to make for a tasty sandwich.

▼ Mr. Sato thought “Shiitake” in all caps written in big Roman letters made the poster look pretty cool.

Like the respectable journalist he is, Mr. Sato bought one of each of the burgers in order to have a proper comparison and taste test.

You may notice that the burger wrappers are printed with a logo that says “30th BE-FRESH”. That’s because 2023 marks Freshness Burger’s 30th anniversary. As part of that celebration, they’ve devised a plan to do 30 special things between December 2022 and December 2023, and these burgers mark the 18th project. They only have three months left to squeeze the last 12 things in, which has Mr. Sato kind of concerned…

But anyway, the Nama Donko Shiitake Burger had “Donko” written in hiragana on the tape sealing the wrapper closed, which Mr. Sato found to be rather inspiring.

He tried the classic Mushroom Cheeseburger first.

It was topped with quartered mushrooms in a porcini cream sauce. It smelled absolutely divine. As soon as Mr. Sato got a whiff of it he thought, “Ah, that’s autumn!”

The large mushroom pieces were nice and chewy, and the aroma, texture, and flavor were all really good! He could totally understand why this was a popular Freshness Burger product. He would even go so far as to say there’s no reason to eat Tsukimi burgers when you could eat this instead. He had yet to eat a mushroom burger as good as this one from somewhere else.

Though it could easily be a successful regular menu item, and Mr. Sato sort of wished it was, the fact that it’s only available during the autumn season gives a little extra oomph of exclusivity to the flavor that Mr. Sato couldn’t deny.

Next up, he tried the burger he was most interested in: the Donko Burger.

Under the bun, as the name implied, were donko shiitake mushrooms. Mr. Sato had to believe they would pair well with the bun and the beef. They were thick and luscious looking, so they were appetizing enough on their own.

They appeared to be lightly grilled and then topped with sweet and sour sauce and crunchy bits of “Taberu Shoyu”, or freeze-dried soy sauce.

There was no way these ingredients wouldn’t go well together, and a first bite verified the truth of that statement. The natural, distinctive flavor of the shiitake was well leveraged, and paired with the umami of the beef gave birth to a delicious flavor synergy. This was a very well-planned dish. Though it seemed like Freshness Burger had purposefully tried to make something strange, they actually produced a burger with a beautiful harmony of flavors. It was delicious.

If this is the type of fare they’ll be serving, Mr. Sato would be okay with Freshness Burger continuing to ignore tsukimi season every year. Let every September be mushroom season instead!

These burgers are available until October 17, and with the exception of a few select stores, should be available nationwide. If you’re already tired of eggs on your burgers, why not try one of these instead? Or you could try something completely different with Pizza Hut’s Tsukimi Hut Melt.

Honestly…why not both?

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