Zetteria both is and isn’t like Lotteria.

This month a new hamburger chain opened in Tokyo…except you could say that it’s not really a new chain. The chain’s name, Zetteria, sounds very similar to the preexisting fast food chain Lotteria, and that’s not a coincidence. Lotteria was recently acquired by restaurant operator Zensho, who decided to create Zetteria as an official spinoff.

“Zetteria” might sound like mashup of “Zensho” and “Lotteria,” but the more likely explanation is that it’s a combination of zeppin (which means “wonderful product”) and Lotteria. Lotteria calls its deluxe hamburger line “Zeppin Burgers,” and Zetteria is making them the main focus of their menu…but Zetteria’s Zeppin Burgers and Lotteria’s Zeppin Burgers are a little different from each other.

▼ Zetteria’s first location, which just opened in downtown Tokyo’s Tamachi neighborhood

Honestly, Zetteria’s entire existence is a little confusing. We figured the best way to deal with this confusion was by devouring it, so we dispatched our always hungry-for-knowledge-and-burgers reporter Mr. Sato to Zetteria to try it for himself.

Looking at the menu, the first thing that Mr. Sato noticed was that Zetteria’s Zeppin Burgers are oblong, not round like they are at Lotteria. Zetteria also uses special koppepan bread instead of regular hamburger buns. Koppepan is similar to extra-fluffy hot dog buns, and it’s become a trendy food in Japan in recent months thanks to its inviting texture and slightly sweet and buttery flavor.

Zetteria also has a bigger variety of Zeppin Burgers than you’ll find at Lotteria. Aside from special limited-time versions, all of Lotteria’s Zeppin Burgers are essentially some kind of cheeseburger. Zetteria has a Zeppin cheeseburger too, which it calls the Zeppin Cheese, but also Zeppin Teriyaki, Zeppin Meat Sauce and, most intriguing of all, a Zeppin Orange Chicken burger.

▼ Zetteria also has breakfast burgers with sausage, egg, and lettuce served until 10:30 a.m., but without the “Zeppin” name.

For his taste test, Mr. Sato ordered a combo of a Zeppin Grand Meat Sauce Burger, French fries, and a medium drink for 790 yen (US$5.40). But he couldn’t get that Zeppin Orange Chicken out of his head, so he added one of those too, for an additional 420 yen.

Right off the bat, he noticed that his drink (an iced coffee) was especially big for a “medium” size in Japan, so the set meal was off to a good start in his eyes, in terms of value.

The fries, too, immediately impressed. They’re different from the ones served at Lotteria, crisper and with a more golden-brown color than Lotteria’s fluffier yellow ones. Between the two, Mr. Sato says Zetteria makes the superior fries.

But it was the burgers we were here to try. Unwrapping his Zeppin Meat Sauce Burger, Mr. Sato was greeted with a tasty-looking double-patty sandwich with sliced tomato and meat sauce slathered inside.

That’s right, this is actually a double burger, which is what Zetteria means when it gives its Zeppin Burgers the “Grand” designation.

It tasted nice, but Mr. Sato couldn’t help but feel like he would have liked a larger portion. Though the oblong patties look big because of their shape, in actuality they’re not particularly huge, and overall it just didn’t feel as special as Lotteria’s Zeppin Cheeseburger.

Mr. Sato still had high hopes for the Zeppin Orange Chicken, though.

Though it’s a staple of Chinese restaurants and takeout joints in the U.S., orange chicken isn’t a common menu item in Japan, so Mr. Sato doesn’t have a lot of experience with this flavor combination. He took to the taste right away, though, finding the mix of savory meat and sweet but tangy orange glaze very enjoyable.

What he didn’t really enjoy, though, was getting orange sauce all over his hands. Even eating his sandwich the way most burger aficionados in Japan do, keeping it in the paper wrapper as he picked it up and took bites, he couldn’t avoid getting a whole bunch of sticky orange sauce on his hands.

▼ There’s also mayo and lettuce inside.

In the end, it’s a little hard for Mr. Sato to say exactly how he feels about Zetteria. It’s a new chain that’s not entirely new, serving some familiarly named menu items that aren’t what he’s used to. He’d take a Lotteria Zeppin Cheeseburger over a Zetteria Zeppin Cheese, so he doesn’t feel the need for a repeat trip on that end, but the tasty Zeppin Orange Chicken is worth eating again, and only available at Zetteria, and so he also thinks there’s a chance that Zetteria will have some other unique, exclusive burgers in the future.

So in the end, all he can say for absolute certain is this: If you do go to Zetteria, and you do order the Zeppin Orange Chicken, make sure to grab some extra napkins.

Restaurant information
Zetteria (Tamachi Shibaura branch) / ゼッテリア(田町芝浦店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Shibaura 3-12-1, Makino Building 1st floor
東京都港区芝浦3-12-1 マキノビル1F
Open 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (weekdays), 7 a.m.-10 p.m. (weekends, holidays)

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