Japanese comeback: The Chicken Tatsuta returns

Japanese comeback: The Chicken Tatsuta returns

After a five year absence, McDonald's brings back a classic -- but for only one month
chicken tatsuta
Here we line up the crispy advertisement versus the more-droopy real sandwich.

The Chicken Tatsuta sandwich -- fried chicken on a special bun with chopped cabbage and mayonnaise -- debuted in the 1990s and quickly became a permanent part of the McDonald's Japan menu. This one sandwich alone argued that American fast food did not have to be an imperialist beef-centered project: the age-old Tatsuta-age fry style could also be employed in the sandwich-making process.

Of course, in the end, McDonald's yanked the Chicken Tatsuta from menus in 2004 to replace it with the American-style Chicken Filet-O. Maybe local tradition wasn't so important after all.

But now in 2009 -- as part of the much maligned Nippon All-Stars campaign -- the Chicken Tatsuta is back. The catch: the sandwich is only available from September 25 to October 15.

When I hit the local McDonald's today, the cashier informed me that the Chicken Tatsuta comes 'highly recommended.' Having now seen and tasted the real thing, I regretfully have to state that the actual sandwich lacks the architectural splendor of the official PR image.

The taste, however, does manage to recreate an authentically low-rent Japanese dining experience: greasy dark-meat dripped with soy sauce on a bed of identically colored mayonnaise and cabbage. The experience in one word is: salty -- very, very salty. The kind of salty that goes down well with a Oolong-hai -- but maybe not a giant C.C. Lemon.

October 15 will be your last day to sample this legendary chicken sandwich and relive this unforgettable piece of 1990s culinary history. Who knows how many months until the Chicken Tatsuta will return again for a heavily-promoted limited-edition campaign.