Eagle-eyed A.V. Club readers will already know that we’ve covered the weird world of Japanese Kit Kats in the past, spending two entire Taste Tests navigating their various flavors, from Soy Sauce and “Exotic Tokyo” to Azuki Red Bean and Macchiato McFlurry. Part of the reason we keep trying them is that they’re just too damn bizarre to pass up, and part of the reason is that the nice folks at J-List make it really easy by just sending them to us in hopes that we’ll write them up and you’ll be intrigued enough to buy some for yourselves, people. And to be honest, as long as Japan keeps making new flavors—which they do at a rate of around a dozen a year—we’ll keep sampling.
Last time J-List sent us a box, we never got around to tasting the stuff, and a whole bunch of crazy-flavored Doritos went bad. But also in that box was perhaps the most intriguing flavor of Kit Kat yet: European Cheese. Along with those, we have Sakura Maccha Latte, which is a light-green color and is intended to recall the flavor of green-tea latte and cherry blossom. Next up is the “Yokohama edition” of what appears to be Strawberry Cheesecake, a flavor that Kit Kat introduced a few years ago, but that has apparently returned only in one region. (Yes, they do limited edition, regional flavors.) And finally, and perhaps most excitingly, we have a wacky-looking gift box of Rilakkuma Hotcake, which looks to be pancake-flavored Kit Kats inspired by the San-X character Rilakkuma. I would like to take this opportunity to quote from the character’s Wikipedia page: “Rilakkuma mysteriously appears in the female office worker Kaoru’s apartment one day. He is a soft toy bear who has apparently decided to take up residence there. On his back is a zipper which when opened reveals a light blue polka dot patterned material. The contents or nature of this zipper is unknown.”
So yeah, he’s a Kit Kat now. To say that the Japanese enjoy unusual foods would be a disservice to the word “unusual.” To put it in the parlance of the day, this shit is kinda fucked up. Let’s try it out.
The taste: Unlike our last go-round with Japanese Kit Kats, these inspired strong-ish reactions. European Cheese made a few people gag, but those who were prepared for a bit of pungency didn’t mind it a bit. The picture on the trapezoidal box appears to be some kind of Swiss cheese, but it tasted much more like a tangy Romano. Either way, I’m going to start grating these Kit Kats over my pasta from now on. (I should also note that these were marked best by September of 2011, so maybe they used to taste like Swiss cheese. Then again, shouldn’t cheese get better with age?)
Sakura Maccha Latte was slightly more divisive, with reactions toward both ends of the spectrum. Some found it refreshingly strange, while others were put off. Oddly, I liked the first bite, but subsequent ones were a bit gross. The green color with bits of pink inside doesn’t really help the cause.
No offense to the respect-worthy people of Yokohama—capital city of the esteemed Kanagawa Prefecture—but Strawberry Cheesecake was pretty much universally panned. It had some actual cheesiness to it, but overall didn’t taste much like cheesecake or strawberries. It also smelled a little funky, but I’m pretty sure that was by design.
That leaves the big winner: hotcake-flavored Kit Kats inspired by some kind of freaky zippered teddy bear. One of Rilakkuma’s favorite foods is hotcakes, and the Nestlé folks did a bang-up job of making a fake flavor that has weird little notes in reality. The outer shell tastes like butter, while the wafers give off a reasonably mild maple-syrup flavor. Taken together, they taste like pancakes that are just slightly overdone. Of this group, we bow most deeply to Rilakkuma’s hotcakes.
- “The strawberry cheesecake one smells atrocious, but mainly just tastes like strawberry Pocky. I could eat a lot of them for that reason.”
- “The hotcakes were the clear winner. A candy bar that tastes like butter and maple syrup? Why aren’t these marketed here? Why aren’t they delivered directly to my house each morning?”
- “European Cheese tastes just like white chocolate going down, but now my fingers smell like stinky cheese, and my breath smells like stinky cheese. I gag a little every time I exhale, and so do the people around me. It captures only the very worst parts of European cheese.”
- “Hotcakes was buttery, maple-y, and the first Kit Kat I’ve ever had where you can actually taste the wafer. I would eat these all the time.”
- “The yellowed white chocolate on the Hotcakes, with its extra-buttery flavor, was almost too good. It reminded me of when I was 5 and would sneak spoons of margarine compulsively from the fridge. Plus a maple-syrup wafer? Fuck yes. I tried not to steal them all. I just got rid of my man-breasts by eating my vegetables, and this was a little too Cracker Barrel-perfect.”
- “In the Green Tea, the cherry-blossom wafer is really subtle, and it took me two bites to even guess what the hell was going on with it. It was extra hard to detect because the green-tea ‘chocolate’ is basically white chocolate with green-tea perfume rubbed on it, and it felt a bit like an old lady’s makeup table exploded in my mouth-face.”
- “Strawberry Cheesecake was good, but seemed predictable. I can get a raspberry cheesecake cookie at Subway now. If Subway cookies can master fruity cheesecake, anyone can.”
- “I audibly and involuntarily pouted when I bit into the Cheese. The chocolate tastes like normal waxy white chocolate, but then the cheesy wafer packs all the cheesiness.”
- “This tastes like a frat boy sprayed Cheese Whiz on his bookshelf, found it fossilized there weeks later, and dipped it in white chocolate. There is a cheese ghost inside this Kit Kat, and it screamed the injustice of its death into my mouth until I found a donut.”
- “The experience of smelling Euro Cheez was far worse than the experience of eating Euro Cheez. The actual flavor was pretty unremarkable.”
- “Smells like blue cheese, tastes like Swiss, but sweeter. I like these. Not as much as I like actual cheese, though.”
- “These are to cheese and cheesecake what normal Kit Kats are to chocolate. They’re the right color, but that’s about it.” “Yeah, yeah. Can I have another hotcake one?”
- “If you’re able to get past the putrid smell and actually take a bite of the cheese variation, you’ll experience an atrocious flavor that is only slightly better than the stench.”
- “The cartoon-bear mascot is cute, but I think they missed the mark by not using John Candy as Uncle Buck.”
- “Not at all like real maccha, which is assertive and somewhat bitter. Sort of the John McCain of teas.”
- “European Cheese is the candy equivalent of burger in a can. There’s no earthly reason for its existence, and yet here it is. It’s the practical-joke candy of the batch. Tell your kids it’s candy, and they’ll eat it with an expression like you pooped in their fish tank.”
- “If I wanted to eat cheap, unpleasantly musky, overly sweet Swiss, I’d just eat—wait, no. I wouldn’t bother eating that. And I don’t want to eat these either. They’re mighty foul.”
- “I wish the Strawberry Cheesecake tasted as much like cheesecake as the hotcakes ones taste like pancake. Instead, it’s cheesecake methadone at best.”
- “I like the Cheesecake ones. It’s a pretty complicated taste—fruity, then cheesy, then sugary, then finally just chemicals. At which point it’s time to eat another one to start the cycle at the good end again.”
- “The only problem with eating a bunch of Kit Kats at once is that you really start to realize how waxy the outer coating is, and how fake and non-foody these are. It’s like eating flavored sugar-pills: You can make them taste like whatever you want, but you aren’t really eating anything except flavoring, dye, and calories.”
Where we got them: J-List.com.