Review: Taco Bell & Cold Stone Creamery

Moody - Taco Bell interior attempts hipster
Moody – Taco Bell interior attempts hipster

It’s rare that I have a ‘Lost in Translation’ moment in Japan nowadays. Having spent a total of over two years here – on and off – there’s not much that surprises me or makes me blink twice. The irony is that the very night I try to do something very un-Japanese – the night I decide to binge on American junk food – is the night in which Japan threw all it had at me, as if to say, “Behave like a foreigner? Right! Have some Japan in your face!” Of course, it didn’t say it quite so directly though…

First ‘gaijin’ (foreigner) behaviour of the evening: meet other foreigner at Hachiko, where all the foreigners meet and half the world, so finding each other without electronic communication is impossible.

I love the fact that 'tako' is octopus in Japanese - if you click the Google Translate button on Taco Bell's webpage, it will give you a lot of octopus options!
I love the fact that ‘tako’ is octopus in Japanese – if you click the Google Translate button on Taco Bell’s webpage, it will give you a lot of octopus options!

Second, head to Taco Bell. Having opened last month as Japan’s first and only outlet of this American fast-food giant, the queues were over an hour long. Taco Bell is a rare breed in the UK and so, having never sampled it, I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Given that you wouldn’t catch me stepping into a MacDonald’s, I was a little apprehensive about actively seeking out junk food.

If you want junk, you gotta queue for it...
If you want junk, you gotta queue for it…

We find the queue to be only 15 minutes long. This is pretty good for Japan. Let’s not mention the time I queued over 3 hours for ramen.

Order at the couter
Order at the couter

We select our items, choose our meat, our spice level and receive a buzzer to tell us when our order is ready.

Downstairs, we begin to choose a table when we spot a corner lounge-style set-up recently vacated by high school boys. We are about to sit down when rushes back over and begins brushing lettuce and cheese off the seats. I patiently wait. I thank him with a brief “arigatou”.

He beams and half bows. “You’re welcome!”

Laughing, I sit down on the seat cleaned by a conscientious high school kid. Thank you, Japan.

Mmm junk food and hot dog legs
Mmm junk food and hot dog legs
Inside the soggiest 'CrunchWrap Supreme'
Inside the soggiest ‘CrunchWrap Supreme’

Our food when it comes is as plastic-looking as the pictures, which in a way is reassuring – at least you know what you’re getting. We tuck into a beef taco, hard shell, medium spice (790円 for a set with drink and fries). The beef is peppery and turns out to be the most flavoursome thing in the entire meal. Most of the taco, however, is bland salad that enjoys attention-seeking by flopping out of the shell and decorating our laps. We tuck into soggy and very salty fries. We then try the CrunchWrap Supreme (630円), pork, medium spice, which isn’t spicy or crunchy, and consists mainly of uninspiring wrap.

The Loaded Fries (630円) which, at first seem greasily addictive, until we realise that the potato, soured cream, cheese, meat combo actually tastes like everything else.

In fact, Taco Bell miraculously makes everything taste exactly the same – all greasy stodge, indistinguishable carbs and lumps. The ‘medium’ spice level was actually non-existent.

Your order - reduced to numbers, symbols and a good amount of grease
Your order – reduced to numbers, symbols and a good amount of grease

Still, we raised our disposable soda cups and said a big CHEERS/ KANPAI! and ticked it off our bucket list. However, at over a 1000円 each for this junky privilege – about twice the price of the American version – Taco Bell is unlikely to find itself on your wallet’s bucket list.

And medium = no spice at all. 

Address: 2-25-14  Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
When: 10:00 – 23:00 every day

Next up… Cold Stone Creamery

What flavour do you like?
What flavour do you like?

Hailing from Arizona, Cold Stone Creamery is a super-popular ice-cream store across Tokyo. I don’t know if it’s just because of the ridiculously decadent ice-cream sundae concoctions served in ridiculously decadent waffle cones, or because of the performance. We selected our ice-cream and suddenly the women become our ‘personal’ servers.

Our happy assistants
Our happy assistants

“Now I make for you Chocolate Devotion!” she announced with a grin. She scoops my ice-cream onto the metal ‘cold stones’ and begins to mash brownies, chocolate sauce and chocolate chips into it. Then her coworker joins her….

And so, I am transported to the Japanese version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Apparently, in the States, employees are auditioned and sing when they receive a tip… so this is not an only in Japan thing. It just felt that way – after all, this is a country where a a trip to Tokyo Disneyland seems to be a highlight for all ages and genders.

Chocolate Devotion... a little bit of a lie, especially when the ice-cream is not what you could call 'brown'
Chocolate Devotion… a little bit of a lie, especially when the ice-cream is not what you could call ‘brown’

The ice-cream itself was mediocre quality (I chose chocolate at a ‘Love It!’/ medium size for 630円), with the slightly nasty artificial chocolate sauce. I should have known as chocolate is rarely amazing in Japan. Although it should be noted that the chocolate waffle cup – for an extra 110円  – is a worthy investment. Still, it looked fantastic, and the wannabe dwarves made it for me! Keep singing, girls!

Strawberry cheesecake
Strawberry cheesecake

Cold Stone Creamery – Looks amazing, but it’s best for sugar junkies, not ice-cream snobs.

Where: Various across Japan (we visited Shibuya Mark City)

The day was not over, however. The elderly man who regularly dresses in a schoolgirl’s uniform around Tokyo came running past, followed by loads of actual Japanese schoolgirls. Why he was being followed by his own personal fanclub, I have no idea. Yet if he likes schoolgirls, this could be a brilliant way to get some attention…

Author: Phoebe Amoroso

Phoebe Amoroso is a Tokyo-based reporter, multimedia journalist and storyteller. Hailing from the UK, she moved to Japan in 2014 and has since been shouting about the country to all who will listen. She divides her time between covering breaking news and producing feature stories for TV; writing about everything from business and tech to food and travel; and guiding hungry visitors who want to sample the best of Japanese cuisine. When not working and/or eating, she can often be found running up a mountain or cycling by the sea.

4 thoughts on “Review: Taco Bell & Cold Stone Creamery”

  1. Really? You have found your experiences with chocolate disappointing? I don’t know where you have gone but off the top of my head I can name ten places where the chocolate is amazing:

    Au Maison de chocolat, Pierre Herme, Max Brenner, the chocolates at cohiba atmosphere, cacao sampaka to name a few…….. if you want something store bought- try the “nama” chocolates from Royce.

    I would not expect the chocolate quality to be all that great at stone cold. It is an ice cream place after all……

    I saw you on TV last night. I did not see the end of the program, so I don’t know if you got together with that craftsman…….

    1. Oh I’ve just seen this. Pierre Herme…. I enjoyed the very expensive chocolate melting bomb dessert but I wasn’t sure about the taste of the chocolate. I think that whatever they added to the shell to make it melt quickly made it a little dry in the mouth. Max Brenner – I was so disappointed by their hot chocolate – it was very sweet and mild, and not a patch on the one I tried in Tel Aviv. I wonder if it was a one-off though? I will get venture to Au Maison de Chocolat and Cohiba Atmosphere (not head of that place- thanks 🙂 the pics look awesome!)

      But I am with you about Royce nama chocolate. All the way. I am addicted! Or I would be if I hung out in Sapporo or airport duty free shops more often 😉

      I guess I just miss really gooey fudgy sticky things like brownies, where the chocolate is really intense. I baked some when I went back to the UK for Christmas – should have brought them back, but they didn’t last very long haha!

      Um, I’ve given up dating men on TV…! (Confession: haven’t brought myself to be able to watch the show…too cringeworthy)

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