My last meal of 2019 was a Chickstar, a hexagonal limited edition version of the Crunchwrap Supreme, which I purchased at the Taco Bell in Shibuya Dogenzaka and savored over the course of three beautiful minutes along with my friends, who had ordered the same thing. It had no sauce, because Taco Bell in Tokyo doesn’t have any kinds of hot sauce, but that was okay, because somehow they managed to ensure that its flavor profile was perfectly balanced without any additions needed.
It wasn’t the end of year meal I had originally intended; in fact, I had never even had a Crunchwrap Supreme before that day. When I’m stateside, Baja Chalupas are more my style, or bean burritos, or a pair of crunchy tacos spilling over with diced tomatoes and shredded cheese, with a healthy amount of fire sauce drizzled all over, dripping onto my hands.
When I stood in line poring over the menu board, I was initially dismayed that none of these options were available to me, but then my eyes focused on the photo of the Chickstar glowing in the middle of the board, looking like a star shaped pita pocket. I decided right then and there that that was going to be my order, and when my friends noticed it as well, they had the same reaction. This, this was the magical Japanese take on American fast food that we had all been waiting for. It had been a long, windy day, filled with endless walking, and we were all ravenous. The Chickstar more than delivered.
The funny thing is, I wouldn’t exactly call myself an adventurous eater, but I am fond of non-seafood based Japanese cuisine, and for most of the trip, I truly had kept trying mostly Japanese foods for my daily meals. However, my friends and I had a mutual fascination for Japanese versions of American restaurants, and we punctuated our traditional meals with snacks from these places, including Wendy’s. But even though we enjoyed our time at Wendy’s, there was just something particularly special about standing in the street on New Year’s Eve as the crowds rushed past us, underneath the familiar purple and white Taco Bell logo glowing brightly. Though we didn’t exactly want to admit it, five days in, we were a little tired, and something as simple as eating Taco Bell felt like we were a little closer to home.
There was something oddly comforting about eating the Chickstar, the Japanese take on an American take on Mexican cuisine. Though there are many moments I look back on fondly six months after traveling there, those sublime three minutes still stand out to me in particular, because with the current state of the world, I can’t imagine when I’ll be able to do something like that again; waiting in a long line full of other people, licking my fingers after polishing off the pita, feeling comfortable standing in a crowd of strangers rushing by me as I stood still, savoring the moment and not worrying about what was to come.
Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to experience it again. For now, I keep store-bought Fiesta Cheese and Fire Sauce in the fridge.