It seems like only yesterday that we were recovering fromCheeseburger Crown Crust pizza that had crept its way out of the Pizza Hut labs in the Middle East. For any of you that have managed to annihilate the memory of the mutant pizza creation, let me remind you of a pizza coronated with an outer 'crown' hoisting greyish burger patties, each painstakingly glossed with a translucent layer of plastic congealed cheese. But just as we were convincing our taste buds that the worst of pizza gore was over, our hard-working friends at Pizza Hut Middle East R&D have decided to surprise us with yet another freakish crust experiment.—The Cone Crust Pizza!
The Cone Crust Pizza flyer espouses the very profound theory: Fun starts with a Cone. This maxim of merriment from Pizza Hut Middle East left me shocked and embarrassed that I had lived an exceptionally unconical life thus far, and had me racing to the phone to order a pizza that could remedy an existence of acute unfunness. Other promotional banners revealed Pizza Hut's intent at "reshaping tasty fun," with a mildly disturbing depiction of stuffed cones and conical distressed-looking cats suspended from a clothes line.
The Cone Crust pizza wears a wreath of parmesan-encrusted cones around its rim, each of which is loaded with either "delicious honey mustard chicken strips" or "indulgent Philadelphia cream cheese." Customers are encouraged to select their preferred pizza toppings, and to request a crust with alternating chicken and cream cheese cones so that they can maximize the sheer number of incongruent flavors on one pizza pie. With a Serious Eats mission close to heart, I called for a medium-sized, cheesy pepperoni base ringed with both variants of cone flavors—only a scrooge would kill the fun by opting for one kind.
When the pizza arrived, it looked remarkably similar to the promotional pictures. The edge of the pizza had been partitioned, folded over and curled into mini cones, with each slice being generously allocated its own personal stuffed cone. The only departure was that not every cone on my pizza perimeter was the overflowing cornucopia of chicken or cream cheese stuffing that the adverts had made it out to be. Instead, some of my crusty funnels looked like their scoops of filling had already been licked down by an evil interceptor on the delivery boy's route.
While the individual elements of the pizza looked commendably close to what Pizza Hut had hyped them up to be, and were even quite palatable on their own, they had no business romping around on the same pizza bed together. Wasn't the Cheeseburger Crown Crust ample evidence that smushing pizza together with dissected burger elements on the same pie is a failed attempt at creating fast food synergy?
Now since a customer can pick their own toppings, I won't dwell on the processed veneer of cheese that sealed down the skimpy splodge of marinara sauce over the circular core of the pie. Nor on the salty cradles of pepperoni which weren't entirely unpleasant, other than the minor grievance that they had been left in the oven for too long and looked far removed from the shiny saucers of beefy juiciness that were staring up at me from the flyer. But come now, we have cones to discuss! Let's not waffle over the toppings.
Each stuffed cone was made of pliable, curled-up pizza crust that was far softer and more cushiony than the usual peripheral pizza bones. Pizza Hut had stayed true to its promise, dusting the cones with granules of parmesan that formed a crunchy outer casing, though failed to impart any real cheesy flavor that one would associate with nutty Parmesan.
The chicken stuffing in the cones was shockingly edible. Not only had the chicken strips been pulverized with sweet honey mustard, but Pizza Hut had gone above and beyond by adding little bits of green pepper and onion to the mushy chicken mix. Without these occasional flecks of vegetal crunch, the chicken scoops might have been as pointlessly uni-dimensional as the cones piped with baked blobs of Philadelphia cream cheese.
Which brings us to the question: Why on earth is Pizza Hut so determined to incorporate Philadelphia cream cheese into their pizzas? They had also tried to weasel it in on their crown crust pizzas—you could swap out the burger patties and recrown your pizza with cream cheese gloop. But it's high time that someone melts the cheese on this Pizza Hut myth—swabs of cream cheese randomly splodged on certain areas of the crust is actually not that fun at all.
The big question that had been consuming me, and I'm sure most of you who have studied the Pizza Hut Cone Crust material in detail, is whether the cones are as seamlessly detachable from the rest of the pie as suggested by the dismembered hand raising up a lone cream cheese cone on the flyer?
I was confident that this specific action—tearing away the cone and holding it up proudly like an Olympic torch flaming with dumpy cream cheese—was the cornerstone of Pizza Hut's vision for fun. I'm ecstatic to report that, YES, indeed they are detachable! For all of you unfortunate Serious Eaters who are oceans away from the Middle East, far away from a world where you can each wave your own personal funnel of fun, I have taken that symbolic and fantastically fun-filled step for you.
The verdict? The Cone Crust pizza had undoubtedly been executed far better than its crowned predecessor. While a few of the cones looked a tad bit greasier and sullen than the model cones fanned out in perfect, synchronized, and heavily Photoshopped formations on the glossy brochures, from a visual standpoint, they were arguably quite close to what Pizza Hut Middle East had twirled them up to be. In fact, one might even applaud the creative layout of 3D cones at perfect tangents to a 2D circular crust, finally displaying the real-life value of having laboured over high-school geometry.
However, as our own Dennis Lee rightly predicted in the comments of the Cone Crust announcement, the pizza was a ninja throwing star with the potential for "extremely accurate deliciousness," but it ended up "running me over with a steamroller of culinary disappointment." It doesn't fail to confound me why anyone would throw three completely disparate and incongruent flavors—honey mustard chicken, cream cheese, and pepperoni—on the same pizza. (My argument would hold even if I had changed course and ventured with the Chicken Fajita or Seafood Island toppings.) The pizza was a flailing team whose individual players would only ever come in the way of each other ever scoring a goal.
Now a third raison-d'être for the Crown Crust is a sneaky PR one. If this was a Pizza Hut ploy to garner international publicity for their crusty daredevil designs, I must admit that I am secretly disappointed. After the Crown Crust pandemic, the Cone Crust didn't have the same newsworthy, shock value. A Cone Crust that would have really been worth cooing over would have been one where the cones held delicately positioned, deep-fried ice-cream balls. This would have been the ultimate (and gloriously gross) indulgence—hot pizza and a batter-encrusted frozen dessert on the very same pie.
With Crowns and Cones now under its belt, what will Pizza Hut strive for next?
I've got my hopes pinned on a Crescent Crust Pizza, embedded with moon-shaped Garlic Cheese Breads (the collective shape would be an aesthetic pizza flower as depicted above). But the real test of Pizza Hut's crusty craftiness will be a Cuboidal Crusted Pizza. This AUTOCAD-designed pizza would have six-faced dough cubes rising up from the pizza rim, each holding a bundle of French fries, or your preferred fizzy soda, or both (yep, in the same cuboid).
It's anyone guess as to what strange and alien crusts Pizza Hut Middle East will cook up next, but we'll stay tuned, because if there's anything we've taken away from our two comical crust experiences, it's that:"FunNY starts with Pizza Hut."