REVIEW: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

When I dream I often come across magical dream items I wish existed in real life. If only I could Inception myself or have a dream thief Inception me (That thought makes me all warm and tingly) so these mystic items could be extracted into reality.

I mean, imagine if you could have a guitar that doubles as a television remote. Then you wouldn’t have to stop playing for a moment to turn the channel! Or a toothbrush that simultaneously flosses your teeth and then rinses your mouth with Listerine. Sure it sounds dangerous, and it probably is, but you’d still want one. I know I would.

So when I encountered McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake on a walk through Osaka, I bit myself as hard as I could on the hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Pinching yourself is so outdated. Get with the dream times, people! The milkshake was real (as was the blood running down my hand and arm) so I wasted no time in going in and getting one.

Irasshaimase!!!” said the workers.

Expect to hear this whenever you walk into just about anywhere in Japan. One time I swear I heard a toilet say it to me as I entered a restroom.

After using my pathetic routine of pointing at the item I want and saying “this one, please” in Japanese and the magic dream item extraction began. Now I know purple sweet potatoes are a real thing, but come on, when do you ever see one of them? I’m close to 30 and I have yet to encounter one, so to me this is as magical a milkshake as there is.

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan) 2

The color was very off-putting. It is a vibrant purple, which is really confusing because you think it will taste like black raspberry, or grape, or just something that is purple, yet the shake is similar to a traditional sweet potato with the orange center. It not only tastes like one, it tastes like one that has been buttered. I shit you not.

McDonald’s was able to replicate this Thanksgiving staple without being overly rich. A welcome surprise. The shake is not triple-thick like the ones in America, so you don’t have to worry about any “God Damn It All The Shake Won’t Come Through the Straw” frustrations. It’s a tad thinner than I usually like my milkshakes but the flavor more than made up for it.

Now I personally love buttered sweet potatoes, so for me this shake was amazing but I could see some people not liking it just because it doesn’t seem like a milkshake flavor that is meant to be.

The one real obstacle you have with this milkshake is the psychological game it plays with you. Imagine if you were given a milkshake that appeared to be vanilla but in fact it tasted like strawberry, or a chocolate-seeming milkshake that in fact tasted like butter pecan. Can you say, “mind fuck?” I can! It’s actually fun to say, rolls off the tongue really well. Give it a try!

So to amplify the MF experience, I drank the milkshake while walking through the famous Dotonbori area in Osaka, which is filled with all sorts of crazy mechanical crabs, electronic signs, and numerous oddities, not to mention the thousands of people walking about trying to decide which delicacy to try.

If you had told me, “Hey, Trev, you’re tripping balls right now,” I wouldn’t have disagreed with you. I would’ve been angry at you for slipping me something, but only for a minute, because what’s the point in getting angry?

Now I can’t tell you to hop on a flight, go to Japan and get this McShake because…wait, no, I can tell you whatever I want. So go book a flight, preferably leaving tomorrow, fly into Tokyo or Osaka, get the McShake and then do whatever else you want.

If you don’t speak Japanese, no worries! A combination of pointing, the words, “I don’t understand,” and crying will get you through most situations.

Ganbatte!

(Nutrition Facts – (Editor’s Note: I’d like to put the nutrition facts here, but I don’t know where it is on the McDonald’s Japan website.))

Item: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)
Purchased Price: 195 yen
Size: Medkum
Purchased at: McDonald’s Japan
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Actually tastes like a sweet potato. Buttery flavor is delicious and a minor miracle. Being in Japan. Being incepted.
Cons: Milkshake is a tad thin. Dollar to yen confusion. Irasshaimase gets old fast. Shake is a real mind fuck.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Jalapeño Double

McDonald's Jalapeno Double

If you’re looking for a hot, cheap date, I recommend sitting under a phoenix dactylifera during an African summer. But if you’re looking for a hot, cheap burger, I’d recommend McDonald’s Jalapeno Double.

For two dollars, you get two beef patties, a slice of white cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeno slices, jalapeno crisps, buttermilk ranch sauce, a regular bun, a paper bag, and napkins. Although, through my experience, there’s a 10 percent chance you won’t get napkins.

My McDonald’s Jalapeno Double was topped with seven pickled jalapeno slices. I took that as a sign that I was going to get lucky and taste something good or Ray Kroc was smiling down at me…hoping I burn my mouth for all the negative McDonald’s reviews I’ve written.

Fortunately for me, it was the former.

While my burger had a nacho’s worth of pickled jalapenos, I can’t say there were a lot of jalapeno crisps. What are jalapeno crisps? That’s a good question. You should be a journalist. Looking at their appearance and ingredients (jalapeno peppers, enriched flour, sunflower oil and/or safflower oil and/or canola oil, and salt), which I didn’t include to increase this review’s word count, I assume they’re jalapeno bits that have been coated with flour and then deep fried to near oblivion.

McDonald's Jalapeno Double Topless

The jalapeno crisps provide very little jalapeno flavor. I think they’re really there to give the burger a bit of crunchiness, which they also don’t go a good job of because there’s so few of them. However, the pickled jalapeno slices completely make up for jalapeño crisps’ lack of flavor and crunch.

As for the burger’s heat, the pickled peppers made my burger hole warm, but not uncomfortably so. Or, if you want to use a scale of heat that uses McDonald’s products as references, then it’s spicier than their Hot Mustard Sauce, but not as hot as their habanero sauces.

Perhaps the reason why, with seven jalapeño slices, the burger isn’t burning my mouth is the buttermilk ranch sauce. It has that familiar ranch salad dressing flavor many of us use to make vegetables tolerable, but the flavor goes in and out like a radio signal through a series of tunnels. I found that weird because there’s enough ranch sauce on the burger to make a McNugget jealous.

Speaking of the McNugget’s Creamy Ranch Sauce, it’s not the same sauce on this burger. To prove it and to definitely inflate this review’s word count, I’ve listed the ingredients below.

The McNugget’s Creamy Ranch Sauce is made up of soybean oil, water, cultured lowfat buttermilk, distilled vinegar, sugar, egg yolks, sea salt, garlic juice, xanthan gum, salt, lactic acid, spices, modified guar gum, onion powder, natural flavor, potassium sorbate, autolyzed torula yeast extract, parsley, and calcium disodium EDTA.

The burger’s buttermilk ranch sauce has soybean oil, cultured buttermilk, water, sour cream, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, maltodextrin, salt, dextrose, modified food starch, soy sauce, dried onion, garlic powder, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, shallots, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, xanthan gum, spice, phosphoric acid, sodium acid sulfate, propylene glycol alginate, and autolyzed yeast extract.

Like the ranch sauce, the cheese shows itself every so often and seems to help temper the jalapeños. I wish McDonald’s offered a pepper jack cheese, because that would’ve been a nice addition here.

McDonald's Jalapeno Double Wrapper

The McDonald’s Jalapeno Double tastes like a McDouble with jalapenos, and that’s fine and disappointing at the same time. It’s fine because it’s a tasty combination and it’s only two bucks. It’s disappointing because they added ranch sauce and jalapeño crisps to make it more than just a McDouble with jalapeños, but those ingredients don’t do a good job at it. They seem unnecessary, like listing the ingredients for the jalapeño crisps and the two ranch sauces in this review.

(Nutrition Facts – 430 calories, 23 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 22 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Jalapeño Double
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A spicy McDouble. Worth the two dollars. Strong jalapeño flavor with a warm heat. Crunchy jalapeño slices. Cheese is a great glue that keeps the beef patties together.
Cons: Listing ingredients to add to a review’s word count. Ranch sauce doesn’t stick out. Jalapeño crisps didn’t add much flavor or crunch. Ray Kroc haunting me.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (Canada)

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 1

Remember when McDonald’s was unabashedly a burger joint? This was before people like Eric Schlosser and Morgan Spurlock entered the scene and made people look at the Golden Arches a bit more critically.

Seemingly overnight it was decided that if parents are foolhardy enough to take their child to McDonald’s on a daily basis and the kid inevitably grows fat and unhealthy, that’s Ronald’s fault, not the parents’. McDonald’s went into damage control mode, falling over itself to introduce healthy items like salads, wraps, and apple slices (never mind that the average McWrap is almost as calorific and fat-laden as a Big Mac).

Of course, burgers are still McDonald’s bread and butter, but they almost seem ashamed of that fact. Here in Canada, I can’t even remember the last new burger they added to the menu. The Angus Third Pounders, I guess? And that was a few years ago. As someone who can remember when McDonald’s used to reliably come out with a new burger every month or two (or every month exactly under the Burger of the Month promotion that ran for a while in the ’90s), it makes me a bit sad.

But let me stop ranting and get to the matter at hand: McDonald’s latest new non-burger item, the Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?). It consists of crispy shrimp, grilled vegetables, lettuce, and Thai sauce, wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 3

The shrimp is surprisingly okay. The breading is nice and crispy, and the medium-sized morsels aren’t terribly overcooked. They’re a bit tough, but for the most part they avoid the rubberiness you might expect. They almost seem to be there more for texture than anything else; there’s a very vague shrimpy flavour, but otherwise the veggies and the very sweet sauce were clearly dominant.

Still, when it comes to something with as much potential to go wrong as seafood, I’ll take no flavour over bad flavour. No one’s going to confuse them for shrimp from a good seafood restaurant, but for what it is, it’s not bad. It helped that they were hot and fresh in my McWrap, but obviously your mileage may vary.

The veggies are the usual assortment of stir-fry selections — carrots, peppers, peas, bamboo shoots, etc. They’re fine; like with the shrimp, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were fairly well cooked. They’re soft without being mushy; firm without being crunchy and undercooked.

The obligatory lettuce does what the obligatory lettuce always does — it adds some fresh crunchiness and makes you feel like maybe you’re eating something healthy.

The sauce is the same one from the Sweet Chili McWrap. It’s sweet and tangy, with a bit of a garlicky hit and the faintest undertones of spiciness. It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that stayed with me all afternoon, but other than that it’s not bad. It’s a sauce that would feel right at home at a Panda Express — with the overall effect being that the wrap tastes like they took a dish from that restaurant and wrapped it up in a tortilla with some veggies.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 2

It’s not bad. I think it adds up to less than the sum of its parts, because while there’s nothing about it that was outright bad, I can’t particularly foresee a scenario in which I’d ever want to order it again. It’s certainly not my favourite of the McWraps (that would be, oddly enough, the entirely vegetarian Santa Fe McWrap), but if you’re curious about how McDonald’s has handled shrimp, you won’t be horrified. That’s a ringing endorsement, isn’t it? “You won’t be horrified.” Feel free to quote me on your marketing, McDonald’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1310 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fibre, 16 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crispy shrimp. Well-cooked veggies. Decent sauce.
Cons: Shrimp is slightly overcooked. Sauce has an unpleasant aftertaste. Inspires apathy. Makes me remember how much I miss the Burger of the Month.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 1

McDonald’s seems to be going all-in with their poutines — though they only rolled out the regular one outside of Quebec fairly recently, they’re already starting to add variations to the menu.

A poutine can easily be a base for other stuff, and it’s easy enough for them to throw on ingredients that they’ve already got lying around. If this does well, it’s safe to assume that we can look forward to all kinds of poutine varieties (I’m holding out for the Big Mac poutine — I’m dead serious, I want that in my belly immediately). But first: the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine.

The base is the standard McDonald’s poutine: same gravy, same curds, same fries. I basically liked that, so it’s not a horrible base to start with. Added on top are chicken pieces, Buffalo sauce, and green onions.

The woman behind the counter asked whether I wanted the chicken crispy or grilled; of course, I went with crispy. Because, let’s face it, it’s a poutine. I want it all fried. All of it. Can we just mash the whole thing into a ball and fry that too? How about my beverage, can I fry that? Heck, you may as well fry a Happy Meal toy and throw that in too. Because why the hell not, that’s why.

The chicken is the same type of chicken strip they use for their Snack Wrap, which is chopped into pieces. Though it does add some meaty substance to an already fairly substantial dish, the real differentiator is the spicy Buffalo sauce. It’s actually a pretty great addition. It adds a nice vinegary kick that helps to cut some of the richness from the gravy and the cheese; it also adds some of the flavour that the ho-hum gravy is lacking. It’s a surprisingly effective compliment to the overall poutine. But I wish it were a bit hotter; it has enough heat for you to recognize that you’re eating something spicy, but not enough to cause any real discomfort.

The green onions, however, add very little, aside from an aftertaste; between the salty gravy and cheese, and the vinegary Buffalo sauce, they get almost completely lost. All they did was force me to spend the rest of the afternoon with that taste in my mouth.

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 2

Of course, I can’t get through this review without acknowledging that it’s not the most attractive dish ever. A poutine isn’t particularly presentable to begin with, but somehow this is even uglier than usual. Maybe it’s the way the Buffalo sauce has been globbed onto the chicken as though it were some kind of hot red toothpaste, but the whole thing looks quite unappealing. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that it’s better than it looks.

It reminded me a bit of KFC’s Famous Bowls (or as Patton Oswalt calls them, failure piles in a sadness bowl). Maybe it’s the chicken on top, or maybe it’s the fact that the fries get so thoroughly soggy that they barely have more structural integrity than a bowl of mashed potatoes. Still, they do retain a modicum of their French fry-ness, and the overall dish is more appealing than a Famous Bowl.

I liked it; the base poutine is decent enough, and the additions (mostly) improve things. It’s also a pretty decent value at five bucks. The box isn’t particularly huge, but it has heft. Picking it up, I was surprised at how heavy it was. It won’t make you the fullest you’ve ever been, but you will be satisfied.

(Nutrition Facts – 640 calories, 37 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1640 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)
Purchased Price: $4.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Decent poutine base. Spicy Buffalo sauce compliments the poutine quite well. Fried.
Cons: Fries immediately sog up. Useless green onions. Not particularly spicy. Looks gross. Inability to have them mash it into a ball and fry the whole thing.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Horchata Frappe

McDonald’s Horchata Frappe

Horchata is a white-ish drink often seen in Mexican restaurants in those giant beehive-shaped containers. It’s pronounced or-chah-tah, and it’s really fun to say. Try it. Or-chah-tah. Or-chah-tah. Sorry, cellar door. There’s a new best word. It should be a celebrity child’s name, except if people don’t know how to pronounce it correctly and it was a girl, it kinda looks like it starts with “whore.” It’d probably work ironically, like a boy named Sue. Yeah, probably. “Horchata Cruise.” “Horchata West.” Let’s all make a pact. We all agree to name our first (or next) born “Horchata.” Reading this review is an implicit binding contract. Too late, you started already. It’s done.

Back to the drink. While regional variations exist, the version I am familiar with tastes like it’s made of rice, sometimes steeped in nuts, with a healthy dose of cinnamon up on top and over ice. The refreshing beverage goes particularly well with tacos and burritos, though you’re eating tacos and burritos. You could say garbage water goes particularly well with tacos and burritos. Ever had a Jarritos with Mexican food? It’s way too sweet. But still had that burrito. So it’s still a win. Not just a win. A Seahawks over Broncos win. Though I will say, the first time I drank horchata I thought it tasted a little like watered-down milk.

McDonald’s is taking advantage of the fact that Southern California’s immense Hispanic population and pumping out a McCafe coffee version of the horchata drink. Additionally, I noticed that between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., if you buy one frappe, you get another free. They’re calling it a “social hour.” I remember reading somewhere that McDonald’s décor is made to be unpleasant, because they have such a strong brand and they know we will all eat at the restaurant, but they want you to leave quickly so they can serve more customers. Make up your mind, Ronald. You want book clubs and Algonquin roundtable meetings between two and five, but when I cannonball into the Play Place ball pit you tell me to “put back on my shirt.” How do you know I’m not just an overgrown eight year-old? Stop putting hormones in your meat.

The horchata frappe is pretty decent, but it’s complicated. Imagine the taste of rice and nuts. Not the most in-your-face flavor bombs. But coffee? Coffee is the beast of the taste world. They use coffee in lab tests to reset smell-buds. I think they use coffee to defeat Godzilla in that new movie. Everybody rolls around in coffee grounds and it can’t smell humans anymore. It would overpower poor Nuts and Rice. Thus, there is little coffee flavoring in the frappe. It’s basically an horchata milkshake. And you know how cold tends to strangle certain flavors? Cold is so powerful I think that’s how they defeat Godzilla in that new movie. They freeze dry the lizard. This frappe is cold. Real cold. And honestly a lot of the flavor in the drink is overpowered by how numbingly cold it is.

Near the end of the frappe, when the whipped cream melts into the liquid and the ice is drank away, there is the real drink. It was in there the whole time, like a loved one possessed by the devil. It has a light cinnamon-vanilla flavoring (the drink is made with vanilla syrup), and maybe a small hit of rice-milk flavor, like barely detectable. It does not taste like it’s been steeped in nuts. You know what’s been steeped in nuts, though? I’ve held your hand this far. Write your own joke.

The attempt at subtle flavoring is admirable on McDonald’s part, and it was a pretty nice treat at a good price point. It’s thick like a milkshake so it might be hard to sit there and wait for it to heat up to the exact point when it would be ideal to drink it for maximum flavor. Maybe that’s why two to five is social hour. It takes three hours to get peak frappe. Like standing on a boat at 5 a.m. on vacation watching glaciers fall apart.

With the whipped cream mixed in, the fats boosted the flavoring and I would recommend trying to get a side of whipped cream or bringing your own can. That recommendation extends to all restaurants, however. I’m not sure this flavor is going to be launched nationwide but the unfamiliarity of horchata will probably keep it a regional item. But when she’s old enough, you can put Baby Horchata on a plane for a birthright quest to grab it, if it’s still around. 

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable on website or anywhere else.)

Item: McDonald’s Horchata Frappe
Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Medium
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Interesting, pleasant flavor. Works well in frozen treat format.
Cons: Coldness overpowers the subtler horchata flavoring. Not enough rice, nutty taste.