Review: I Tried McDonald's Sweet Chilli Fish Burger So You Don't Have To
The hype building up around the release of McDonald's newest and greatest limited edition menu is palpable. On 1st March 2018, McDonald's let loose on the food-hungry population of Singapore their rendition of Fish & Fries, Sweet Chilli Fish Burger, and Chocolate Pie.
In all honesty, I was rather excited about this release not because I've tried these items in overseas outlet before, but simply because it has been a while since McDonald's released a menu this different and so far in variety from what they're known for. My excitement reached a new high when I asked a friend working at McDonald's if she could sneak out a chocolate pie for me a day before. "I'm sure the stock is already in the freezer waiting to be fried. I doubt they will send the new items on the day of the launch itself," I presented my case succinctly. Unfortunately, said contact was unable to procure me an early tasting of the chocolate pie, so I had to wait like a plebian for the new items to be released.
My outlet of choice for this review was, of course, the mothership at Stadium Boulevard. I reached at four-thirty pm, the sun still visible on the horizon. Marching up to the counter, I saw that McDonald's has created a meal bundle of their new items (mains plus Chocolate pie) which is probably (though I cannot confirm this) cheaper than buying the items separately. I opted to collect the chocolate pie later (like a true food lover) so that I can have it fresh and piping hot for the purpose of objective reviewing.
This is my review.
To quote the greatest English poet of the eighteenth century, Alexander Pope: "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” But nothing could prepare me for the immense letdown of this (faux) fish burger. Did it ever cross my mind that McDonald's could get this wrong? Definitely. Was I hoping for the very best? Almost certainly.
With new food items, McDonald's tend to err on the side of being penurious. One just needs to recall the huge kerfuffle over their Cheesy Fries (too little cheese sauce, too little mayonnaise) or their Nasi Lemak Burger (too little sambal) to know that this is true. Unfortunately, the same level of contempt has been imposed on the Sweet Chili Fish Burger. Allow me, please, to break it down for you.
The Sweet Chilli Fish Burger starts with the bun. According to sources online, the bun is a Chilli bun. Apparently, the red specks that dot the bread are chilli flakes and not utilised aesthetically as a pop of colour. But don't despair if you cannot tell the difference between this bun and a loaf of Gardenia bread because there really isn't. Perhaps McDonald's wanted our senses elevated with the slight kick of spice from the bun. Perhaps they wanted to try something new in which case I politely ask: why inflict such experimentation on your paying customers? I just wanted to eat fish, damn it!
Between the prosaic excuse for a carbohydrate, lies a slab of battered white fish, fried to golden crispy perfection. The fish was flaky enough, sufficiently crispy, but hardly something to sigh in satisfaction over. It tastes like a culinary afterthought, prepared by a chef who probably missed a lesson last week about seasoning. It's so peculiar to me for the fish to be bland especially when it is this heavily battered.
And then we have the sauce. If I were to guess the recommended, management-approved amount of this sweet chilli sauce to dispense, it would probably be one tablespoon (or less). Why McDonald's? Why the insincerity? Is there a nationwide outage of sweet chilli sauce you're not telling us about? Did you think the name of the item you're selling should merely be an abstraction? An exercise in imagination?
Oh, how you lie, McDonald's. We were seduced by the beautifully produced collaterals that have been distributed online, where the fish is plump, the sauce overflows, and all is right with the world. The truth couldn't be further than the deceit you've crafted to get us into the store to spend money on fish that is unspectacular and a complete waste of calories.
Now, for the pièce de résistance of this afternoon's meal. Could the Chocolate Pie live up to it's virality as the golden dessert that has somehow missed our shores but available in Korea, Thailand, and Japan? Could the Chocolate Pie redeem what little respect is left after a completely unsatisfying meal of Fish and lies?
Unfortunately, it cannot. Following in the theme of expectations, I expected to be surprised to silence by the Chocolate Pie. I imagined myself savouring its molten chocolate center, balanced by a crunchy exterior that would only make you want more.
But in reality, the molten chocolate was pedestrian; too heavy-handed with the bitterness of cocoa and mild on the sweetness that should rightfully accompany a dessert of this repute. Diners who are unfortunately robbed of their sweet tooth, will find this dessert too rich for consumption, while the rest of us might bemoan its lack of saccharine elegance.
Maybe a fish lover would enjoy the new items on McDonald's menu. Perhaps a true chocolate aficionado would appreciate the taste of Chocolate pie. But I highly doubt it. McDonald's latest offering is a textbook exercise in laziness, insincerity, and a lack of passion for the very thing that has kept their fans around from childhood to adulthood; Food. It is entirely possible that McDonald's is waiting for a huge public outcry from customers all over social media. Maybe they're waiting for a competitor to execute a better version of what they've created.
But in the absence of such uprising and reactions, what does it say about a company whose default approach to a new menu is one that is lackluster, muted, and uninspired? If you do want to partake in this new menu, I suggest you traipse down to your nearest McDonald's soon, because I'm certain these items will not enjoy an extended shelf life beyond its mundanity of taste and novelty.