Stop! In the name of the claw!
The latest McDonald's menu offering contains actual (seriously) lobster, but doesn't have a whiff of authenticity
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/06/2015 (2612 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When the world’s most famous fast-food chain starts pushing a luxury menu item, you’d have to be dead inside not to be curious about the result.
Until the end of June, McDonald’s outlets across Canada are selling an item previously available only in Atlantic Canada: The McLobster, the burger giant’s version of a lobster roll.
Given fast food’s flagging fortunes, the sale of a menu item containing lobster could be written off as a publicity stunt for McDonald’s, a name synonymous with cheap and unhealthy processed food.
But the presence of this sandwich in every Golden Arches location north of the U.S., even for a mere two weeks, suggests the chain is gauging the appetite for more expensive offerings on a somewhat serious basis.
In order for that exercise to be successful, the McLobster must not suck. At $7.49, it has to be tasty enough to warrant a one-time change from the guilty-pleasure greasiness of a Quarter Pounder.
The McLobster also cannot be an absolute disaster, like the bizarre formed-patty weirdness of the McRib, which was less of a foodstuff than a Fear Factor challenge to endure.
The McLobster has the advantage, at least in Manitoba, of something akin to novelty. Though many consumers have eaten lobster at some point, few on the Prairies have the intimate acquaintance of the lobster roll, a staple of the North Atlantic coast, found from Canada’s Maritimes through New England and into Long Island.
Sold everywhere from roadside fry shacks to high-end restaurants, the simple lobster roll is a sandwich with a symphony of flavour and texture, as it combines the sweetness of cold lobster with the comforting chewiness of a warm, buttered hotdog bun.
Traditionally, a lobster roll consists of nothing more than steamed lobster meat, which is chilled, chopped into chunks and then tossed with diced celery in a light mayonnaise before getting stuffed into an open hotdog bun that’s been buttered and toasted on both sides. Sometimes there is lettuce in the roll; often there is none.
If the bun isn’t golden and crispy on all exterior surfaces and both soft and chewy on the interior, the lobster roll is a failure. If the filling has too much of the spongy stuff from the small, flavourless “finger” of the lobster claw and not enough tasty knuckle and claw meat, the lobster roll is a failure.
From the north shore of New Brunswick to the heart of New York City, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 for a good lobster roll. Hence the low expectations for the $7.49 sandwich McDonald’s is offering Canadians.
Well there’s that, and the fact we are talking about freakin’ McDonald’s, the epitome of all that is supposed to be nasty and indecent in the minds of people who love food, whether or not they admit to scarfing down an occasional McMuffin or Big Mac.
So in the interest of, um… research, I purchased a McLobster. My first impression was the cardboard packaging was small, but what the heck did I expect from a McDonald’s?
Opening the sandwich, I was surprised to see actual lobster meat strewn about a bun with an awful lot of lettuce and some sort of gloopy sauce. There were identifiable claw-meat pieces. I picked out a chunk and it tasted like over-steamed lobster; not unpleasant, but not very sweet.
(Lobster is like pizza and sex: Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.)
The McLobster sauce, a lemony mayo, was way too sugary, as you might expect. But that didn’t destroy the sandwich.
What killed the McLobster was the one thing you’d expect a fast-food chain to do well: toast a hotdog bun. The McLobster bun was sufficiently soft inside, but neither crispy enough nor buttery enough on the outside. There wasn’t enough textural and temperature contrast between the McLobster filling and its exterior.
All in all, this was an interesting way to spend $7.49, plus taxes. But it is nothing I will ever McDo again.
Updated on Monday, June 22, 2015 8:37 AM CDT: Replaces photo