Alaska pollock's biggest new marketing coup, landing breaded and bite-sized as a new item on the menu of a global fast food powerhouse, may have turned up the heat on a controversy already simmering between Alaska salmon fishermen and members of the $1-billion pollock industry, but how do the new pollock nuggets taste?
McDonald's Fish McBites -- made with certified sustainable Alaska pollock and "popped from the sea" -- were introduced for a limited time nationwide on Feb. 12, the day before Lent, and reviews have been rolling in. Even though one recent study finds that most Americans care about purchasing sustainably caught fish, reviews of McDonald's Fish McBites are thus far mixed. And at least one of them is hilariously, mockingly negative.
The general consensus seems to be that the pollock bites taste exactly like the Filet-O-Fish sandwich, without the bun or cheese. The similarity is no coincidence; the fried Filet-O-Fish patty is also made from Alaska pollock.
"Although a perfect clone tastewise, (the McBites) didn't seem as satisfying as the actual sandwich itself," one reviewer writes.
"It's consistent with the taste of the Filet-O-Fish patty even though the breading is completely different." writes another.
Some people report enjoying the taste, and the snackable size of the morsels seems to go over well. One attribute that reviewers have added to the 'pro' column is a melt-in-your-mouth texture, so tender that one reviewer questioned whether the fish was truly wild-caught:
These feel like soft and lazy fish; either that, or heavily processed," he writes. "When you can't rely on taste (and this being McDonald's, of course you can't, because every item tastes the same), texture matters. And texture is what'll induce you to suck these down.
Cons include too much breading ("Imagine the most heavily-breaded fish stick you've ever eaten. Did you enjoy it? If so, you will probably like these," one reviewer writes), a "fishy" smell, and an overall blandness that relies too heavily on dipping sauce as a flavor-savior.
Overall, most people seem underwhelmed. Yet while most reviews are mixed, and a handful are definitely positive, at least one set of reviewers seems legitimately revolted by Alaska pollock Fish McBites. The comedy team of NPR's news quiz show, "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me," has unleashed a barrage of insults against the fish nuggets in their satirical column "Sandwich Monday."
They begin by outlining the seriousness of this new addition:
The McDonald's menu is a sacred document, like the Constitution. You can't just add things willy-nilly. It took hard work and sacrifice to add the Fourth Amendment, the McRib, and the Twenty-third Amendment, the Snack Wrap. Now, a new item called Fish McBites seeks ratification.
But unfortunately, Fish McBites did not receive the necessary votes from reviewers, and thus cannot stand next to such cherished items as the Big Mac and Chicken McNuggets:
Mike: The special container makes it easy to eat while driving ... to your colon cleanse.
Eva: It is clever. An even better container would be one that doesn't open so you don't have to eat these.
Miles: Fish McBites are definitive proof that things are most assuredly not better down where it's wetter, under the sea.
Peter: I threw them into a dumpster, because, you know, catch and release.
Needless to say, the Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me crew probably won't be stopping in for more Fish McBites anytime soon.
Editor's note: No Fish McBites were harmed in the writing of this article. Have you tried McDonald's new fish nuggets? Leave your own review in the comments below.
Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com.