30 September, 2014

Sweet Potato Wedges and Garlic Aioli - Darwin, Australia - September 2014

McDonald's Australia Sweet Potato Wedges

Consumed on 27 September 2014
Location - McDonald's Darwin Central, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Price - $3.95AUD = ~$3.44USD
Calories - ~616kcal

The sauce spilt, ruining the receipt

After a slow first half of the year, my travelling has finally picked up back to a level I like it to stay.  My wife and I made a short trip to Manila 2 weeks ago where I tried Mac & Cheese and Mashed Potato, last weekend we went down to Darwin, Australia for 2 days.  I've never had luck with promos in Australia, I've been through 4-5 times now and I've only been able to try a promo burger a single time, the Hot Hawaiian in 2013.  All the other times I've been there when they weren't running any promo.  Even when my sister flew up the World Cup promos a couple months ago, they gave her the wrong (non-promo) pie and messed up the toppings on two of the three burgers.  I read a review of the Sweet Potato Wedges on Lifehacker a couple weeks ago, and because I didn't see the wedges anywhere on the official McDonald's Australia website, I had a feeling that these weren't available everywhere and my bad luck would continue, and it did...at first.  

Sweet Potato Box - Front

Sweet Potato Box - Reverse

On our first afternoon in Darwin, I poked my head into the (surprisingly small) downtown branch and I didn't see these wedges available on the menu. I've almost come to expect is bad luck I have, but I still was disappointed not to be able to try the wedges. I did see the new McMate promo burger, but since it was a bit boring and vastly overpriced, beef burger with two sauces and a slice of ham ($8 for just the burger), I thought about just skipping it entirely.  Luckily, thanks to my wife who was hungry at midnight local time (we ended up skipping a meal on our first day due to our 4am arrival, and time change with Singapore) we ended up back in that same McDonald's later that evening to try the McMate - that review to come over the next few days! Apparently there was a low hanging sign promoting a McFlurry that was blocking my view of their sign for these Sweet Potato Wedges and they did indeed serve it!  I bit the bullet and ordered the $3.95 small box of wedges.

They never told me that I needed to wait long (not that I wouldn't have) but it took almost 10 minutes for these to be prepared and served.  Thankfully our hotel was just a block away, and we opted to take our food to go, as this was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've had in a McDonald's. Since it was a Saturday evening and being the only McDonald's surrounded by numerous bars and pubs this small branch was completely full with loud, drunk and aggressive 20-somethings (with a homeless or two nursing a coffee).  Everyone was drunkenly yelling at everyone else, including the staff, and it was clear that we were the only two sober people looking to get food at this time.  There were even racist remarks being said to the staff from people as they were queuing or waiting for their food, and the manager said absolutely nothing to anyone.  I would have refused him service and kicked him out.  My wife was clearly uncomfortable and ready to get out as soon as we had our food.

It was only a couple minute walk back to the hotel, and when we got to our room and cracked open the box, they were still very hot and had a nice golden orange colour, unlike the dark soggy looking ones that Lifehacker reviewed.  There were only about 8-10 wedges in the box, which made it rather poor value at $4, but at least each piece was meaty and pretty big.  I took my first bite sans the dipping sauce and found that the dark orange hue was indeed throughout the entire wedge.  The outside had a rather impressive, but not overcooked crisp to it, and the centre was a firm, but still soft texture. McDonald's standard fries are all the same width, and most are the same length, which make it easy to throw in the fryer for a certain amount of time and they end up being the same every time.  These wedges widely varied in size, so I really am impressed by how well every single piece was cooked, someone at that branch is indeed skilful with a fryer. These really did have everything going for them, they were large, perfectly cooked and they even left the skin on the potato (which always is a plus in my book) but unfortunately the taste was just a bit...meh.

My wife, being Korean just assumed that the potato used would have been the dark purple skin variety that is common in North Asia.  These orange sweet potatoes do have a slightly different taste which neither of us were all that used to, I didn't grow up eating sweet potato at all and only really had them frequently when living in Korea.  I can't blame McDonald's Australia for using native strains of sweet potato for their wedges, but both of us agreed that these would have been better using the purple variety.  That said, these were not terrible, they probably would have been better with a bit of seasoning, as they didn't even have a sprinkling of salt on them.  I guess the the Garlic Aioli dipping sauce was supposed to be the seasoning, but that sauce a complete let down though since it was neither garlicky or creamy... it was beyond bland.  The sweetness of the potato needed that garlic and this sauce just didn't bring out the flavour, it just took away from the natural flavours from the potato. A black pepper dipping sauce would have worked well, but hopefully better than the one I had from France earlier this year.

McDonald's Australia Garlic Aioli Sauce

If you are a fan of sweet potato fries, and can bring yourself to spend the $3.95 for the 8 wedges, they are probably worth a try, you just might want to bring your own sauce.  

Rating - 3/5

This isn't the first Sweet Potato item I've had from McDonald's.  Before I started this blog I had the Sweet Potato Pie in Hong Kong back in 2011.  Looks like I wasn't a huge fan back then either.