Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: Mont Blanc-flavoured Calbee potato chips. Crisps, to us Brits.
Mont Blanc is a dessert made with pureed chestnuts. Looks a bit like worms, you know the one. It's not exactly the first thing you'd think of when considering new crisp flavours.
But Calbee thought of it, and so here we are.
The press release on the Calbee website (in Japanese only) explains this is a special collaboration. With, uh... pro wrestler Togi 'Sweets' Makabe. That's him on the packaging, covered in metal chains. And yelling about how 'super delicious' these crisps are.
Mont Blanc was chosen out of 10 types of flavours. Makabe-san is said to have tried them all - 888 crisps in total - on the quest for the ideal crunchy potato snack.
His 'speech' on the pack claims they were all wonderful and that he had terrible trouble deciding. Cringe. 'Write like you speak' is usually a good idea, unless you speak like a cross between a gang member and an anime character.
This is an attempt to capitalise on the increasing number of female fans of pro wrestling. Makabe-san's popular with the ladies. And it's the first time the brand's ever worked with a wrestler to create a new product. How 'bout that?
As usual, this flavour's a limited edition. More limited than most, available only from early November to mid December. Calbee has also restricted these crisps to convenience stores - you won't find them in Japanese supermarkets. So this review had to be done, in case I never saw a bag of the stuff ever again.
True to the press release's claims, a waft of chestnut floats up when you open the bag. The crisps themselves look suspiciously normal. No brown colour or dusty flavour coating.
The taste is strange. It's meant to be a sweet and creamy flavour, and that effect is odd. I've eaten chips with sugar before, and it worked surprisingly well. Sweet potato is great.
The flavours used in these crisps don't gel together. The taste is like ready salted crisps covered in Mont Blanc flavour, like a last-minute change or an afterthought. If they were just sweet crisps it might be alright, but the salt flavour comes through and wrecks it.
So these potato chips aren't the best that Calbee's ever produced. (In my humble opinion, that honour goes to 'consomme double punch'. The bog standard consomme's alright but needs more oomph.)
They are, however, a little addictive at first. Most of the time, I know from the first bite of something whether I'm going to enjoy the rest. The 'what the hell is that flavour?' factor lead me to chow down on more Mont Blanc crisps than was probably wise.
I did reach a point where I wanted to stop eating these. It was further into the bag than I expected... so I can't mark them down too far.
Verdict: 5/10. Stick to what you do best, Makabe-san.