Monday, February 7, 2011
Lotte Toppo Marron Cake Sticks
Toppo is Lotte's answer to Glico's Pocky. To avoid looking like a complete copycat, they turned them inside out and created a pretzel straw filled with a sweet cream of one flavor or another instead of dipping the pretzel in chocolate. I've been meaning to review something from the Toppo line for awhile, but hadn't gotten around to it. This chestnut cream cake variety which was placed in my fukubukuro from Okashi no Machioka and pushed up the time-line on my getting to these inverted Pocky sticks.
The Toppo boxes are pretty heavy (42 grams/1.5 oz.) and full of substantial sticks so they usually cost between 150-180 yen each ($1.83-$2.19) depending on where you're getting them. This variety has two foil packs with 7 sticks in each. Each stick is 33 calories so eating one pack will set you back 231 calories. If you don't pay attention to the nutrition information (or can't understand it) and eat the whole thing, you can consume a whopping 462 calories.
The heft comes mainly from the not insubstantial amount of flavored cream in the center of the pretzel tube. I think it'd be interesting to try and drink a hot drink through these, but I imagine that the pretzel exterior would degrade before the filling would warm and melt enough to suck it out. If I were a more adventurous sort, I might try microwaving them to make the filling molten then give my mouth third degree burns by sucking it out. I'm not quite that stupid, but I probably will be after a few more years of snack reviewing.
The sticks smell a bit like malt and caramel. Since one of the ingredients is malt powder, this is not surprise. I have considerable experience with various chestnut cream sweets including the real deal (Mont Blanc) and these are nothing like them. They mainly taste a bit like coffee and caramel. I think that the coffee aspect is an attempt to emulate the roasting of chestnuts as a means of copying the flavor. The caramel is probably some sort of alchemy between whey, cream powder, and chocolate. There's also added caramel flavoring.
It's not really important to me that these actually taste like chestnut cream cake, despite the fact that there are pictures of that type of cake on the front and back of the box. The important point is that it taste good. This is a more complicated question. I like the mix of pretzel with sweet fillings, as I've mentioned before when reviewing the awesome Pucca. These I didn't go for so much. Part of the problem is that the pretzel shell doesn't seem to have as much flavor as Pucca because it's not made with more flavorful rye flour (as Pucca is). Also, the flavor profile of the creamy filling is very shallow. It's sweet, but the coffe/caramel/chestnut notes are conveyed mostly through scent and not actual taste.
These are absolutely not bad at all, and I will finish the box. I just like to get more flavor and not simply have texture and sweetness. If I hadn't gotten this with my "lucky bag", I may well have purchased it for sampling anyway, but I would have been disappointed. I'm not through with Toppo as I want to try the original version (which has been favorably reviewed at Pocky Watch), but I wouldn't buy these again.