Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to two of the latest restaurants serving up the plant protein-based "Impossible Burger."
The Impossible Burger, as you may have heard, is an entirely plant-based creation that, unlike all other vegetarian options that have come before, actually looks, cooks, and even "bleeds" just like its bovine doppelgänger. Its creators at Impossible Foods purport that the patty tastes exactly like beef as well, but I'll get to that part in a minute. (Note: this is different but very similar to the Beyond Burger that you can now buy in the meat department of Whole Foods.)
This meatless miracle made its first appearance in NYC last summer at Momofuku Nishi, but over the weekend two more downtown restaurants put the Impossible Burger, dressed up in new ways, on their menus: the Michelin-starred Public, and Saxon + Parole, both kitchens under the auspices of Executive Chef Brad Farmerie.
I hadn't eaten at either place before, but they were both exactly as sceney as their locations (prime Elizabeth Street Nolita; prime party-zone Bowery) and prices would suggest. Even though I was clearly a low-roller, the managers, servers, and bartenders at both spots were warm and welcoming.
At Public, I wound up eating in the restaurant's on-premises sister tavern, The Daily. (Though you can now even make reservations for the bar, which is great for solo diners.)
At The Daily/Public, Farmerie gussies up the patty with a Middle Eastern hot sauce called muhammara. There's also lots of melted cheddar (so while the patty is vegan, the sandwich is not), sweet relish, and some fresh bitter greens. The bun is seeded and little more dense than I usually like, but the whole package—complete with crisp potato sticks—definitely makes for a good tasting sandwich.
At Saxon + Parole, Farmerie ups the earthiness by piling on mushrooms and onions along with two thick sauces—one mushroom, one truffle, the latter of which is drizzled with a deft hand, so doesn't overwhelm—as well as the traditional lettuce-tomato-pickle-ketchup condiments on the side. The accompanying thick-cut fries aren't as good as the crispy ones served at Public, though they're possibly a bit more filling.
Here's the thing however: the Impossible Burger itself, though remarkable for its mouthfeel and meaty look (it really is "bloody"!), lacks an essential animalistic tang and gaminess that a first-rate beef burger brings. It also didn't quite satisfy me like a hunk of meat would, either. Within two hours of wolfing my meal I was hungry again.
Whether at Public or Saxon + Parole, the Impossible Burger is an admirable and largely successful step in the right direction. It tastes good and, per the press release, the vegan mix "uses 75% less water, generates 87% fewer greenhouse gases and requires 95% less land than conventional ground beef from cows." If this is the future, and it may need to be, Farmerie and crew are now offering a sneak preview well-worth experiencing for yourself.
Public and The Daily are located at 210 Elizabeth Street between Prince and Spring (212-343-7011; public-nyc.com)
Saxon + Parole is located at 316 Bowery between Bleecker and Houston (212-254-0350; saxonandparole.com)