Is plant-based meat «Beyond Meat» any good?
«I don’t want to give too much away,» my workmate David tells me, «but try the purely vegan one AND the cheeseburger». He had given the burgers a go a few days before me. The cheese used in the vegan «Plant Based Burger» is made from cashew nuts, and the brioche bun does not contain butter. Frankly, I’m sceptical. To be on the safe side, I also order the double cheeseburger. We’re talking regular brioche and regular cheese. With a cocktail sauce. No experiments.
I'm gonna jump on the hype train
The hype surrounding the first truly meat-like burger is huge. It’s after 2 p.m. and the «Helvti» restaurant at Zurich's Stauffacher is still really busy. It takes a few minutes until we are served. «What are you expecting?» photographer Thomas asks me. «Meat. Meat that isn’t meat.» Thomas says nothing in reply but gives me a puzzled look. I don’t blame him. After all, I gave him an answer that wasn’t really an answer. «Ideally, it should have the same texture as meat. Juicy on the inside and not all brittle like mushroom schnitzel. And it should have a crust. If it ticks all those boxes, I’m happy,» I elaborate. «Gotcha. Meat that isn’t meat,» Thomas says and pulls a camera out of his bag. Our burgers are ready.
«Yep. That’s a burger alright,» I think to myself while Thomas arranges the plates for their photo shoot. My only point of criticism: the patties are too uniform. They’re equally round, equally thick, equally wide. «We get the burgers from a Swiss supplier who’s in contact with «Beyond Meat» in the US,» says Helvti Diner CEO Christian Kramer. In other words, the restaurant currently only offers prefabricated «Beyond Meat» patties. «However, we’re currently testing further «Beyond Meat» products.» Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. After all, two burgers are under my nose. I cut them down the middle. This gives me an idea of what the veggie meat looks like. Plus we can share the burgers equally.
Finally, I get to take a hearty bite. «Does it actually taste like a burger, with the sauce and all that...?» Thomas asks me while taking unflattering snaps of me munching away. Indeed, the burger as a whole does taste like a burger. The patty has a «meaty» bite to it, the ingredients in the vegan version (pesto rosso, walnuts, vegan cheese and rocket) are well balanced. The only thing I’m lacking is that typical taste of beef you get in good burgers. But I don’t miss it that much.
A double-decker minus the oomph
The missing beef flavour is more obvious in the cheeseburger. The double-decker is as juicy as a burger should be and the consistency is also very «meaty». Nevertheless, that true burger taste never comes through. You could compare it to a firework shooting into the night sky with a strong blaze only to produce a beautiful palm tree of sparks with a disappointing fizzle instead of a satisfying bang. Visually, it’s still amazing but it’s lacking the explosion. The same goes for the «Beyond Burger». Tastes great, lacks the bang. Having said that, I've eaten real meat burgers way worse than that.
«It’s truly a burger!» Thomas exclaims. «And in comparison they’re not crazy expensive,» I reply after glancing at the menu. Replace your beef patty with «Beyond Meat» and you’ll have to cough up 19.50 instead of 16.50. The premium burger made from Angus beef will cost another three francs on top of that. What can I say, those are Zurich burger prices for you. In any case, Thomas and I agree: the «Beyond Burger» is a veggie burger for meat lovers. Don't like the consistency of meat? Then you won't like «Beyond Meat» either. If the manufacturers somehow manage to add beef flavour to it, then I’m more than happy to order it regularly. After all, meat substitute is more environmentally friendly than meat.The «Beyond Meat» burgers were kindly served to us free of charge courtesy of «Helvti Diner».