After all the global hype around the plant-based Impossible Foods burger patty, I finally got the chance to try one out for myself last week – right here in the UAE. As of today, Black Tap has added a vegetarian Impossible Burger (it can be made vegan on request) to its menus across all venues, the first place to do so in the Middle East, and I popped in for a preview.
Firstly, let me set the scene for you: I’d tricked my husband into coming with me, telling him he was going to try Black Tap’s all-singing, all-dancing new beef burger. I was slightly worried about how he’d react to my whopper of a lie, but more intrigued to see how he genuinely feels about the meal. Telling him the truth would have no doubt alerted his taste buds.
Anyway, I got away with it, he’s excited to try the new dish (he’s a big fan of Black Tap’s selection and fancies himself as a burger connoisseur). The manager comes over and asks him how he likes his meat cooked – medium? (Nice touch.) Not long after, the plate is put down in front of him.
The toppings are fairly minimal, making it look pretty much like the eatery’s other burgers, which momentarily confuses him, but he’s hungry, so he tucks in. "It’s juicy," he says. "But what is it? Do you have a new meat provider? This is not your usual beef. Is it camel? No. I’m confused." (He did tell me later his immediate reaction was that it was the Impossible Burger, having heard me talk about it so much, but felt too silly to say so. Hmm.)
That’s when I hit him with it: the truth. He’s pretty surprised, but now everything makes sense, he says.
So, it seems this plant-based patty is certainly realistic enough to at least confuse meat-eaters. But how did I, the vegan, feel about it?
My husband tried the vegetarian version of the dish, so I got even fewer toppings on mine and a different bun. The vegan iteration comes with the restaurant’s mayo and a slathering of butter (both vegan, of course). The focus is well and truly on the "meat".
I cut into it and it’s actually pink inside. There’s a pool of "blood" (made from soy leghemoglobin) and a shiny layer of grease. To me, someone who has not eaten red meat in more than 10 years, it looks just like a beef burger. And tastes like one, too. There are even bits, almost like gristle, that I chew and the medley of mayo, butter and burger leaves a greasy film in the mouth that I haven’t experienced in a long time.
I like it and dislike it at the same time. It takes me a long time to eat it all, but eat it all I do. Each bite I tell myself it’s the last, but it’s not. By the time I’m finished, I’ve got the vegan equivalent of the meat sweats, something else I haven’t experienced in a long time. While I’m glad I’ve finally tried it, I personally don’t think I’ll be rushing back to have it again.
My conclusion is this: the Impossible patty is probably too realistic for most long-time vegans to enjoy, but perhaps not realistic enough to tempt die-hard carnivores. It’s certainly not for the overly health-conscious, either, but we already knew that. This product is for those who lie in the sweet spot – people who are looking to reduce their meat consumption but don’t want to give up on junk food. These days, that group outnumbers the others, anyway.
Black Tap's Impossible Burger is now available across all its UAE venues, including Jumeirah Al Naseem, Rixos Premium JBR and InterContinental Dubai Festival City in Dubai, and Yas Mall's Cascade Dining section in Abu Dhabi. It's priced at Dh105 in Dubai and Dh100 in Abu Dhabi.