Alongside its traditional meat-based hamburgers, McDonald’s Israel is now offering something its American parent fast-food chain lacks – veggie burgers. The new dish was developed by Michelin-starred Israeli chef Moshik Roth, no less.
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So how are they?
Well not so good.
Roth developed three vegetarian dishes for McDonald’s Israel, all based on tomatoes: a grilled burger; something called Crispy Tomato – basically, the grilled burger but with a crispy coating – and tomato nuggets (just like the Crispy Tomato, but smaller).
For me, a vegetarian since age 14, any chance to go into McDonalds and eat a bun with sauce is reason for celebration, even if inside that bun is a burger made from a bus tire. So I went to the branch on the Tel Aviv boardwalk, one of the five franchises in Israel selling these products as part of a pilot.
The grilled burger – which Roth told the Hebrew news site Ynet was served as an appetizer at his Michelin-starred restaurant in Holland – is disappointing, to say the least. It has no definable texture: it is doughy and dense, similar to a poorly made, ketchup-flavored veggie burger. Furthermore, strict vegetarians won’t eat it, as it is cooked on the same surface as McDonald’s meat-based burgers.
The Crispy Tomato has the same texture, even if its crispy coating gives it a bit more raison d’etre and makes it slightly tastier. The nuggets are even denser. They give the impression that someone made a porridge out of all sorts of mystery ingredients plus lots of tomato paste, smothered it in bread crumbs and fried it until medium rare. These were the worst part of my meal, and I didn’t even finish them.
How did I manage to finish the Crispy Tomato and the grilled burger? It probably has to do with years of not eating at McDonald’s.
There’s a decent chance that any vegetarian who says he’s lost his craving for meat is lying. The problem is that the tomato burger is far from offering a satisfying alternative – the taste, texture and general vibe just aren’t there. It’s unfortunate that instead of investing in partnerships with Michelin-starred chefs, McDonald’s isn’t investing its development efforts in a simple but decent veggie burger made from the usual ingredients – mushrooms, lentils or soy.
Back in 2008, I wrote to McDonald’s, asking them about this, and I was told in response that they had offered a veggie burger once, but it had been taken off the menu due to a lack of demand. Maybe it’s time to try again?
Mac Nuggets. Photo Courtesy of McDonald's