I went up to Vancouver to visit my friend Jenna. I met Jenna this spring during the semester I spent at NYU Paris. In Europe, I ate very nice-looking food in extreme quantities, which I uploaded to social media, which she saw. Jenna messaged me one day. I don’t remember the exact words but it was something about how I eat lots of food. I get a lot of messages about how I eat lots of food so they’re starting to run together.
Jenna happened to be spending the summer in Vancouver, Canada, so it was easy for me to visit her. Of course, the food we ate together was something we considered very important. Jenna suggested a restaurant in the historic Gastown district of Vancouver called MeeT; it’s one of those hip spots filled with liberal millennials that’s perfect for Instagramming. She hadn’t been there before, but it looked good online. I thought the name MeeT was weird but quickly attributed it to an uncreative way of suggesting the restaurant was a cool place to hang out.
MeeT is gorgeous! The natural light, the open design, the little details on the tables – all of this came together perfectly. Then the menus came, and we ordered.
The corn fritters were a bit greasy but were fine as an appetizer for sharing. I’d say they were too heavy for one person, with the heft of falafel without enough textural interest. Honestly, I was expecting more tempura, less hushpuppy for these things. The dipping sauce completely overpowered the flavor of the fritters and didn’t provide a good textural contrast because the fritters weren’t very crisp. Overall, they would still make excellent bar food.
For mains, Jenna got a salad with breaded chicken and I got the macaroni and cheese hamburger.
I was still working on the fritters when Jenna made a face.
There was something wrong with the chicken. I tasted a piece…
…and began laughing. The chicken was vegetarian imitation chicken! Look at that texture – it looks exactly like the real thing. I thought it tasted fine, even though it obviously wasn’t real chicken. Meanwhile, Jenna looked like this:
I should have known. I’ve volunteered at a large vegetarian food festival for years, and subscribed to a vegetarian magazine for years. I’m not a big fan of meat to begin (gristle, fat, and blood gross me out) with so I’ve tried many brands and varieties of vegetarian alternatives, from “hot dogs” (Field Roast and Tofurky are great brands) to “chicken breast” (Quorn) to “ground beef” (Morningstar Farms is my favorite) to “shrimp.” I’m not sure why I didn’t realize we were at a vegan restaurant seeing the chick’n, cheeze, and nutritional yeast (a cheese substitute) on the menu. Those tiny yellow particles on the salad leaves above? Not parmesan. Nutritional yeast.
By the way, the nutritional yeast “macaroni and cheeze” was great, especially the bouncy texture of the pasta. I loved the fake meat patty as well, which was the best I’ve had. You can see the the texture of the patty in the picture below – it looks a bit plastic, because fake meat is springy, whether it’s made with textured vegetable protein, wheat gluten, or soy; there are also some whole grains mixed in there.
Without going into the environmental or ethical discourse on vegetarianism, let’s just pause to think of the vegetarian industry from a culinary standpoint. There is some serious creativity and skill being used by food scientists and recipe developers to give us these imitations that, while not tasting the same as dead animal flesh, taste really good by their own merit. If you’re interested in molecular gastronomy, you should be interested in fake meat. It’s interesting.
By this time, we had figured out why it was called MeeT. It’s a pun that uses the sound of meat, but spells it differently because it really isn’t meat, just like chick’n and cheeze.
I would totally go back but Jenna was not happy. I don’t think her reaction was against the quality of the food here – it’s very well-prepared from great ingredients – it’s jut a matter of not getting what she expected, which can mess you up psychologically. I had the same issue with the fritters, based on corn fritters I’ve had in the past. They weren’t bad – they were actually pretty good – they just weren’t the same.
After this, we went for patbingsu (Korean shaved ice) and tteokbokki (Korean spicy rice cakes and fish cakes). Jenna needed food she could trust. More on that in the next post.
MeeT in Gastown
12 Water St., Vancouver, BC V6B 4K7, Canada