Ever since man discovered tofu, he’s been trying to trick himself into thinking it’s meat. Traditionally, this is attempted by playing with texture, form, and flavor, and the results, needless to say, aren’t always successful. There is good fake-meat tofu (Chinese mock duck, the Unchicken Buffalo Wings at Kate’s Joint in the East Village), and bad fake-meat tofu (the Tofurkey). Now, however, comes what some might consider a major breakthrough in the history of tofu chicanery — the City Bakery’s new barbecued-tofu sandwich.
It comes stacked with dominoes of grilled and marinated tofu, crisp romaine lettuce, and several gobs of horseradish mayo on grilled country bread. And although it doesn’t look or taste like meat, it smells kind of familiar and undeniably meatlike. What, specifically, that smell is, the Underground Gourmet concluded after sniffing at it like an old bloodhound, is McDonald’s. More specifically, it smells like either a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder — or maybe just that sweet ketchupy-oniony condiment McDonald’s lathers all over its hamburger buns. The UG couldn’t decide.
“I even thought about writing ‘Smells Like a Hamburger’ on the menu,” says City Bakery’s Ilene Rosen, who modestly claims that she wasn’t going for a burger aroma, or any particular aroma for that matter, when she masterminded the sandwich. “But that might have scared the tofu lovers away.”
In any event, unless you’re Morgan Spurlock, it’s a pretty good smell and a thoroughly tasty sandwich. — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld
The City Bakery, 3 W. 18th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-366-1414; available at the lunch counter only.