Pika's introduces mouthwatering vegetarian, vegan options

MEATLESS AND MADE TO ORDER: The Unbelievably Meatless Burger is vegetarian straight off the menu. Customers can covert the dish to vegan upon request. The vegetarian version features the Impossible meat on panini ciabatta with horseradish crema, roasted tomatoes, balsamic onions and blue and provolone cheeses. The vegan version will substitute avocado for the horseradish crema, and does not include the cheeses. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

The Unbelievably Meatless Burger really does seem unbelievable – a burger patty that somehow mimics the look, taste and texture of ground beef, made without a single animal-derived ingredient.

It's one of those things you just have to try for yourself.

Pika's Cafe became the first restaurant on Guam to use Impossible meat, introducing the option at the end of 2018. The beef substitute is used in their Unbelievably Meatless Burger and Metgot Fried Rice, which Pika's Manager Joe "Fluff" Mendiola says he orders every day for breakfast. Mendiola, a self-proclaimed omnivore, says even though the patty is entirely plant-based, he "fell in love" with it.

"Impossible Meat delivers all the flavor, aroma and beefiness of meat from cows," according to the website of California-based Impossible Foods. "But here's the kicker: It's just plants doing the Impossible."

The impossible was realized thanks to one simple molecule: heme.

According to Impossible, heme is found in "exceptionally high concentrations in meat from animals. That high concentration is what makes meat taste uniquely like meat." It turns out heme also can be derived from the roots of soy plants, which is what allows Impossible meat to live up to its name.

Watching Pika's chefs cook a fresh patty on the grill, you'd never guess it wasn't ground beef. The meatless "meat" is red when raw and cooks to a perfectly browned hue.

"So it looks like meat, it looks like ground beef," Mendiola says.

And it tastes like it, too – it's one of those things you wouldn't question if no one told you.

Aside from heme, Impossible meat uses wheat and potato proteins, coconut oil and soy for fat content and konjac and xanthan for binders.

The meatless burger means vegan and vegetarian customers now have several more options available to them at one of the island's most popular restaurants. In addition to the meatless burger and Metgot Fried Rice – which features Impossible meat fried up with brown rice, spinach, balsamic onions, mushrooms and egg, all topped with a fried egg – customers now can substitute the Impossible meat in other dishes that would normally come with a burger patty for an extra $4. That's right: Loco Moco now can be made vegetarian.

This vegetarian dish, however, has the potential for some serious crossover appeal.

"The first time when I tried it, too, I couldn't believe it," Mendiola says. "Like, 'Wow, this is really good.'"

Customers – even meat lovers – seem to agree.

"They're amazed," Mendiola says. "Because of course they've had our burger before. ... They're amazed at how good (the Unbelievably Meatless Burger) tastes."

The vegetarian Unbelievably Meatless Burger – which also can be prepared vegan – is sandwiched between crispy ciabatta and loaded with zippy horseradish crema, bleu cheese, creamy provolone cheese, roasted tomatoes, balsamic onions and mushrooms, making for a rich, melty sandwich that can put a smile on anyone's face.

Try out the tofu

Of course, Pika's has more than just Impossible Meat on the menu for vegetarian and vegan options: The Tofu Rice Bowl and Tofu Banh Mi offer two additional options that are full of flavor but offer a more traditional take on the meatless menu.

Piled with pickled daikon, carrots, cucumbers and greens, the Grilled Tofu Banh Mi is served on freshly toasted ciabatta, sandwiching a generous portion of marinated tofu, which Mendiola says gives the dish even more flavor.

For a lighter option, try the Tofu Rice Bowl, which comes with the same ingredients as Grilled Tofu Banh Mi (sans greens), this time served over a bed of white rice or, for an extra $2, brown rice.

Each of these vegetarian meals can be served vegan-style as well by forgoing ingredients such as eggs and cheese, and substituting horseradish crema with Vegenaise, an eggless version of mayo.

Whether you're a tried-and-true herbivore or someone who's simply curious about cutting out meat, the Unbelievably Meatless Burger – and all of Pika's veggie options – are worth a trip to Tumon.


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