Monday, October 25, 2010
Where chefs fail with the portobello is in forcing a false equivalency. Stemless, it has the size and shape of a meat patty, but, well, a portobello isn't meat, though calling it "meaty" is beyond cliche. Fungus weeps moisture as it cooks. Hard as you season a portobello, the flavor wants to dissolve into bun-soaking residue, especially if you throw it on the grill.
At Gather in Berkeley, chef Sean Baker is smart enough to submit portobellos to the knife. They're cut into wedges, then braises so whatever juices seep out end up wicking back into the black, spongy pieces, a sort of concentrated compost richness in the taste.
For Gather's braised mushroom sandwich, Baker heaps the wedges onto split ciabatta spread with house-made cashew-gypsy pepper cheese. "Spread," since it's more sauce than solid, orange as processed cheddar. It has the warm-copper taste of turmeric, a kind of neon yang to the portobellos' deep, dank yin. They curl around each other to form about the best vegan sandwich we can recall devouring.
Gather: 2200 Oxford (at Allston), 510-809-0400.