The Bat Cave vs. the Fortress
On my recent travels, I came across a couple of restaurants, very similar in style that I wished to review. The style being… stark, heroic, epic… trying to achieve something grand.
The first, was a little basement-level space in the city of Gotham. It’s down a dark alley but well worth the risk of shadiness. It’s called the Bat Cave and has the largest selection of cave-aged cheeses in the country. It also has a fairly epic wine cellar. For an appetizer, I ordered the Appenzeller Fondue that comes with Caped Crostini (bat-shaped pumpernickel crisps). While very rich, it was just to my liking. For dessert, I had something called the Bruce Mousse. It is made of smooth and mysterious dark chocolate and you can’t quite get enough of it. It was a dark delight that I’d kill for.
The other restaurant I was very eager to try was tucked away in the mountains, just outside of Metropolis. The Fortress is a lavishly decorated palace with ice sculptures brought in daily and more crystal than you can imagine. They are known for their raw bar, which is served as an all-you-can-eat atop gorgeous, faceted ice spires. How could I resist that? I ended my meal with a small dish of their house-made, gourmet rock candy. (The flavor options change daily, but when I was there, I had the Peanut Butter & Grape Jor-elly. Just check your newspaper– that’s the menu– for the daily offerings.) I closed out the meal with a cup of More Powerful Than a Cocoamotive and a very happy tummy.
While both the Bat Cave AND the Fortress have many healthy and delicious entrees (it’s clear that staying in peak physical condition is of utmost importance to these mysterious restaurateurs), I opted for the more casual handhelds at both locations. They had a spectacular vegetarian options that ended up being perfect for a direct comparison.
At the Bat Cave, I ordered the Veggilante Burger. It’s a lemon and panko-filled, grilled portobello cap, topped with cave aged gruyere, garlic aioli and grilled red onion. Holy delicious. My waiter, Alfred, recommended it and I couldn’t have been happier. The flavors worked so well together and it was filling, but really light. I felt like I could fight crime after eating that.
Over at the Fortress, I also had the veggie burger option, the Tex Mex Ray Vision Sliders. Shrimp and black bean burger patties are topped with avocado, chipotle mayo, grilled romaine and crispy onion rings. The patties have a wonderful warmth from the cumin and chili flavors that make you feel like they are emitting a solar beam, right into your tummy. This whole epic burger is served on, what I can only describe as, buns of steel. The one quirk is, they have a hole going right through the center so you can see every ingredient down to the bottom.
So who wins this epic battle of the veggie burgers? You may need to make them and decide for yourself. I was able to snag the recipes for both from the very kind chefs (who, I must say, looked a little like supervillains and NOT very at home in those kitchens). Enjoy!
4 portobello caps, cleaned with a damp towel, gills removed
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup lemon curd
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
4 oz cave-aged Gruyere cheese (shredded or sliced)
4 sesame seed hamburger buns
In a bowl, combine panko bread crumbs and lemon curd. (It’s easiest to use your fingers to combine). Set aside.
Preheat a grill or grill pan. Rub the portobello caps generously with olive oil. Place, underside-down, onto the grill. Salt and pepper the top of the caps, liberally. Cook for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat. Flip the cap over and distribute the panko mixture into the caps and top with the Gruyere. Cover and cook another 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt butter. Add in thinly sliced onion and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir. Cook over medium-low heat for around ten minutes, or until onions get thick, brown and sweet-smelling.
Toward the end of the cap-grilling process, you can also throw your buns on the grill to toast them slightly, if desired.
Spread both sides of the bun with aioli. Place a handful of baby spinach leaves on each bun, followed by the caramelized onions and mushroom cap burgers. Devour like your life depends on it.
TEX-MEX RAY VISION SLIDERS
recipe adapted from Relish.com
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
12 oz shrimps, cooked, peeled, deveined and tails removed
½ cup corn
½ tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup green onions
salt and pepper, to taste
2 vidalia onions, cut into large rings, rinsed
1 cup flour
1 tbsp seasoned salt
1 cup wheat ale
olive oil (for frying)
vegetable oil (for frying)
Heat a few inches of oil in a small saucepan (or use a deep fryer if you’re fancy). Stir together flour and seasoned salt in a bowl. Slowly stir in beer. Dip onions in the batter and fry over medium-high heat. When golden brown, remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
In a food processor, pulse ½ cup of black beans and 4 or 5 shrimp until coarse. Add in the rest of the beans and shrimp, the corn, cumin, chili powder, garlic, green onions and salt and pepper. Pulse until blended, but still quite chunky. In a small skillet, heat a small tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Create a quarter-sized patty from the mixture and cook a couple of minutes per side. Let cool and taste to determine if you need more salt or pepper. Proceed with making patties (the size of your buns). Fry in skillet over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side, or until browned. Careful when you flip them as they will be delicate. Add more oil to the pan, as needed.
Fire up a grill (or a grill pan) and place buns and washed romaine lettuce on the grates for a few minutes. When the romaine lettuce gets little charred marks on them, place them on the bottom buns. Place patties on the bun and top with avocado slices. Schmear some mayo on the top bun and top off the burger. Using a circle cutter, cut a hole right through the center of the burger. Immediately eat the hole. (Chef’s treat!) Serve the rest of the burger.