Its name may be a little scary, but fear not the Stinky Grilled Cheese Sandwich at the Tchin Tchin! Bar in Chinatown. It doesn’t really smell that bad.
The sandwich is made with Taleggio cheese, which is a pungent cow’s milk cheese, originally from Italy.
To add to the aroma, a caramelized onion marmalade is smeared on extra-thick Texas toast before the sandwich is grilled. As it cooks, the pickled onion and grilled butter smell wafts through the bar space. The cheese smell is also there, but very faint.
“It’s a selling point,” says Dylan Watanabe, manager at Tchin Tchin!, a wine bar that took over the second-floor location of the old Thirtyninehotel.
When people smell the sandwich cooking, they want it, he said. It sells for $12 and is served with pickled vegetables.
Before tasting the Stinky Grilled Cheese Sandwich, I gave it a sniff. It’s really not very smelly.
The onions have a slight odor. The browned butter on the outside of the bread gives off a pleasant smell. But you have to take a really deep breath to pick up on the cheese, which has a faint scent of apricots.
It’s not “fully stinky,” Watanabe admits. “It’s not as stinky as the name alludes to. There’s a little funk, a little fruit quality to it.”
The sandwich is less salty than a grilled American cheese sandwich. The onions match well, adding sweetness, and the vinegar in the marmalade cuts through the creaminess of the cheese.
Watanabe recommends pairing the sandwich with wine. “Tallegio goes amazing with our Italian and French wines,” he says. He recommends the 2014 Vouvray Champalou ($13.50 a glass), a French white made mostly of chenin blanc grapes from the Loire Valley, because of its high acid and fruit notes, which both balance the creaminess and bring out the fruit notes in the cheese.
While the Stinky Grilled Cheese Sandwich doesn’t live up to its name, it’s still tasty — a fancy take on grilled cheese that is likely better than what you can make at home.