Monday, February 8, 2016

Chinese BBQ

What is Chinese BBQ?

It does not meet the definitions of Texas BBQ for sure. All the meats are roasted. Some much longer than others. The three types of meat I love are BBQ pork, roasted pork, and roasted duck. The BBQ pork aka char siu is red, sticky, and sweet. Typically the cut of pork is shoulder or loin. When my sister and I were growing up, our mom would often make char sui in the oven at home. Roasted duck (sometimes called Peking duck) was my favorite growing up. The meat is fatty and rich. I can probably eat half of a duck and a few bowls of rice by myself. I am more of a fan of the roasted pork now. It is essentially pork belly with less fat and a skin of a crackling together. If done right, the results are spectacular.

I grew up eating Chinese BBQ in Cleveland, OH. There were a couple of places that did it in town. We had cousins that lived in Toronto, Canada so we would visit them a couple of times a year. The drive was not that bad at all. Under five hours. The Chinatown in Toronto is one of bigger ones that I have been to. I remember on every trip, we would come back with a few roasted ducks and some roasted pork. When growing up in Katy, we go to Chinatown in Houston almost every weekend. We get our BBQ fix there. Houston's Chinatown is humongous. Some of the street signs even have Chinese characters on them.

There are three places in Austin that does Chinese BBQ. Here are my thoughts for each one.

Din Ho Chinese BBQ

This was the first place I ever ate at in Austin. It was when my parents drove me to Austin for a campus visit at UT. I ate here every chance I had in college. The char siu was dry on this visit. The duck was juicy and had a lot of flavor. Outstanding. The roasted pork was salty, and the skin was not as crispy as I would like it to be.

Ho Ho Chinese B.B.Q.

I did not know this place existed for a long time. I would go here frequently if it was closer to me. The char siu here was moist and soft. Nice flavor. The duck was juicy and had a lot of meat on the bone. Out of bounds. That is how I describe the roasted pork here. The meat is tender and flavorful. The skin is nice and crispy. If I bought a slab of pork from Ho Ho, I can finish it in two days. No lies.

First Chinese BBQ

It is located in the Chinatown shopping center. When I go shopping at MT Supermarket in Chinatown, I would often go to First Chinese and order some of the meats to-go for future meals. The Char Siu was sweet and candy-like on this day. The meat was a little chewy though. The duck was rich and fatty. Solid. The roasted pork was nice and tender. The skin was crispy. It looked like the skin was separated from the meat and then were both chopped. Weird.

Overall, each place has their strong point. The roasted pork at Ho Ho is wonderful. The roasted duck is superb at Din Ho. Din Ho was my go to and then it was replaced by First Chinese. Ho Ho is now on top. I am not sure Austin could support a fourth Chinese BBQ location right now. Maybe someday, preferably in South Austin. Who knows?

Until next time, happy smoking...

Din Ho Chinese BBQ
Address: 8557 Research Blvd #116, Austin, TX 78758
Phone: (512) 832-8788

Ho Ho Chinese B.B.Q.
Address: 13000 N IH 35, Austin, TX 78753
Phone: (512) 339-9088

First Chinese BBQ
Address: 10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753
Phone: (512) 835-8889

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Brisket Southern BBQ & Bar

One day, Amber was browsing Tumblr when she saw roundtrip tickets from NYC/JFK to London for under 500 bucks. We did not have any plans to go to Europe at that point but that all changed in 30 minutes. The Smoking Ho is going international! I am only allowed one BBQ stop per trip. I picked The Beast in Paris which you can read about next time. Our friends, who used to live in Austin, that live in Bern, Switzerland chose the place for us to eat at dinner. They selected a barbecue restaurant in Zurich. Yes! A loophole. I told the husband months ago about it. Planting the seed... They picked us up at airport after our flight landed from London, and we headed straight to Brisket Southern BBQ & Bar. Parking is located above the restaurant which we missed (we paid for public parking). The interior space of the restaurant was very dimly lit and had a refine feel to it.

Shiner Bock was on the drink menu so I had to get one. A little piece of home 5,000 miles away. There were quite a few choices on the dinner menu. I wanted to order The Holy Trinity at the very least, but they were out of the beef sausage. There was a minimum order of two people per platter. I thought this was weird. I wanted to try everything so I felt a little constricted. The guys ordered the Lone Star which came with brisket, pulled pork, and pork belly. The ladies got a platter that came with brisket, pork ribs, and shredded chicken. We got two orders of the macaroni and cheese, sweet potato and pumpkin gratin, and BBQ beans as sides on the platters.

The meats are smoked using peach and pear woods. The coffee and black pepper brisket was surprisingly good. It was tender and had enough smoke to my liking. The meat had a good flavor. The pork ribs were really thick and meaty but also really fatty. I am not sure where they got the cut from. I feel like the butcher left on too much of the belly. It tasted fine but with the extra fat, it was too rich for my taste. The pulled pork came heavy sauced. I liked it okay, but the meat did not have a chance to shine through. A sloppy mess. Similar to eating chopped beef. The shredded chicken was very different. It reminded me of fajita meat. The texture and taste was not what I was expecting. The pork belly was great. It was tasty and smoky. If I was not so full, I would have eaten all of it. Disclaimer: I was not used to eating this much meat since we left the states. I enjoyed the macaroni and cheese and the sweet potato and pumpkin gratin. The BBQ beans were just meh.

Brisket Southern BBQ & Bar had some strengths and weaknesses. The strengths outweighed the weaknesses here. If you are an ex-pat living in Switzerland or traveling through Zurich, make a stop here. The brisket lived up to its namesake. I was in a meat coma after we left. It has been a while since that has happened. Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: Pfingstweidstrasse 6, 8005 Zürich, Switzerland
Phone: +41 44 241 20 20

Monday, January 4, 2016

Heim Barbecue

Amber and I were going to the DFW area so I could attend Meat Fight. It is kind of surprising that I have only reviewed one other DFW barbecue joint up until this point, Pecan Lodge. I will try to visit the Dallas/Fort Worth area more often this year. I follow owner/pitmaster Travis Heim and wife Emma on social media. In the beginning, I have seen them help out John Lewis of La Barbecue at events and festivals. They hosted MEATclub (BBQ pop ups) as well. With the experience and knowledge they gained, they opened their own BBQ trailer, Heim Barbecue, early 2015.

On the Sunday morning of Meat Fight, I arrived at Heim Barbecue 45 minutes before opening. There was not much of a line. I ordered a little bit of everything off the menu. I got brisket, pork ribs, jalapeño cheese sausage, pulled pork and the bacon burnt ends. Bacon burnt ends? What?! The oak smoked brisket had a good flavor. It could have been left in the smoker longer to render the meat. The flat was a little chewy. The St. Louis cut pork ribs had a nice, sweet glaze and a good amount smoke to them. The meat barely put up a fight and came away from the bone cleanly. The ribs were delicious. The cheesy sausage packed a punch. It had a nice taste with a spicy finish. The casing could barely contain the meat and snapped once bitten into. The pulled pork was a nice surprise. It had a touch of sweetness to it and was moist and flavorful.

The bacon burnt ends. Holy crap. The cut up pork belly nuggets were sweet, rich, and smoky. Bundles of joy. I want to eat these EVERY DAY. Maybe multiple times a day. In breakfast tacos. In salads. In Rice Krispies Treats. Out of this world. I wish I could get them locally. The world would be a better place. I went back up to order the homemade banana pudding, but they were sold out. Sad.

Fort Worth is a decent distance away from Dallas, but I would gladly make that drive every single time to Heim Barbecue. The food is great and so are the people behind it. Travis and Emma are opening their brick and mortar location in Spring 2016. Expect big things from this couple. With more space, they can be more creative with the menu. Kolaches? Tacos? Endless possibilities. Grade: B+

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 201 E Hattie St, Fort Worth, TX 76104
Phone: (817) 876-2741


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cranky Frank's Barbeque Company

Amber made plans for us to do some wine tasting with friends around Fredericksburg. That morning, we hiked up to the top of Enchanted Rock. The views were beautiful from the summit. We worked up an appetite after walking around the park. I did not know about the rest of my party, but I was ready for some barbecue from Cranky Frank's Barbeque Company. Cranky Frank's is on the latest Texas Monthly Top 50 list. The hike took longer than I had expected, and we arrived at the restaurant just before 1 PM.

When we were standing in line, they ran out of moist brisket and pork ribs. I ended up ordering some lean brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. We were one of the last people to get brisket. The brisket had a good flavor and smoke. The slices however were dry and falling apart. It needed some BBQ sauce. Same thing with the pork. The pork came in pieces instead of being pulled. They tasted fine, but the texture was too dry for me. The sausage was pretty standard and had a good snap from the casing.

Since our visit, I have seen recent pictures of the Cranky Frank's brisket, and they look fantastic. It might be that we came in on an off day or it was just too late in the day. I will try to come back earlier next time. Go try them out and judge for yourself the next time you are in Fredericksburg. My stomach was content when we left the restaurant. I needed all that meat to absorb the wine that was about to be had. Grade: C

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1679 US Hwy 87, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Phone: (830) 997-2353

Monday, December 7, 2015

Jackson Street BBQ

I went on a road trip by myself to Houston to attend the first Hou BBQ Throwdown. I got to Houston around 11 AM and wanted to eat some barbecue before the event started at 1 PM. Jackson Street BBQ is located downtown in the shadows of Minute Maid Park. It is a joint effort between Houston chef Bryan Caswell and Gatlin's BBQ pitmaster/owner Greg Gatlin that opened earlier this year. You cannot miss the bright red building when you are in the area.

The menu had your usual suspects (meat that is) and a bunch of sides. I ordered The Trinity (moist brisket, pork ribs, and sausage) and Burnt Ends on a Jalapeño Cheddar Biscuit. The brisket was solid but heavy on salt. It was smoky and tender, but I kept wanting more from it. The ribs had a good taste with a hint of sweetness that reminded me of the ones from Gatlin's. The end rib was chewy, but the meat from the middle rib pulled away from the bone with very little resistance. The German-style sausage was pretty standard. It had a garlic finish, and the casing was snappy. One bite into the burnt ends on a biscuit, and I was giddy. The crusty biscuit with the saucy, succulent meat was well-balanced. It was different but wonderful. Giving an option to add an egg to the sandwich could make it mind blowing. I went with dirty rice and potato salad as sides. I missed out on the rice when I went to Gatlin's so it was good that I got to sample it at Jackson St. It had a nice depth of flavor. The potato salad was fresh and better than what you would find out there.

I left a lot of space in my stomach for the Throwdown so there were a lot of leftovers for later. I did not want to put down the burnt ends on a brisket though. My wife got to enjoy the rest of it the next morning. After my visit, I found out that they failed a health inspection the prior week. It was nothing major, and I felt fine after my meal. There is a ton of space inside the restaurant. There is even a stage for musical acts. It would be a pretty cool place to hang out after a 'Stros game. Being downtown also makes Jackson Street BBQ a great choice to stop in for lunch or to grab something after work. Grade: B

Oyler Pits

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 209 Jackson St, Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 224-2400

Monday, November 16, 2015

Meat Fight 2015

What is Meat Fight? It is a Texas barbecue competition benefiting the National MS Society. The sixth annual event featured four teams of Dallas' best chefs that competed for barbecue glory. The judges were compiled of an all-star BBQ cast:
Daniel Vaughn - Texas Monthly BBQ editor
Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue
Jack Perkins of Slow Bone
Mike Babb of Babb Bros BBQ & Blues
Jill Bergus of Lockhart Smokehouse
Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue
Kerry Bexley of Snow's BBQ
Stephen Joseph of Riverport Bar-B-Q
Nick Pencis of Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Que
Brian C. Luscher of Luscher's Red Hots

This was my first year to attend the event. It has been a while since we have gone to the DFW area. Almost two years! Before I headed to the event, I ate at Heim Barbecue in Fort Worth. I have the whole eating barbecue before a BBQ event down. The competition was held at the Green Warehouse. A similar setup to the fair, the Meat Midway lets you play games and win prizes. There was a lot of food, sweets, and drinks to be had. Near the end of the contest, some cool ass stuff was auctioned off. A bike, dinner packages, BBQ tour, weekend getaway, smoker, and more...

Meat Midway: Fair games to be played

In case you got lost...
I showed up to a party and a BBQ competition broke out.

Qu Tang Submission

Notorious P.I.G. Submission

Meat The Cleavers Submission

Fearsome Fourcemeat Submission
Other foods at the event:

Smoked Salmon from TJ's Seafood Market

Pork Churros

Fried PBJ w/ Candied Bacon & Fried Turkey Leg Poppers

Canadian Healthcare: Maple Bacon Syrup Donuts from Hypnotic Donuts
Four Corners Brewing Co. was in the house

Judges Table
Aaron Franklin built smoker that fetched $8250 in the auction!

What a great event! Fun times and an awesome cause. Win-Win. It was just a big ole party. It was super seeing and talking to familiar faces and "meating" new ones. It was a little crowded in the beginning, but it thinned out throughout the afternoon. The competition ended up raising $150,000 to help fight multiple sclerosis! Take that MS. The Fearsome Fourcemeat won the team competition in case you were wondering. After last weekend and this, I might be eating nothing but salads up until Thanksgiving.

Merry Meatmas to all and to all a goodnight

Until next time, happy smoking..