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JimCo

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  1. Charleston, SC

    Great article from The Ringer about Rodney Scott and John Lewis, and what they're doing with their respective Charleston restaurants. https://www.theringer.com/2017/8/22/16180430/soul-of-barbecue-charleston-south-carolina
  2. Had dinner at Salt Line recently and unfortunately left underwhelmed. It's an attractive restaurant with friendly staff, but there were flaws with every dish. I started with the rockfish tartare with pickled mustard seed, fried capers and 'crisps'. The potato chips tasted like they came out of a bag. The tartare was good but there wasn't much of it. It was a standard disc of tartare, maybe 4 inches in diameter, but it was only about 1/4 inch deep. The bartender recommended their New England Smash Burger. They're clearly modeling it after Shake Shack which is fine, except it wasn't as good as Shake Shack. If you can't beat the original, it might be better to go in a different direction. My friend let me try the fried fish from their Waterman's Platter. It was well fried, but there wasn't nearly enough salt so it tasted bland. The onion rings we ordered never showed up (though didn't appear on the bill either). The other thing that through me off was watching their shucker shuck oysters throughout the evening then place them in plastic bins, cover the top with plastic wrap and place the bins in a refrigerator below the bar. To be fair, I also watched him shuck some oysters fresh for seafood towers and other orders. I just couldn't help but wonder where those other shucked oysters were intended to go. I'm a fan of Hank's, and there was nothing here that was better other than the view. I don't envision going back.
  3. Charleston, SC

    Last week was my first visit to Charleston. I hoped the city would live up to the hype, but damn, it exceeded it. We were there four days and nights, and tried to pack as many restaurants as our schedule and stomachs would allow. This was about trying a lot of renowned favorites rather than necessarily trying something new, but I can't wait to go back. McCrady's This is the 18-seat tasting menu bar that Sean Brock opened last year. I've read that Brock said he wanted to strike a balanced approach here, ensuring that meals don't go past two hours and that diners don't leave hungry or overly stuffed. I'd say he nailed it. It was 14 courses, with each course between 2-4 bites. Highlights were: the carrot tart with baby carrot slices arranged like a rose, and then revealing a sweet carrot gelee upon first bite; an aged beef strip steak accompanied by sour cabbage and farro (I normally don't care for farro, but here it was smoky, toasty and excellent. Chef Brock said that's because they burn the farro and then thresh it in a barrel); the Charleston ice cream of Carolina Gold Rice accompanied by fresh herbs and thinly sliced raw okra; and the "foiechamacallit", their take on a whatchamacallit candy bar but filled with foie gras. Brock was in-house, supervising the staff throughout dinner and serving many plates himself. Without exaggeration, this was the best meal I've ever had. I don't say that lightly but after putting a lot of thought into it, I can't think of a better menu from beginning to end than what I ate here. This is an opportunity to catch a great chef at his peak and I'm grateful we did. And lest you think it is difficult to get reservations, we managed to get a 6:30pm seating just three days earlier - and they now accept bookings via OpenTable. Husk We went here for lunch, and I think it suffered a little from our McCrady's experience. The shrimp and grits was excellent. We also ordered the fried chicken which I thought was good but the crust was a little thin and I didn't get a lot of flavor from it. I think I just prefer my chicken to be a little spicier. Edmund's Oast This is a fun place with a giant open seating area, lots of communal tables, a long bar, and a large assortment of beer and charcuterie that's made in-house. The vibe reminds me a lot of The Publican in Chicago. I wish they had a larger selection of malty beers, but that's a complaint I could register just about anywhere these days. I went with the Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel for a couple of rounds, and before leaving tried their Peanut Butter & Jelly beer. It tasted just like peanut butter and jelly, but was drinkable. I finished it all, but wouldn't order it again. It's a nice novelty. Leon's Oyster House We fortunately found a couple of seats at the bar here, which was still packed an hour before closing. I've heard such great things about the fried chicken but had no room. We did however try a platter of the fried oysters and this place knows its way around a fryer. The breading covered every centimeter of the oysters, without being clumpy in any spots and none of the oysters stuck together. Rodney's Scott BBQ I've always wanted to try whole hog bbq so I'm glad Rodney Scott opened this place in Charleston. I snuck a peak at the smokehouse in the back and the dozen or more giant smokers left little doubt they are doing it the authentic way. The pork was moist and the combination of flavors from different parts of the hog really made it unique -- like enjoying the light and dark meat from a turkey. Lewis' Barbecue John Lewis helped open Franklin's Barbecue and LA Barbecue in Austin, so his credentials can't be questioned. His brisket is as tender as butter with a blackened crisp crust that tastes of pepper and hints of sugar. I could have used a little more smoke flavor, but that's a personal taste that I know isn't shared by many. Their hot gut sausage was dense but moist, almost like a polish sausage. It might have been my favorite bite. I'd also strongly recommend the green chile corn pudding. One nice quirk is their green barbecue sauce, made with peppers and meant as an accompaniment for his smoked turkey. Once I tasted the two together, I couldn't eat the turkey without it. It may be something I have to try at home. The Ordinary The Ordinary has probably ruined most raw bars for me moving forward. We ate the tuna tartare, the red snapper ceviche and an avocado and red porgy ceviche. These were complex ceviches with a great mix of sweetness, salt and spice. The bartender recommended the chili garlic snow crab too, which were two crab claws served with a swipe of chili sauce. The chili sauce was legitimately spicy, but I could have licked the bowl. I'd strongly recommend just sitting at the bar here and ordering small plates until you're full. Xiao Bao Biscuit We went here for lunch. Had the Bo Bo Ji, which is sichuan style chicken, cilantro, scallion and peanut salad; and the Mapo Dou Fu, which is spicy pork with chili oil, rice and greens. Enjoyed both dishes. FIG Our final meal was an early dinner at FIG. We had the tomato tarte tatin and ricotta gnocchi for appetizers and the suckling pig with Carolina Gold Rice. It was all as good as advertised. The only complaint was that dinner felt a little rushed. They clearly need to move tables especially that early in the evening, but the dishes came very quickly. Still, the food is fantastic. I just wouldn't go there for a leisurely meal.
  4. Was this one ever figured out? Based on the hints, was it Balkan Grill?
  5. Went as a Party of 3 and ordered the foie gras parfait with spiced donut, the crispy potato tortilla and the aged duck bomba. The foie gras gets an A+. The crispy potato tortilla fell a little flat for me. It wasn't very crispy and I thought it was bland. The bomba was outstanding, 'lick your pan' good. Several folks have mentioned that Arroz feels 'hotel-ish'. I had a similar feeling, but it had less to do with the lighting than the clientele. We ate at 8pm on a Friday night and it felt like most of the diners were hotel guests. We passed three infant carriers on the way to our table, and on our way out there were multiple families donning t-shirts and shorts who looked like they had spent the day touring the Mall. I don't view that as a knock on Arroz (and it won't keep me from going back), but it is something people should keep in mind if they're thinking of a romantic evening out. Also, it's LOUD.
  6. After a trip to Hill Country on Saturday, I agree with Tim Carman that their moist brisket makes them the #1 barbecue restaurant in the DC-area by a wide margin. This was truly great brisket -- juicy, infused with smoke that provided a mild tang, and a robust beefy flavor. My brother was in town from Houston, and he has sampled several of the places on the Texas Monthly Top 50. He was impressed and said that the brisket that day would be worthy of being on the Texas Monthly list. He and I also ate at Franklin's last year, and we agreed that Hill Country was not quite at Franklin's level. But it was still close enough for DC barbecue enthusiasts to be excited about. Where Frankin's bests everyone (in my opinion) is texture. Franklin's brisket has a melt-in-the-mouth quality akin to kobe beef that I haven't noticed elsewhere. Carman says Hill Country is now cooking with 100% wood, and it is noticeable. I think I'm going to become a weekend regular there this summer and enjoy it while it lasts. I'll also put in a plug for Hill Country's pork belly which they seem to have as a special on most weekends. They put a very salty rub on it and slice into 1/8 inch slices. It is now a must-order for me.
  7. I am in total agreement with this. Brisket gets all the attention at Killens, but I think their ribs are some of the best I've ever had. I've tried to create them at home, but can't find any interviews where he discusses his recipe or techniques for ribs.
  8. Barbecue

    Inspired by Tim Carman's updated top-10 list, I embarked on a three location tour of some of his top-rated barbecue restaurants. On Saturday evening, I hit Federalist Pig, Sloppy Mama's at Solly's, and DCity Smokehouse. My rules were to stick with brisket and ribs, no sides, and only one beer per location. Federalist Pig was stop one. I had eaten here once before and found the rib tips and the wings were the most memorable items. The rib tips were already sold out at 6pm, and this wasn't a wing expedition so we ordered a 1/2 lb of brisket and a half-rack of ribs. I found Carman's assessment to be correct. The barbecue was expertly made. The brisket was juicy and the ribs had just the right amount of pull. However, both were lacking in smoke. I also thought the rub on the ribs needs to be amplified in some way. It was good, but nothing stood out. I guess some could call it 'well-balanced' but I'd prefer something more memorable. Maybe a touch of heat. Sloppy Mama's at Solly's was next. It's obviously a bar with a very young group of patrons. You have to order from the bartender and then a runner brings you your food. Despite advertising ribs (on the weekends) on their menu, there were no ribs that day. They weren't even mentioned on the menu. So we called an audible and went with pulled pork. They also don't serve meat by the pound; there are only platters. I ordered the brisket and pork platter from the bartender and told her we didn't want the sides. She insisted that it had to come with sides or the kitchen staff would yell at her. Ooookay. Pickles and fries, please. The good news is that the brisket was juicy though it was also falling apart. The pulled pork was disgustingly dry. I took one bite and knew I didn't have to waste any more calories there. (And despite the 'no sides' rule, a taste of the sweet and spicy pickles proved to be the best thing on the tray). DCity Smokehouse was the final spot. I really liked their new location. It may be cramped in the winter, but in the summertime they have plenty of picnic tables set-up outside and they weren't very crowded at 7pm on Saturday. The brisket had really good flavor, a good bark, and great smoke. Unfortunately, it was a tad dry. A few hours earlier and I bet it would have been terrific. I was most impressed with their ribs. They're sweet at first but do have a little kick at the end. If I hadn't been to two other restaurants first, I could have easily polished off a half-rack. So overall, I'm inclined to agree with most of Carman's assessment including that Hill Country is currently the best in the area. (I ate there in June and the pork belly was the best barbecue I've had this summer.) I'm not sure about Sloppy Mama's. Maybe we should have tried it at Union Market. I'm sure it would be better removed from its current environment and I would have liked to try their ribs. Of these three, I'd give the nod to DCity Smokehouse.
  9. No, it was in DC. I suppose generic barbeque platters are too hard to discern. It was Sloppy Mama's at Solly's Tavern. And the pulled pork was barely edible. I'll write more soon.
  10. I left the area in 2013, but friends who work nearby say they've been gone for a few years. I heard they sold the truck. It's a shame. They were the first place I had bulgogi, and I've never found a place since where I thought it was as good.
  11. Sucks. I worked across the corner there for five years and was a regular, but that was four years ago and now I'm in Alexandria. I'm sure the proliferation of food trucks at Franklin Square played a big role. For a long while, Pedro & Vinny's and the Yellow Food Truck (Korean) were the only options in that area and they were both superior to what came afterwards. But now they're both gone. Such is progress I guess, but I wish we could have better supported the stalwarts while enjoying the new ones.
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