Saturday, November 12, 2011

Big 6 Bar-B-Que

9431 Highway 6 South @ Bissonnet (and on the northeast side).

This trailer has been doing business along Highway 6 for several years but recently moved about a half mile south of it's long time location to a strip center on this corner and is parked right next to the Yum Yum Snow Ball trailer.

I'd been meaning to try it for a long time and had a taste for some barbecue so I wheeled in. The menu lists chicken, sausage and ribs before brisket and I wondered if that was a suggestion of what they think their best product is but I prefer to judge a barbecue place first by the brisket, in this case a sliced beef sandwich since I wasn't hungry enough for a plate.

It was about 8 oz of meat; they use oak and pecan and the smoke sure smelled good. The brisket on top was all from the lean part and was good and smoky and tender with a nice char but a bit dry. Fortunately there was some fatty meat in the middle of the sandwich which redeemed it. Sauce, minced onions, pickles and sliced jalapenos all came on the side, each in their own small containers. The onions were a little past prime and I decided not to use them but the real negative was the sauce, an unappealing smelling concoction to my nose. I'm anti-sauce anyway and this one did nothing to change my mind. I had to use a small amount to keep the sandwich from being too dry and fortunately the flavor of the meat itself wasn't overwhelmed by it. Sauce on the side and some fatty meat included without it being requested are all good signs at a barbecue place as far as I'm concerned.

I got a small sample of their home-made sausage, a typical East Texas fine-ground, synthetic casing product but made with pork instead of the usual beef. I thought it was very promising. They also have a home-made smoked boudin.

They've opened a brick and mortar place on the Northeast side, off of Lockwood, north of 610. It is open 7 days a week but the trailer is only open Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

Big 6 Bar-B-Que

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Myung Dong

6415 Bissonnet

And the award for Stealth Restaurant of the Year goes to....Myung Dong. The street-side signs are faded beyond legibility, the sign on the rooftop in Korean is gone, the door is hidden back on the side and the piece of paper taped to the door gives only the days and hours of operation without identifying the business. And I must have been to La Roca right next door dozens of times without ever realizing there was any kind of business operating out of this space that served the general public, much less a Korean restaurant along this stretch of Bissonnet.

But I happened upon a picture of the building on Yelp and immediately recognized it. The reviews on Yelp are almost uniformly positive and so was a report by Tasty Bits a couple of years ago. Once I saw the picture of the seafood pancake, I had to go.

For my first visit I went in during the hellish days of our summer; advised by a Yelp reviewer that there was no a/c, I went right after they opened intending to get food to go but I found the room pleasantly cool, with two floor fans on stands keeping the air moving, though it was a little musty from having been closed up for two days. For some reason I couldn’t understand (very little English is spoken), they couldn’t do the Bee Bim Bap to go so I opted for the Seafood Pancake - Hae-Mul-Pa-Jun. I took a seat, fortuitously as it turned out, where I could see into the kitchen a little bit and once the lady started cooking and the aromas started wafting out, all traces of the unpleasant mustiness disappeared. And it was clear this was gonna be good.

It took a long time for my food to be ready. During the wait a delivery of supplies took place. I saw cases of frozen oysters, chili powder and other supplies I couldn’t identify being brought in. Finally I was summoned to the cash register to pay (cash only), took my sizable tray of goodies and happily made a bee-line for home. It weighed a ton. Well, more like 4 pounds, maybe, but way too heavy for my kitchen scale. I’ve had Green Onion Pancakes at Chinese restaurants before and picked up Scallion Pancakes in the ready-to-eat section of Super H Mart, but I’d never seen anything like this. The aroma was incredible. I portioned out some for my first sample and dug in. Oysters, shrimp, mussels, scallops, they were all there and in great abundance; I think I got a bit of each in the very first bite. The crust had a nice crispness on top and bottom and was good and moist throughout. It’s been noted elsewhere they use surimi instead of real crab but with all the other types of seafood in such abundance, I hardly noticed. And it was readily apparent why it had taken so long to prepare. This is more like a sheet cake than a pancake.

The quantity of dipping sauce and banchan that accompanied the pancake was rather skimpy. I found myself regretting that I had not tried to write down what was in the sauce so I could attempt to duplicate it later but I have since learned that a shortage of banchan is not a problem you’re ever going to encounter here if you eat in. I ate on the pancake for 3 days, then wound up freezing about a third of it. This surely would be enough for a family of four for at least one meal. (Pictures of the whole package will be posted below. The pancake reheats successfully from being refrigerated, not so well out of the freezer in my experience).

I was much less impressed with the Kal-Guk-Su that I tried on my next visit, hand-made noodles in anchovy broth with vegetables. The noodles had been snipped into short lengths, precluding the joy of slurping, and some were clumped together and undercooked, the anchovy disappointingly very understated. While this was no where near as impressive a dish to me as the pancake one of the reviews on Yelp explains the origin of the restaurant name and the significance of the dish and proclaims it the ‘Star of the Menu.’ So there you go - to each his own.

One of the things about Korean restaurants is even if your main is disappointing you’re not likely to leave hungry. On this visit I was introduced to the wide array of very generous portions of banchan including about 2 cups of rice that reviewers have referred to as purple but I believe is unhulled, sticky rice which takes on a purplish tint when cooked plus a very good kimchi, nabak kimchi in a cool broth, kongnamul (sprouts), fish cakes, sesame spinach and one I haven’t identified with bitter greens, both leaves and stems.

I have become fond of the ever-watchful mackerel which is one of the banchan at Jang Guem so when I saw a couple of mackerel preparations on the menu at Myung Dong, I went for one, Ghong-Chi, grilled, salted pike mackerels. Mackerel flesh is very oily and these were very moist on the inside and tended to flake into small pieces, difficult to handle with the chopsticks, but very good.

Once again there was a full array of banchan and I way over-ate. There were also some new offerings. The spaghetti-like item was crunchy, shredded daikon I think. In front of it chunks of daikon, also, possibly. The little silvery fishes, stir fried sardines they’re referred to in the ready-to-eat coolers at Super H Mart, I initially thought I was not going to like but wound up polishing off all of that bowl and ignoring the fish cakes. The chewiness was another nice contrasting texture to add to the mix.

There are many other things on the short menu to try. Korean food is addictive but it’s way too easy to over-eat when presented with such a feast and since it’s mostly vegetables I can tell myself ‘it’s low calorie, a few more bites won’t hurt.’

By way of disclaimer I perhaps should acknowledge that I haven’t commented on any of the meat dishes which are probably the main thing that people go to Korean restaurants for, but I eat very little meat these days and the portions, judging from the reviews and pictures on Yelp, are very large and I just haven’t felt like trying them. Nor have I had the Bee Bim Bap here; their version is not served in a hot stone bowl so you do not get the crispy rice to savor.

This is a two person operation, at least it has been every time I’ve been in. Service is practically non-existent as the lady spends almost all of her time in the kitchen and the man is frequently by her side or across the prep table from her helping. Diners help themselves to the tea from a big pot on the counter, and the condiments, such as they are. It’s not that the people are rude, they’re just busy and that’s fine with me. The lady can cook, and it’s perfectly alright that she spends her time doing that rather than fussing over me at the table.

They are open Tuesday thru Saturday, 11am to 9 pm. Since the menu photos on Yelp are pretty useless, here are some better shots of the short menu plus some pictures of the seafood pancake and banchan that I got to go on my first visit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

AL/Al's Quick Stop and Grill

2002 Waugh Drive

I’m sure this little corner grocery was in existence umpteen umpteen years ago when I lived near Cherryhurst Park but I never went in. The menu says only since 1991, probably meaning the popular eatery inside the store. I’ve been hearing about the latter for years and wanted to check it out but I seldom get back down to the ‘trose.

It was 8 months ago when I found myself close by and decided to try it out. Though I’d heard most about the gyro when I noted the spit was not turning nor glowing I opted for a falafel plate with tahini and relish.

My first thought on getting a good look at the finished product - uh oh. That’s not the color I like to see when I behold falafel and just as I expected the exterior was too crusty and overcooked, there was even a slight taste of charring. The interior, a beautiful forest green, was mush. I seldom throw food away but I tossed several pieces of this as just not worth eating. The pita bread was dry, too, but the rest of the plate was very good; I particularly liked the pickled vegetables and hummus and would go back to try other plates if I get those things; the bed of parsley and radish underneath the falafel patties was also a nice refreshing note.  (Edit to add:  I have since learned the falafel may have been revithkeftedes, the Greek version of falafel, which is made with cooked, mashed chickpeas instead of ground, dried chickpeas.  This would account for the mushy texture.  I plan to give them another try).

Though I had shied away from the gyro, I had noted there seemed to be some pink on the meat on the spit and I still wanted to give it a try but it was not until earlier this month that I was back in the neighborhood. Though again the spit was not turning I went for a gyro anyway. A large portion of meat was deftly sliced off and warmed up on a flattop. A modest portion of onions and tomatoes were added as well as a pita.

Okay, this one lives up to the hype. Though it’s not apparent in the picture there was a tinge of pink on some of the pieces of meat and this was by far the juiciest gyro meat I’d ever eaten. And probably the biggest gyro - I think the whole sandwich weighed in at 11 oz. Some reviews online have stated it’s only beef, not the typical beef and lamb mix, but I didn’t think so and the menu does say it’s both. The pita in this case was fresh and fluffy, almost like naan. I could have used more of the onions and tomatoes and sadly the quantity of tzatziki which I got (to go) was very inadequate. I must admit the sauce is half the reason I like gyros so I was disappointed but I’m sure if you ate in, you could ask for more, if necessary.

The menu is very varied with Tex-Mex, Mediterranean and American sections; given how infrequently I’m in the neighborhood, it’ll probably be a long time before I try any thing else and I’m probably going to want another gyro next time.

Now, under the heading of Unsolved Mysteries of the Montrose, I'm not sure what the name of this place is. The sign and the take-out menu both say AL Quick Stop. Capital A, capital L, no apostrophe, no s. (The take-out menu makes it even clearer- there are pictures of the menu on Yelp so I’m not going to post it here). But it’s known by everybody as Al’s, listed on every user review site that I know of as Al’s, and there are dishes on the menu such as ‘Al’s Diced Salad,’ and ‘Al’s Chicken Sub.’ Rogue sign maker and rogue printer perhaps? Or perhaps the chef at AL is named Al?