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Posts Tagged ‘brioche’

Last night my buddy Nick wanted to meet up for a happy hour drink. In the morning he suggested either grabbing a beer or trying a new taco joint or something, he’s a taco eating freak of nature who would hook La Pasadita up to an IV bag if he could. I had read about Lillie’s Q and was very intrigued by a BBQ place whose chef had logged time at places like Tru and Avenues and who used his grandma’s Memphis In May winning BBQ sauces. When I noticed that they served fried pickles I knew I could get Nick on board as he’s from The Muthaland, better known as Louisville, KY, where a place called Genny’s serves up frickled pickles, a dish near and dear to his tracts.

We got a table quickly as it wasn’t full yet, it did fill up shortly after we got there. The space is nice, simple, and clean. Brick walls and a nice bar, very typical of a Bucktown storefront. On the tables are the various in-house BBQ sauces. There’s the Hot Smokey, Smokey, Carolina, Carolina Gold, and Ivory. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, but we both agreed that they should tell a little about the flavor profiles. We opted to taste little dabs of each. They were all pretty solid sauces.

Of course, we started withe the fried pickles. I’m not a big pickle fan (I think my younger brother and I are the only two Jews in the world who wouldn’t slather ourselves in pickles if it were socially acceptable) but these weren’t too bad. The frickled pickles at Genny’s are thinly sliced while these were big chunks. Having been to Genny’s myself I think I agree with Nick that thin slices are better because you get a better ratio of coating to pickle. Also, these were served with their Ivory Sauce, a variation of Ranch Dressing. The proper sauce for a fried pickle should be a mixture of ranch with ketchup. All in all though, not too bad.

As we looked further into the menu we noticed a 4 bone option for the ribs. Since we wanted to try a bunch of things that seemed like a great second appetizer to share. The ribs were really good. Very tender, moist, nice subtle smokey flavor, and just the right amount of BBQ sauce caramelized on the surface. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are the best ribs I’ve ever had, I will say that they were damn good. Nick claims that Honey 1 has a better rib, but I’ve never tried them so I can’t comment. I will say that the ribs at Smoque are a little better than these. So, the verdict is that these are very good ribs, but not the best ribs.

For the main event we decided to try the pulled pork sandwich, tri-tip sandwich, and seasoned sweet potato fries and split everything. We got the sandwiches with the “Carolina-style” option, which is basically a pile of slaw thrown on top of the meat. The pulled pork was excellent. Very tender and juicy meat. The tri-tip, not the best. The meat was cooked properly, it just didn’t have any flavor. The brioche they use for buns had a much stronger flavor than the meat, something that should never happen with BBQ’d beef. If you take the meat out of the bun and squirt some of the Carolina Gold, a vinegary mustard sauce, all over it the meat becomes a great vessel to enjoy the sauce. Otherwise, it has no real purpose in life. Neither of the sandwiches came sauced, which is nice because you have the option of choosing the sauce that best fits your style. I thought the Smokey on the pulled pork was a great sandwich. As for the sweet potato fries, they were just your regular sweet potato fries. I will say that they were perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.

While the food was well above average I kind of expected a little more considering Chef McKenna’s background. I actually think his background was a bit of a hinderance on the food. Real BBQ is not served on brioche, and last night I found out why. The sweetness of the bread was too much for these sandwiches. A regular bun would take these sandwiches from really good all the way up to great on my scale of good to great. What do the French know about southern BBQ anyway?

We didn’t try any of their “Moonshine” cocktails, instead opted for jars of beer. They have a decent little beer list that washed all of the food down nicely.

As for the service, I thought it was fantastic. Timely, professional, not pushy at all. The place is run very smoothly.

Overall, Lillie’s Q is a really good BBQ joint but by no means a must go. If I’m walking around the area and get the craving for some BBQ I have no problems stopping in and filling my belly with their grub. However, if heading to BBQ is something planned ahead of time I’d rather meander over to Smoque. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Lillie’s Q, it’s just not an out-of-this-world BBQ experience.

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The first thing you’ll notice about this post is the lack of pictures. Yuki took me out last night for my 34th birthday (damn I’m gettin old!) and my recent experience, I’m sure you’ll agree, has not been good using my cell phone’s camera in dim restaurant lighting. While I have no problem using my regular camera when traveling, I feel weird pulling it out here at home, like a tourist in my own city. That said, here is how our night at the highly acclaimed Naha Restaurant went last night.

We had a 7:30 reservation and showed up right on the dot. The hostess informed us that they were running a little behind and it’d be about 15 minutes before our table would be ready. No worries, we understand that sometimes this happens. So, we sat at these extremely uncomfortable built-in benches along the wall and waited…and waited…and waited. 15 minutes goes by and nothing. Once 8:00 rolled by I went up to inquire how much longer it’d be. I was told that 3 tables had already paid and they were just waiting for them to leave. Ok, however, the assistant hostess rolled her eyes at me for asking. Sorry, but that’s about as rude as it gets when it’s way past our reservation time and we still have not gotten our table. Fortunately for her our table was ready about 2 minutes later; I didn’t have to get the manager.

We get to our table and the interior was quite nice. Very simple and elegant with windows covering all of the exterior walls. Yuki sat on the cushioned bench, so I don’t know how comfortable that was, but the wooden chair I sat in was extremely uncomfortable. There was an ill-placed wooden bar that dug into my spine causing me to hunch over the entire time. On top of that it was way too cold in that restaurant. They could have turned the air conditioner down a good 10 degrees. I noticed most of the women around us were all kind of clenching due to the temperature. I’m pretty hairy, and even I was cold, my natural fur coat wasn’t enough insulation.

Here we are sitting at our cold, uncomfortable table waiting…waiting…waiting. It took more than 10 minutes for the busser to come over and offer us our choice of water. It took another 10 minutes for our server, Albert, to come over and greet us. 20 minutes before an appearance from our server! He even made a dumb comment, “Sorry, I know you’ve been sitting here for 2 or 3 minutes.” Try 20, buddy! I put in the order for some Cava and that came out alright.

After sipping on the Cava for a few minutes Albert came back over once he had taken the order from the table on my left as they were seated shortly before us. He asked if we had ever been there before. When I said no he proceeded to explain just about every dish on the menu. Go to Naha’s website and read the menu, every single dish is well articulated, we don’t need a recap. Not to mention, it was already an hour past our reservation time and we were damn hungry, just take our order! Before we could get our order in he disappeared again. Dude, we’ve been sitting for over a half and hour looking at the menu, our minds were made up over 20 minutes ago!

Finally, we got our orders placed. Then, we waited…and waited…and waited. We’re sitting there waiting; meanwhile, the table to my left who had ordered just 5 minutes before we did was chomping away at their appetizers. I commented to Yuki that they’ll get their entrées before we get our apps. I was right. During the wait Albert avoided us so I couldn’t even inquire. I was getting pissed!

When our appetizers finally came our stomachs were rumbling. Yuki got the Risotto with Blue Crab, Oyster Mushrooms, and Lobster Bisque. The crab was pretty good, nice and moist, but the risotto and bisque were way too salty. She cleared her plate out of sheer hunger more than anything. I got the Gnocchi with Braised Oxtails, Spanish Chorizo, Rapini, Montelerriana Cheese, and Basil. I do have to say that this was a great dish. The gnocchi were nice and soft, the chorizo added a nice compliment to the mild oxtail, the rapini a nice bitterness, the cheese the right amount of salt, and basil a refreshing note.

While we were in the middle of our apps a new table was sat to my right. They ordered right away and got their apps before we finished ours. Did the hostess have a vendetta against us for asking how much longer it’d be to get our table? Then, even though we did finish our apps before them they got their entrées before us, way before us. Shoot, they almost finished their entrees before we got ours.

During our wait between apps and entrées I was finally able to flag down Albert after the wait hit a half hour. He just kept apologizing and saying that kitchen is backed up. Sorry Albert, but that’s no excuse. My little quail should take no longer than 5-8 minutes to roast while Yuki’s brisket was either braised the day before or that morning. It should never take that long between coarses. I told him how I noticed that the tables on either side of us were getting their dishes in a timely fashion and his response was childish and defensive, “Sir, it’s not a competition.” Albert, man up and admit your service sucked. I was merely using the other tables as a reference point, not for some competition you may have going on in your feeble little head.

We just about lost our appetite because so much time had passed. Right when I was about to tell Albert to forget it, we’re leaving, the entrées showed up, more than 45 minutes from the time they cleared our apps.  

Yuki had the Braised Brisket with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and, honestly, I forget what else was on that dish. We couldn’t get past how salty the braising liquid and mushrooms were as well as how tough the brisket was. They should have called it brisket jerky. I kept watching Yuki try to saw away at that thing just to get a bite. I think it was sitting under the heat lamps for about 20 minutes back in the kitchen. At least that’s how it tasted. I got the Roasted Quail with Kurobuta Pork Belly, Duck Egg baked in La Quercia Prosciutto, and Purple Potatoes. The quail was alright, a little dry, but not terrible. The pork belly was way too sweet, and I do mean sweet. The egg and prosciutto was so damn salty! Doesn’t Chef Nahabedian know that when you cook prosciutto you’re concentrating the salt by removing the moisture? She did nothing to control the salt level. The fact that the yolk of my duck egg was solid and not runny tells me that my dish probably sat under the heat lamps for too long as well. On top of that the three main components had absolutely nothing to tie them together. I was intrigued by the combination on paper and quite honestly, it just didn’t work on all fronts. I kept imagining what Chef Tom Colicchio would say on Top Chef about editing a dish and pulling back on ingredients. Also, there was nothing on either of our plates that justified the price. Brisket is a cheap cut of beef and quail, pork belly (literally three bites worth), and duck egg don’t cost that much either. We clearly didn’t pay for execution as nothing was balanced or cooked properly.

When we finished the entrées it was already 10:00 and we were ready to go home. Albert came by and asked if we were up for dessert and I told him, “We don’t want to be here for another hour, we’re ready to go.” He tried to joke around and said the dessert was on him. We really didn’t care for his nonchalant attitude. We’re two very pissed off diners, not friends.

Another comment on Albert’s service, not once did he come over to see how our food was. He ignored us during our apps and he ignored us during our entrées.

He left to get us the bill and the manager, Terry, came by to apologize. I told him my exact thoughts. If the service had run at regular restaurant speed we wouldn’t have waited the initial half hour to get our table not to mention the snails pace of everything else. It should never take more than a half hour to get apps, and it should never take more than 45 minutes to get an entrée from the time apps are cleared. He also blamed it on the kitchen which is a terrible cop-out. Whether deliberate or shear incompetence, our entrées clearly seemed to have been sitting in the kitchen under heat lamps for a long period of time.

When Albert brought the check he also brought a dessert, Vanilla Ice Cream Parfait with Drunken Fruit and Brioche Pain Perdu, with the obligatory “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate. It was comped, but we clearly told him we did not want dessert and just wanted to leave. The correct move would have been to just take care of some of our wine and not force us to stay there any longer. A free dessert was not enough to get the usual 20% tip we tend to leave.

I do have to say that Yuki had her doubts about Naha months ago when I mentioned that this is where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner. She thought the menu looked pretentious and unappetizing. Once again, she was right. I should have known better. Most chefs worth their grain of salt, especially those who claim to be farm-to-table chefs, are trending towards simplicity, fewer ingredients to showcase the quality of the food. Chef Nahabedian is stuck in the trends of a decade ago. Besides that, the service was clearly lacking. If you want to go out for a nice dinner with fantastic food, trust me, there are hundreds of better options than Naha where you’ll be paying their rent instead of buying a good dinner experience.

Thanks for a horrible birthday Naha!

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