Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Menya Musashi Kosho, Roppongi (麺屋武蔵 虎嘯)

The original concept of this blog was of course 'lunch in Roppongi'. I moved on pretty quickly from that due to the whole 'implosion of my employer and my subsequent relocation to Otemachi', I still have a soft spot for Roppongi lunches.

Actually I don't; I don't have a soft spot for anything about Roppongi. I needed to go to the bank, and after 2 hours of waiting, negotiation and processing, my sherpa Harry and I were pretty well ready for lunch. Bizarrely, I've never blogged the nearby Ippudo branch, and I steered clear of that today too, in favor of the Menya Musashi branch that opened sometime in the last year or two. I don't get to Roppongi much these days.

I was pleased that we could walk in and only wait for 5 minutes; I distinctly remember the Akiba branch of Menya Musashi having reliable lines.

Nice looking store, right? Somehow I thought I had been to more of these guys, each of which I think has a different theme, but in looking back the only one I've been to is Takatora in Baba. The team here is surprisingly mellow for one of these black-paint-and-metal, ikemen places. They're not that ike either, come to think of it. Just guys working hard without any clever synchronized shouting and whatnot. Relaxing, I thought.

Well hey boy, let's get into it. The standard 'ramen' pictured here is a very good bowl; a little bit unique (which is like a little bit pregnant).

The soup is medium-weight, without any over-the-top fat or bone or fish flavor; they also have a shrimp version. They also do a big line in tsukemen, which most people seemed to be having, but I still don't understand the point of those, and I steered us in the normal direction.

The noodles are neat; more like Inaniwa udon than anything else in their wide flattitude. They're also pretty soft and slippery, with a high 'fear quotient', ie feeling that they're going to jump off the chopsticks and onto your lap at any time. I escaped with only minor damage.

Pork may be a highlight at Menya Musashis; it is at Takatora, and the style here was (different and) interesting too - it tasted a lot like canned ham, which I don't mean to sound as bad as it does. I saw a staffer dealing with several huge pans of whole cuts, and they were all vacuum-packed. Are the roasted and then wrapped for transport, or is it possible they could be cooked sous vide to get this texture and flavor?

Based on this egg, they clearly know how to control them a little water temperature, so it seems possible. Boy do I like a nice jellied yolk like this. America has no idea what it's missing with these things.

That's about it. Do you mind if I stop? Roppongi not being a real ramen destination, this is definitely the place you should go if you need noodles.
So I went for a walk afterwards to reminisce, and whaddya know, I was wrong. Turns out there IS a place where smorking is OK.

But only one. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Carl's Perfect Pig, White Bluff (Nashville)

I'm not here to tell you the name is a lie. I'm not even here to complain about 'cajun chicken alfredo' being on the menu. I'm just here to say, this was some good barbecue. Good enough to try desperately to squeeze your snout out the crack in the window when you've been cruelly locked in there, the vapors creeping in to tantalize y'all.
Tempting to say that a place that cares enough to get their own neon is also a place that's going to be very good. I wasn't crazy about Carl's ambience though. It has the feel of a place that's been in bidness for quite a spell where management has kinda took their eye off the ball. There's the thinnest film of 'not clean' on everything, or else it's just worn, and it's disorganized. Specially downstairs where we sat.
But hell, who cares about some trivial concerns like that when Sunday lunch is barbecue? This was definitely meat that was ready earlier in the day, but it was tasty meat. I ate waaaay too much despite this being my fifth meal of barbecue in three days. Ribs were excellent - soft, smoky, a little dry but in that way that's dry and yet soft. And not at all dry like bad pulled pork. Brisket was chunks instead of slices, and was a real good'n. Pulled I don't remember so much. The slaw was vinegar, which I really think is the way to go, especially when you've got a coating of sauce cooked onto the meat like we do here. Helps cut down the richness of the sauce and smoke and fat so it doesn't get cloying.

Carl's. Make the drive if you're trying to eat good barbecue. Studies (mine) have shown that it's a stretch to find anything really good in the center of Nashville.
(615) 797-4020
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Have a nice little walk in the woods after too. This is Narrows of the Harpeth State Park, so named because the Harpeth River does a funny little turn back on itself. It's maybe because the rock of this bluff was too hard to wear away - there's a big fin of rock that you can walk up in 10 or 15 minutes. near the top we saw a group of early-teen girls talking about life and love. And herpes. One seemed to have a boyfriend with the affliction (as does a majority of the population if popular online information sites are to be believed. And they are, without question.). The pertinent quote the bubbled up to us as we walked past was "Were y'all kissin' on each other?" Just a few miles from downtown Nashville, and a world away.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jack's Bar-B-Que, Nashville

We didn't know Jack, but we kinda wanted to. So did a lot of our friends. Had to wait all the way past the bar next door, and through a line inside the premises too.

Here's the funny thing - there was plenty of seating. I mean, it was quiet and kinda empty. It's just that the people at the counter were the antithesis of quick and helpful. By which I mean they were slow, stupid, and uncommunicative. Having so much time in line, we were ready with our order when we finally got to the 'meat station' - here's the meatz we want, these sidez, let's go! But the guy behind the counter was all confuddled by this, as if he couldn't remember more than one meat item at a time.

Jack's on Broadway does have an awesome sign though, eh? The neon flying pigs are indeed animated at night.
Here's our order. I just don't think it's that hard. Pulled plate, rib plate, extra brisket sandwich. Jack isn't big on flexibility, so we had to get the junk bread wrapped around the brisket.

Cornbread's good here. Coleslaw OK, apples canned and boring (or cooked so as to resemble nothing so much as canned, boring apples). Cucumber salad is a nice diversion, not something you hardly never see at no barbecue places.

The ribs had been left to set a spell, so while they were tender inside and heavily bark-y outside, they were a bit dry. You never know. They were more edible than some. The pork I remember as being kinda dry too, even though we watched the guy chopping it (maybe I should call it chopped instead of pulled). The brisket I don't remember. I know it's been over a month since I was there, but when stuff is good, I remember it.

Better luck tomorrow. This is 4 out of the 5 places we went to, and #5 was best. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Martin's BBQ Joint, Nolensville (Nashville)

Research had indicated...
Aww hell, I was just googling. Everyone likes to say "I deeply researched this issue" when they really mean they googled it for 2 minutes. But I spent a good 30 googling barbecue in Nashville. I felt like I could tell from the relative lack of informed discussionz that it wasn't going to be that good. There were two standouts, and this right here is one of them.

I don't usually hold with this style of decoration. Which I think of as 'TGI Friday's". And I hope you don't think me an elitist.

Awww, hell, go ahead and think me an elitist. It's true. I just like good stuff. And I like good ribs, and I'm not shy about saying so when something's bad.
Nor am I shy about slapping my grandma upside the head when something is good, and these right here were good. If I really got into ribs I'd know what cut these were, because it was different from what I think of as 'normal' ribs. Maybe it's 'Kansas City', or maybe it's 'baby back'. The distinguishing feature is a flap of meat that rides up on top, making each rib bigger and meatier and more satisfying then it otherwise has a right to be.

The other distinguishing feature of the ribs is that damn spice that they blanketed the top with. I couldn't place it, and it's probably their secret spice, and it completely ruined things for me. I scraped off most of it off since there was SO MUCH that the layer adhered to the moist rib was covered by a mound of still-dry spice. Ack, why ruin a really-very-good rib this way?

Martin's smokes their pork whole-hog, which is an impressive undertaking, and all the more so because they get it done well. The ribs were exemplary, in part because they seemed to have come out of the smoker pretty freshly - a lot of places really feel like the meat has been sittin a spell before it's served. The pulled and brisket above haven't stayed in my mind, so I'd advise you to straight for ribs and a beer. ANd I WOULD advise you to make the drive down to Nolensville.

I have spoken (again).
(615) 776-1856

Hog Heaven, Nashville

Did I own up about this yet? I coerced Leonard into meeting me in Nashville mainly so I could try playing a $60,000 banjo. (In other news, the $100,000 mandolin on the wall above it was really awesome.) And eat a lot of barbecue. Only when I started researchin, it didn't seem like there was any really great barbecue in Nashville.

Hog Heaven stood out as a contender, one of the places that was purty good, and it was also across the street from our hotel. I mean, front-line-from-the-front-door. We went for lunch today, and Leonard seemed to like it so much that he got it again for a morning snack the next day (although he regretted that when I made him eat at other barbecue places for lunch and dinner after that).

I'm all crazy with the panorama on the keitai these days, so you can see what it looks like around here. This is substantially all the seating - two long picnic tables under the shed. Fortunately this is also on the edge of Centennial Park, so there's no lack of grass seating, or benches if you walk a little.

Well, here's what your money gets you. What looks like a bun is actually, not for the first time, the corn pancakes that Nashvillains call 'corn bread'. Sides were average. In truth, I thought the meat was average too - not overly smoky or porkym which is a shame considering you could smell the smoker from right outside the hotel. What tha point? The sauce could be a highlight for some; it's kept hot, and it's medium spicy and plenty vinegary. For a regular place around Chicago, I'd be quite happy with this. But for being in Tennessee, I was disappointed.

Y'all might be too. Perhaps you should get the chicken-and-white-sauce that they say is their specialty?
(615) 329-1234

One attraction in the park is of course the Parthenon - this is what the good burghers of Nashville did for fun 100 years ago when they were trying to show how cultured and European they were. Things have come to a pretty pass when it's all barbecue and country music these days, and none of the finer things in classical edutainment.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bar-B-Cutie, Nashville

What's up there, sweet cheeks? Leonard and I flew in to Nashville for a long weekend men's trip. Nothing sordid ensued unless you count 5 meals of barbecue in 3 days as sordid. And my intestines sorta did. You know I don't eat that much meat these days.

So I got in after him due to flooding around my departure airport, we picked up a car, and I immediately suggested barbecue. I had scoped the vicinity a little and knew some of the higher-toned establishments that I wanted to try, and also some of the chains. Right near the airport there turned out to be a Whitt's; we pulled in to the parking lot and were so turned off by the obvious fast-foodishness of it that we pulled back out. This branch of Bar-B-Cutie was nearby; I think it's the second company-owned one, from back before they started franchising it out.

You know, it's pretty fast-foody in its own right, with smooth and soulless upgrades to the interior that to my mind clash with the nice retro exterior (which in turn clashes with the soulless nature of the strip malls nearby). I was put off by it, but it was getting late and we were hungry, and what the hell. So we ordered up a mess of food, in what quickly became the pattern for meals all weekend (because it's the pattern for me every time I eat barbecue, and I get annoyed if a restaurant doesn't allow it) - ribs, pulled, brisket, sides.

The ribs were extremely salty but soft enough, and tasty. I believe the pulled was dry here and required a lot of sauce. Brisket I don't remember, which isn't an exciting sign. Fried okra was good, turnip greens and stuffing were not. The pickle bar is a fun addition to the options as well. This was the first, but certainly not the last, time that we got 'corn bread', and it turned out to be little pancakes. That's the style around here.

OK if you need it, otherwise go somewhere more interesting. 
(615) 872-0207

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Angelo's, Fort Worth

So I was in Forth Worth for about 20 hours to have a little meeting. We got in early, visited some stores of the retailer we were meeting, and then were left with 2+ hours of dead time. My colleague, Hoor, looked at me and said "Barbecue" and we were off. It was like a little mad dash to work the phones, seeing what kinda options were available and what showed up where on the best-of lists.

We settled on Angelo's since it was ranked up there and was also close to the meeting location. And I say 'settled', because it's on White Settlement Road, and that prompted more than a few chuckles from us. I was getting ready to say that it's funny how some other bloggers comment on the road's name as being a racist hangover when clearly it's just called that because the White family first settled the area...but no, the town of White Settlement got its name to distinguish it from the nearby Indian settlement.

We opened the doors, got a big whiff of smoke in the face, and said "This is the place." At 11 on a Tuesday, it wasn't that crowded.

I'm shamelessly poaching this picture from the Googlez so y'all can see what it's like inside. And I say 'poaching', because I'm not at all sure where Angelo got all the trophy heads mounted on his walls (nor am I sure how a Sicilian immigrant became the best barbecue smoker in all of the White Settlement). Angelo also likes to 'poach' beers, as we used to say in high school - big goblets of beer. It seemed like almost a requirement to drink one, probably 20 ounces in a half-domed cup with a chunky glass handle. Old ladies had 'em.

Old ladies had big-ass piles of meat in front of em too. Everything's bigger in Texas, including our eyes as we ordered this lunch. I'm not shy about eating, and Hoor is a much healthier boy than me, so we got at least two pounds to nibble on. The ribs on the right were, seriously, the best I've had. I don't feel compelled to go into detail about their smokiness or fattiness or softness or what have you - if I say 'good barbecue', I give you credit for having at least a working knowledge of the genre, and these were the epi-tome of said genre. Brisket in the middle is a Texas thing in general, and was much better than the iffy version I had in Charlotte back in May last year (I see I didn't even blog it, which is prolly fitting). The sausages were fantastic - one meaty guy and one spicy guy - maybe I should be checking out the 'hot links' more often at these places? They do a smoked head cheese too; the staff seemed very proud of it, but we were chicken. (Let's not talk about the sauce or sides, OK?)

I'm unsure what else you need to know here. I went to Nashville a few weeks later, visited 5 barbecue restaurants in 3 days, and would trade all of 'em for another lunch at Angelo's. Plus they ship meat, at very reasonable prices.

Another thing, I don't see anyone on the message boards saying this is NOT the best barbecue in Ft Worth.