May 7, 2013

Blackstrap BBQ

Blackstrap BBQ became an immediate hit when it opened less than a year ago in downtown Verdun.  I questioned whether the hype was justified and decided to go check out the restaurant for myself.

What struck me when I arrived was how well the space has been thought out.  Right at the front, two common wooden tables and a "step right up" style ordering system at the cash register set a laid back, welcoming ambiance.  It is rustically sophisticated.  How would the food compare?

Bring on the barbecue!

The menu, which is posted on the wall, is straightforward.  Choose from pork, brisket, turkey, ribs, or chicken. Sandwiches are served with coleslaw.  Plates come with coleslaw, a roll, and a side of your choice.  I chose a brisket plate with a side of beans.

While the presentation of the food in metal food prep pans lined with paper detracts, the quality of the smoked products shines on the plate.  The meats are smoked in-house daily with a dry rub recipe.  Two kinds of barbecue sauce are provided at the table, one that is thick and sweet and another that is thinner and spicy.

Since most of my extended family lives in the Kansas City area, my view of barbecue is that the meat should be bathed in sauce.  Nevertheless, I can appreciate the "naked" approach since it highlights the quality of the smoking.  I did manage to try the brisket before smothering it with the delicious sweet sauce and was impressed with how moist and flavorful the meat was.  The brisket had the right amount of marbling in it and the edges had a good crust.  My only complaint was that the meat was too heavily salted.

While the coleslaw provided a nice tangy complement to the meat, I was disappointed with the other accompaniments.  The roll lacked salt and hadn't risen fully before being baked.  The beans were cooked well, being neither mushy nor overly firm, but were too garlicky and lacked sweetness to balance out the flavor.

Playing with your food

Besides coleslaw and baked beans, sides include fries, braised greens, and what has to be one of the star items on the menu: fried macaroni and cheese.  Macaroni covered in creamy sauce is formed into a casserole, cut into cubes, breaded, and deep fried.  It can't be good for you.  In fact, it must have absolutely no redeeming nutritional value at all, but it is a fun play on a childhood favorite.  Quite tasty, too.

Preeminent Poutine

Another attention grabber is the burnt ends poutine, which is more sinful than the fried macaroni and cheese, if that is even possible.  All of the traditional poutine ingredients are done right.  The flavorful, crisp fries are drowned in rich gravy and topped with good cheese curds.  The addition of chunks of smoky brisket ends sends it over the top.  It's worth a trip to Blackstrap BBQ just for the burnt ends poutine.

Is it really as good as they say?

Given all of the buzz about Blackstrap BBQ, it was hard not to go there with high expectations.  Truth be told, there were aspects of my experience that were disappointing.  The seasoning was too heavy on the salt, and the accompaniments were uneven.  However, Blackstrap BBQ does deserve praise, especially the smoked products and the burnt ends poutine.  Like the decor, the food may appear casual and homey, but a lot of thought and refinement has gone into its creation.

Blackstrap BBQ
4436 Wellington St., Verdun
Metro: De L'Eglise
Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Price: Allow $25 - $30 per person, including tax.

Highlights: Burnt ends poutine.  Rustic yet comfortable atmosphere.

Blackstrap BBQ on Urbanspoon

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