Thursday, May 13, 2010
Fette Sau: Go Meat!
Of all the foods there are perhaps none are more American than barbecue. A quick point of clarification, the word "barbecue" should not to be confused with grilling. Where grilling is a method of cooking with direct heat, barbecue is a method of slowly cooking with indirect heat and smoke. I know, New York is not exactly what you'd call a barbecue destination. We don't have vinegar-based sauces or chopped pork like the Carolinas, have smoke ribs and pull pork like Memphis, tomato-based sauces like Kansas City and even prepare our brisket differently than Texans, but rest assured, there are a growing number of quality barbecue joints in New York City and last weekend a bunch of friends joined The Chief and I in Williamsburg to sample one of New York's best.
Growing up in Rochester, I always have been and still am partial to John Stage's Dinosaur BBQ. I was thrilled to learn about the Harlem Dinosaur BBQ location but needed something a bit closer. Stemming from my desire not to have to travel so far for barbecue prompted my search for good barbecue in Brooklyn. My search led me to Williamsburg's Fette Sau, meaning "little pig," which has garnered both accolades and a strong following over the years; and after learning that you ordered your meat by the pound and your beer by the gallon it was no longer a question if, but rather, when I would come.
Located off Metropolitan Ave. not too far from the BQE, Fette Sau's entrance looks more like a junk yard than a restaurant, with a chain link fence and barbed wire as its entrance. A long alley with several picnic tables leads you into a "garage" area where the food is prepared and served. The ambiance at Fette Sau may best be described as barnyard chic. The walls are painted with images of pork and beef cuts that look as though they were taken straight from the pages of a butcher's manual as diners feast at communal tables. The barnyard theme even extends to the beer taps which have been replaced by different cutting instruments, such as meat cleavers and tenderizers. The bar offers ten different beers, including several Sixpoint and Brooklyn Brewery varieties, and boasts an impressive selection of domestic whiskeys. After tasting several of the different beers we selected the Sixpoint Vienna Pale Ale, a variety brewed exclusively for the restaurant I was told and were served in mason jars.
Fette Sau's barbecue menu rotates daily between different meats. This can be frustrating or refreshing depending on the frequency that you visit the restaurant. On one of my visits, both pork and beef ribs were on the menu, while on another there were no ribs available. Fette Sau uses a dry rub on their meats and smokes them without any sauce. Instead, three different sauces are provided on each table: a Sweet BBQ, a Pisilla Chili Pepper Sauce and a Vinegar Sauce. You may mix and match as you please as the majority of our group preferred a combination of the sweet BBQ and spicy pasilla chili sauces.
After finding some seats we got into the long line as we scanned the blackboards that listed the daily meats and sides. We opted for two large sides: burnt ends baked beans and coleslaw. The Burnt Ends Baked Beans were some of the tastiest beans I've ever had. Smokey chunks of burnt ends studded the sweet and spicy beans.
The Coleslaw was crisp and refreshing. I particularly enjoyed the addition of apple which provided sweet note to this otherwise ordinary side.
The Duroc St. Louis Pork Ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and tasted even better with some sauce added.
The Duroc Pulled Pork Shoulder was good, but far from my favorite, though The Chief couldn't keep his hands off the meat. The meat was tender and moist and made a killer pulled pork sandwich between the Martin's potato rolls given to you and topped with coleslaw.
On the other hand, the Berkshire Pork Belly was my favorite of all the meats. Simply put, the pork belly was sinfully unctuous. The succulent meat topped with a layer of fat that just melted when it reached your lips is reason enough to try the barbecue here.
Also very good were the Berkshire Spicy Pork Sausages. Snappy from natural casings, these sausages surely didn't lack any flavor and had a spicy finish to them.
The Black Angus Beef Brisket was very tender and had a nice beefy flavor that even a Texan would've approved of.
The Black Angus Boneless Beef Ribs were great with one exception: they came without the bones. Nonetheless, the meat's flavor wasn't compromised by the absence of the bones and I wouldn't hesitate ordering this again.
In addition to these meats, I've also seen Canadian Wild Boar Roast, Berkshire Pork Jowl and have sampled Duroc Pork Loin and Black Angus Beef Sirloin. All of Fette Sau's meats had nice smoke penetration and were flavorful. The dry rub used to season the meat wasn't too strong as to mask its natural flavor and the sauces acted as a nice compliment for those barbecue sauce lovers. While New York may not have its own distinct barbecue style, barbecue joints like Fette Sau are more than capable of satisfying even the strongest barbecue cravings, just be sure to remember the wet naps on the way out.
354 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
To see all our pics please click the flickr link.