Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taco Taco Taco

Pachanga Patterson has been all over the blogs recently, which is weird, because it's in my neighborhood, which typically shies away from citywide attention. The concept is "Mexican food as made by people behind the line who are hungry after a night of service." Maybe not the most terse description, but hey, it's accurate. Of course, people already know this place, thought it has only been open a few weeks. I ran into the sous chef from Ma Peche, a sign that industry has already caught on.

Here's what they've caught on to:

P & H soda mixers in the cocktails from Anton Nocito at P & H. The hibiscus margarita is delish, if a little on the boozy side. A trio of salsas might not be in season (corn and tomato in March?), but I ate them anyway. Tomatillo had good texture and acidity, while a roasted tomato version coaxed every available molecule of summer sweetness.

I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed a crispy, crunchy, peanutty salad of romaine leaves, fried peanuts, jicama, and pickled red onion. It would have been the perfect salve for the extremely fiery and nonetheless addictive fried chiles with cotija cheese that I ordered with my tacos. Because I can't do anything food-related in moderation, I ordered nine tacos for the two of us. (Note: this is what I consider to be a restaurant misstep; every taco plate comes with three tacos and the menu specifically says that mixing and matching is prohibited. Boo to a lack of variety.)

Moo shu duck tacos actually tasted nothing like moo shu--I was thinking cabbage and mushroom and hoisin--but they did taste strikingly similar to the Ssam Bar pork buns, and I mean that as a compliment. The filling appeared to be a confit of leg, along with lightly pickled cucumber and fresh sliced radish. Berkshire pork tacos were stuffed also with pickled onions and deep-fried pork rinds. Say no more. A taco advertised as "black trumpet mushrooms" was actually portabellos for the evening, a huge disappointment, since the two couldn't be more different versions of fungus. Still, it tasted good. Overall, the restaurant could use to include one meat taco with more meat texture, as opposed to all the slow-cooked stuff it has going on (pork shoulder, short ribs, duck confit). Bring on the tongue!

Dessert was the dark version of Vesta's baby Jesus cake, the Diabolita--same owners, different appeal. The cake is a square of chocolate and spice, served warm with caramel. It isn't a cerebral dessert, but dessert needn't always be so thinky.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I stopped by Fette Sau in Billyburg last night, but the long line and lack of seating pointed me elsewhere. But when you're in the mood for 'cue, you're in the mood for 'cue, so to South Williamsburg we ventured, miraculously snagging a vacant table at Fatty 'Cue in under ten minutes.

The spot, in aesthetic and execution, isn't so different from Zak Pelaccio's Fatty Crabs, which is to say that the food is spicy, sweet, salty, textured and, above all else, full of fat. The best exemplar of "fat is flavor" comes across in the Dragon Pullman Toast with Master Fat. What is it? Slices of that well-known and pillow-soft bread with grill marks and a salt crust, served with a side of fat drippings from the barbecue. It's like eating the deckle of a rib-eye on toast, if that deckle had been rendered into a dippable liquid. Not half bad, I say.

We ate lamb ribs, off the bone and crisp, with a mackerel aioli, which sounds gross but isn't. Two mammoth pork ribs came with a palm sugar glaze that's stickier, sweeter, and more appealing than the best Texas red sauce. Pork bone broth is basically a rich consomme with sliced crunchy celery. In the context of all this meat, it almost reads like health food. So, too, do the habit-forming black eyed peas, served with the traditional addition of burnt ends and the not-so-traditional slickening of yellow curry. Grilled bacon, leaning towards the fatty, comes with a curry mustard and toast points, a modern take on charcuterie that doesn't feel too haute or out of place.

I would have ordered the crab for a shareable entree, but one of our party members is allergic, so we settled on brisket instead, which didn't disappoint. Fatty 'Cue serves the lean, pink slices alongside the dense, fatty ones. The brisket comes with mayonnaise, chili sauce, steamed buns (Peking duck style), cilantro, pickled red onions, and a bone broth for dipping. It's a rendering of make-your-own pork buns, or a French dip. And it's really, really good. Cutting all that fat with sugar and acid (found everywhere in accompanying sauces and in the vinegar and fish sauce container left on the table for each party's personal use) works so well, one wonders why Malaysian barbecue isn't already a "thing" in the city.

Then again, these treats are probably best enjoyed in moderation.

Fatty 'Cue
91 South 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211