Friday, August 3, 2012

The Main Dish

Quest Log No 35 – The Main Dish
Meridianville, Madison County

This for clarification: I was torn. This is not your typical BBQ place, having only two BBQ related items on the menu. On the other hand, it says “Steaks, Seafood & Bar-B-Que” in BIG letters on the front of the building. So, should I include this place into the Quest or not? Well, if this was located anywhere else but the BBQ belt, I would have refrained from that, probably judging it as an anomaly. But if you write “Bar-B-Que” all over a wall, and serve pulled pork, you are fair game and have to compete with the rest of them. Sorry, live is not a pony ride.

But the owners of this restaurant already know that. Recently, they were one of the “victims” of Chef Robert Irvine, who travels the land on a quest of his own. In his Food Network TV series “Restaurant Impossible”, he tries to save failing restaurants from going under. In two days, he and his team give those sorry places a make-over, from making it pretty inside and out, training the servers, weeding out the almost always convoluted menus, to improving the cooking. Most of these establishments were tight-roping on the brink of failure for years, and one must seriously doubt that a few buckets of paint, some tips for a new tartar sauce and a general chew-out about work ethics and organizational skills will cure that.
But anyway, in May of this year, Chef Robert came to Meridianville and did his magic at The Main Dish.
I hadn’t been there before, so I cannot judge whether he did a good job or not. There are some indications of his work, though, that I immediately recognized – have I already mentioned that I am a big fan of his show?
For instance, the menu has only about twenty items on it, all with single digit prices. His mantra is, concentrate on what you are good and stop with the frou-frou.
The staff is extremely friendly and attentive and everything is spot-clean.
Also, the interior of the restaurant is modern and bright, with some whimsical accents like a room divider made out of china plates, geometrical lines on the walls, and stylized forks and knifes on the underside of the ceiling lights.
There are a dozen or so simple tables with black chairs in the room, which together with the black-and-white checkered floor, and the rest of the interior I just described above, make this a very nice place, indeed. It has flair.

But flair alone ain’t gonna cut it, sister. You have to serve a mean pulled pork too, if you want to play with the big boys on their turf.
So I ordered the BBQ plate, with fries and slaw on the side. The other BBQ related item on the menu is BBQ Bruschetta, but that sounded a bit too fancy for me. I rather stick with the basics.
Sorry, I had to take a minute here … heartburn and acid regurgitation, had to take a handful of Pepcid. Pooh, now it is better. It started right after we left the restaurant. And I know exactly what the culprit is – it was the pulled pork. Well, not so much the pork per se, but the fat it swam in. Liquid, all drenching fat that slowly crept across the plate and eventually also contaminated the first layer of fries coming in contact with it.
From the taste of it, the pork was not smoked but clearly slow cooked. And the fat was dripping out of it - but I have mentioned that already. Not that the pork itself was fat, but there was just so much liquid fat in it that my stomach at some point just raised the white flag and gave up processing it.
Needless to say that the whole pile of pork was a squishy, soggy mess. That the sauce that came with it in a cup was some kind of supermarket variety didn’t matter much anymore.
This was probably one of the worst plates of pulled pork I’ve ever had. It not only tasted like you know what, but it also gave me physical discomfort for the rest of the day.

The slaw that came with it, on the other hand, was quite exquisite. Crunchy, with a light yoghurt based sauce and a very fresh taste – one of the best I’ve ever had.
Also, the fried green tomatoes my wife had as an appetizer were nothing short of spectacular, especially the sauce that came with it. And her Fried Shrimp Po Boy was also very good.
So, let’s face the terrible truth – with so many real BBQ places around, there is no reason to subject your body to squishy, fatty, acid inducing, slow cooked pulled pork like this.
While Chef Irvine seems to have succeeded in all other areas, this is one major flaw he has overlooked. I will let him know if I ever run into him. 

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