SXSW Food Report: BBQ, Taco, Japanese Food, Vegan?

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Here we go. No intro needed. Only reporting on new foods.

Kent Black’s BBQ
Kent Black’s BBQ was in San Marcos. A 3rd generator pitmaster, Kent Black’s BBQ was a vital stop for us to fuel up as we drove from San Antonio to Austin. The BBQ was average, I would say. I ordered brisket and pork ribs. The pork ribs were better, the brisket would have benefitted from a bit more fatty presence, but the seasoning was nothing to write home about. What was actually really good was a bit of beef rib we got to try after we had ordered (the manager walked by and gave us a sample). That was melt in the mouth with the right kind of smokiness good. Maybe we just ordered the wrong thing.

If anything, it was better than Rudy’s which was the place we stopped at in Houston last year.

Pueblo Viejo
This place had PHENOMENAL breakfast tacos. It made me regret settling for shitty free breakfast tacos. We went here twice and next year I’ll go there like five times probably. Cooked to order, their secret is their tortillas, which they fry up a little on the grill as well, giving it a nice crispy texture. The sauces accompanying the tacos were also flavor bombs.

I had
Taco Don Chago – Beans, cheese, bacon and avocado (with egg added)
Taco Bueno – Egg, potato, chorizo and cheese
Taco Al Pastor – Marinated pork with pineapple and fresh onion and cilantro and a lime wedge

The queso was also very good. It was also pretty cheap ~3-4 USD a taco. A great discovery.

Bodhi Viet Vegan
I know it sounds scandalous to eat vegan food in Austin, but after a few days of heavy heavy food, veggies and vegan sound like a great idea. This Viet food truck is run by buddhist nuns and volunteers and the profit goes to some temple. Best of all, it was by far the cheapest bang for your buck food truck available.

I had the Bun which is vietnamese vermicelli served with salad, cucumber, mint, jalapeno, pickled carrot, green onion, and a golden fried roll. The meat substitute was some sort of bean curd and was tasty. I think it was served with a fish sauce variant. The vermicelli was as you expect, refreshing and clean. The kicker here was the addition of the jalapeno flavor. While some viets give you those thai chillies in the bun sometimes, the addition of the jalapeno actually added quite a layer of complexity to this dish I did not expect. A nice texas touch.

Texas Chili Parlor
We went to Texas Chili Parlor because we were intrigued by Tex-Mex, it was close to our hotel, had decent ratings and also I vaguely remember Anthony Bourdain went there. Upon getting there, Derek was immediately pleased by the cheapness of the menu. “This is what we get for leaving the core!” we thought, as this restaurant wasn’t really downtown. The look of the restaurant had all the aesthetics you would expect:

Lunch at the Texas Chili Parlor

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Yet, when the food came, it was a bit disappointing. The Chili Con Carne had some flavors, but the quality of the meat was not that high. I opted for a enchilada / tamale / chili combo, but had problems deciphering the enchilada from the tamale. I guess you get what you paid for.

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Kemuri Tatsu-Ya
Man this might be my favorite place to eat in Austin. Forget the bbq’s (I know that sounds preposterous) this Texas based Japanese izakaya was ahhhhmaaazzing. They basically took texas bbq concepts and applied it to Japanese izakaya food and the recipes were great. Here is what we ordered:

“Hot Pocketz” – Gouda/Brisket
Imagine a pizza pocket with smoked brisket inside. I would be 30 pounds heavier as a child if this was served to me.

Monk fish Liver
This is like Fish foie gras. It’s like fishy butter that just melts in your mouth. It’s a strong but not too strong umami bomb. The first hit is the best, as the flavor just pops in your mouth and you get this dorky look on your face.

Shio Kara (Squid marinated in it’s own guts)
Looks like something Quentin Tarantino would inspire. I think this was raw squid that was somehow marinated in it’s guts or something. But the end result was a SUPER squidy tasting squid. Most squids have their taste diluted because its usually deep fried or infused with citrus, this is just real hard shit. It’s straight out of the ocean, kinda has a shrimp/squid paste kinda taste. If you are asian, you probably know what I mean.

Chicharon, Thigh and Scallion Yakitori
Charcoaled and delicious, you can never actually go wrong when you fry up some chicken skin. The thighs were juicy and this was just nice.

Smoked Fish Collar
Smoked BBQ Eel
These smoked dishes had the Texas touch. Fish collar is a part that is popular in asia, but I’m not sure it has caught on here. It’s the part near the gills and has a nice texture and is flavorful. Eel is eel. These things tasted amazing. I assume they were smoked in the same smoker that smokes brisket cos the meat on these aquatic animals had smokey mesquite or hickory or whatever wood kind of taste infused into it. Combine the flavoring from the smokiness with the cooked to perfection tenderness of the fish and you have yourself a magical dish. I literally laughed when I ate it, it was so good.

Finally, we finished off with
Texas Ramen
Beef Broth, Brisket, pickled mustard greens, egg, nori

BBQ Tsukemon
kotteri dipping broth

A Texas take on two types of Japanese noodles. My texas ramen had a wonderful smokey broth which was unlike anything I have tasted from a broth perspective. It was accompanied by a nice piece of brisket, chewy noodles and pickled veggies. Combined it all, you had this weird concotion of smokey and sour flavors, which was quite different for a ramen but works somehow. It also came with smoked jalapenos which were very good.

Gary ordered bbq tsukemon, which is essentially a concentrated broth that you dip your noodles in. The idea is that the broth coats the noodles as you dip it in and its so flavorful you don’t need more then what the noodle collects.

The Tsukemon had an outrageously intense flavor that was delicious. Gary didn’t know it, but when he went to the bathroom i definitely helped myself to some of that dipping sauce. Once again, it was smokey, but also rich with beef flavors from what I assume was brisket fat. It was just a powerful but welcome punch to your palette.

Anyways, that place was amazing. It’s nowhere near downtown Austin but you need to go there.

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Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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