Sunday, 14 September 2008

13.09.08: Out to Thai Square, and BBQ part deux

This sign is one sick joke. She was having a nice afternoon in Putney and eventually made her way to the cheery riverside area, where the idea of a cocktail and an early dinner al fresco appealed mightily. Thus ensued Her unusually bad pick of a Thai restaurant.

SHE SAYS: The start was promising, if a bit overpriced: this Crystal Ball cocktail of fresh lycheee, lemongrass, ginger, lemongrass-infused vodka, ginger-infused vodka, demerera sugar, lychee juice and lime juice added a festive feel to the single-diner experience. And it was way yummy: zesty and shockingly cold, its spicy, fragrant flavours tinged with notes of lavendar and rose. But.

A starter of tod mun kao pod, or sweetcorn fritters with chilli dip, gave the first hint of Something Off. The menu bills this dish as 'baby corns sculpted in ball shapes', but this is clearly Niblets-studded hush-puppy territory. It was chewy, bready, and had a distinct taste of shrimp paste (as found in curry paste) - very odd since it was listed as a vegetarian dish. The dip was bog-standard sugary stuff out of a very generic bottle. But She was hungry and hoped for the best from the main course.

Alas, the 'Traditional Thai favourite dish of all time, green papaya salad with marinated grilled chicken', was downright disgusting. She only kept eating out of disbelief. The chicken had that strange tenderness that shouts re-formed dark meat, and was encased in rubbery skin with a sweet thin sauce not doing it any favours.

The strands of green papaya might have proven interesting had they not been drowned in fish sauce and vinegar with a strong garlic flavour - not at all complementary in this case. Chopped green bnz had the virtue of fiber and not being limp.

But strangest of all, I found myself labouriously chewing small bit in the salad mix...they were hard, tiny Stu-wee shrimp! Grossness! I avoided them as best I could. Some lime spritzin' might have pepped things up a bit, but it was underwhelming and overpriced - strike two for Her dining weekend!

HE SAYS: Warning: vegetarians look away now, another tale of a giant feast o' bbq'd meats follows.

In attempt to gain an accurate scientific overview of all things bbq that Austin has to offer I figured it was my duty to check out an example of a finer class of grilled meat dining options available around these parts and compare them to the great down-home rib shack (literally) I experienced only two days ago.

The picture above was taken at another great recommendation, Salt Licks restaurant just outside of Austin. (Thanks, Blair!) Firstly, it's located in a ranch off of a long road surrounded by green rolling hills and fields, an amazing location. As you pull up to the gate you see what seems like the whole of the local police force doing direction and parking duties, literally one officer for every turn it takes to find a parking space, this place is popular it seems (and safe too).

After parking I made my way to the outside but covered waiting, concierge and sorting area where I was vetted by some young Southern belles to make sure I was man enough to step into the old stone brick dining barn where the feasting takes place. I managed to conceal my British accent long enough for them to let me pass and I was duly escorted to a chair at a long table.

Now, the menu was basic, consisting of give or take 3 items: ribs, sausage, beef and combinations of all three plus sides of bnz, potato salad and coleslaw. I cannot lie: this was good eating, my plate was big and was helpfully sub divided, tv dinner style, into areas for meat, coleslaw and salad (a loose term in this instance) - never, never, at your peril should they mix!

The ribs were generous, tender and the sauce very moreish; shweet, spicy and sticky, just the way it should be. The potato salad was like hash browns pressed together, that simple and (obviously) that tasty. The coleslaw was not that spesh and the beans just okay but who cares about the sides with this much great meat. The sausage was juicy and spiced enough to add interest but the beef was my favourite part, again, tender, juicy and grilled to perfection, I wish i had ordered a whole plate of the stuff.

The service was swift and very friendly, and once I was finished I enjoyed some good ole fashioned people watching. Looking around I spied a lot of large portions and even larger hairdos along with big belt buckles and cowboy boots. Just about half an hour out of Austin but a world away, I got in my car and drove back full, content and assured of my manhood.

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