Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fette Sau BBQ (9/10) - 76 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

M-Su: 5p-2a
(p) 718.963.3404

*** (4/10/10) Something very troubling has started to evolve on the barbecue sabbatical -- barbecue hasn't been tasting as great as it did towards the beginning of the journey.  Perhaps I've recently frequented worse establishments; maybe I've subconsciously built up previous meals that has subsequently and unintentionally elevated my standards to levels that are almost impossible to meet or exceed.  A follow-up meal to Fette Sau, what I previously chalked up as one of the best barbecue joints across the country, would provide both the sanity check I desperately needed and the chance to gorge on a hearty meal with friends.

Our group of seven put the ordering in my hands and it went as follows:
1) Baby Back Ribs - Half Rack (I just noticed that the word 'half' is one of those words in the English language that looks absurdly misspelled)
2) Beef Ribs (Boneless) - Half Pound
3) Pork Belly - Half Pound
4) Pulled Pork - Pound
5) Brisket - Pound
6) One Sausage (not pictured)

Although our meal still easily dominated 93% of the food I have tried over the previous year, it was not as delicious as it was back in October.  The one major change that jumped out to those in the group that accompanied me back in the Fall was the substantial difference in the consistency of the pork belly.  During our first experience, the pork belly was pure slow smoked fat that could have been easily spread on a piece of toast.  That might sound grossly unappealing to some, but trust me, it was amazing.  I have since tried to smoke pork belly on my own at home to try to replicate that taste.  During this experience however:  the pork was mostly protein that was difficult to chew -- definite disappointment.  The ribs were also slightly under-smoked and could have spent a little longer in the smoker to breakdown the meat a little better while the brisket was fairly dry.  The flavor of the barbecue and crust was still incredible and our group consumed every last morsel.  I expect barbecue outfits that hold the 10/10 ranking to produce the same quality day after day.  Fette Sau will definitely have another chance to make it up to me.***

(10/14/09) Back earlier in the Summer when I was talking with Timmy's friend General Burnsides at a local bar - Neighbors - about barbecue, he recommended a number of places in addition to OB's in McDonough.  Of all his recommendations, he gave his highest backing to a place called Fette Sau in Brooklyn, NY.  I checked the website, and it looked legit.  Most people from New York recommend one of the following: Dinosaur BBQ, Daisy Mays, Blue Smoke, or Hill Country (the latter from my Jewish Wash U friends who wouldn't know the first thing about smoked pigs).  But of those who confirm that they've heard of or have tried Fette Sau, claim that it's easily or supposed to be the best in town.  Since I was already in the New York area, my only concern was convincing friends to come along for the ride to Brooklyn.  Nikki, Matt, and Emmelene were in for trip.  We boarded the L train at 14th and took it to the first stop in Brooklyn.  From there, its a three block walk until the neon-lit Fette Sau sign grabs your attention and you notice a solid crowd of barbecue-goers eating meat and drinking beers in the open-air walkway into the main section of the restaurant.

Once you're in the main dining room, you notice a line of people snaking across the right wall waiting to place their orders for food.  A beverage station, specializing mainly in whiskey, was constructed in the left corner and it was serving patrons who were waiting in a different line.  The wall to the left was decorated to illustrate all the different cuts of meat from cows, pigs, and sheep.

Our group was extremely hungry and ready to sample almost every meat offered by Fette Sau.  We decided on one pound of brisket, a pound of pulled pork, 4 baby back ribs, 1 sausage link, one boneless beef rib, and a half pound of pork belly.  The meat behind the counter looked incredible.  Every cut of beef as well as the pork belly and spare ribs had a solid black crust on it -- from the oak, cherry, beach, and maple woods used in their Southern Pride smoker.  I could only begin to imagine the rich flavor of it in contrast to the moist slowly cooked meat underneath.  The sides looked fairly decent, so we decided to get an order of coleslaw and a small cup of baked beans.  I kept snapping pictures of the carver in action, and at one point after my flash went off, he turned around extremely aggravated with the facial expression that read: "I'm ready to punch you in the mouth."  The food looked too incredible for me to get excited over his emotions, so I kept a low key profile and got the food.  Matt disappeared and returned with a glass of whiskey and a quart of beer in either a honey or pickle jar.

The sliced and pulled meat looked incredible as everything across the board looked perfectly smoked and prepared.  The pulled pork was positioned in the middle of the tray.  To his left was the smoked sausage who was peeking out from underneath the baby back ribs.  Upper left of the ribs position was the smoked pork belly and to his right was the sliced boneless beef rib.  Finally, the sliced brisket was positioned to the right of the show.

There were three sauces on the table for us to try.  First, an extremely vinegary sauce that had zero viscosity.  It was fairly bland and not something I was trying to incorporate into the meal.  The second sauce looked like a sweet mustard barbecue sauce, but after trying a bite and realizing it was almost all entirely horseradish, I coughed all over the place and distanced myself from the bottle as far as possible.  The third sauce was a more basic sweet barbecue sauce that tasted good but it was neither great nor memorable.

Besides the sausage, which I'll get to in a minute, everything was great. The meats that were exceptional: boneless beef rib, pork belly, pulled pork, and baby back ribs.  The brisket was better than average, but the sausage tasted just like a hot Italian sausage one would put on spaghetti.  Would definitely pass on it on a subsequent visit. The pork belly was other-worldly.  It took the fat concept from a Gates' burnt end sandwich and took it to the next level.  It was basically chunked pieces of pork fat with a nice smoky crust on the outside edges.  At one point in the meal, I stacked brisket, beef rib, and pork on a sandwich, and then used a few pieces of pork belly as a condiment on top.  Even without sauce, the sandwich was packed with so much flavor that I could eat one every day for 8 months before I could imagine getting sick of the taste.  The ribs had a great crust on the outside, and the tender meat underneath had a great smoke ring and could effortlessly be tugged away from the bone.  The flavor of the beef boneless rib was great, potentially the best beef rib I've ever tried (even if it was prepared away from the massive cow rib bone).  Brisket was a little too dry for my liking, but the flavor was enjoyable.    

The coleslaw was definitely a positive for the restaurant too; it had a good mix of vinegar, sesame oil, large cut cabbage, and apples.  The beans were decent although there was a good mix of smoked pork in the mixture.  Our table dominated the entire platter of food and all left knowing that we had just conquered one delicious and memorable pile of meat.

If I had to rank the meats from best to worst at Fette Sau:
1. Baby Back Ribs
2. Beef Boneless Rib
3. Pork Belly
4. Pulled Pork
5. Brisket
6. Sausage

Anyone in the Northeast needs to make the trip to Brooklyn to experience Fette Sau, especially if you love barbecue or whiskey.

Fette Sau on Urbanspoon

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Ratings and Reviews

In order to provide a consistent grading standard across each restaurant/region, I order a barbecue pork sandwich (and other meats/sides if a restaurant/region specializes in another specialty). In addition to comparing the quality of food, I will also take into consideration other intangibles (ambiance, atmosphere, service, authenticity, etc.) in my ratings as I deem appropriate.

Basically, a 10/10 represents an incredible meal, while a 6/10 score indicates a decent dining experience but a substantial number of dishes fell short of great. Lower scores indicate unpleasant experiences which I would most likely not even recommend to my worst enemy (Jonas Singer).

I reserve the right to continuously edit/update previous posts and to change rating scores as I see fit.