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Friday, January 14, 2011

A Smoker Grows in Brooklyn: A San Franciscan Tastes New York's Trendy BBQ

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 9:52 AM

click to enlarge Steam table swine at Brooklyn's Fette Sau. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Steam table swine at Brooklyn's Fette Sau.

As San Franciscans have spent the last couple of years devouring pizza, so have New Yorkers glommed on to Southern barbecue. Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, home to the most storied of all American temples of meat, Peter Lugar Steakhouse, has become the epicenter of New York's barbecue movement ― trendy practitioners Fette Sau and Fatty Cue are within walking distance of one another.

click to enlarge Pick your parts: Fette Sau's Fat Pig Thursday offerings. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Pick your parts: Fette Sau's Fat Pig Thursday offerings.

They're similar in several ways: Lots of of Sufjan Stevens and Beirut over the sound systems, played to crowds who looks like their iPhones would be well stocked with Sufjan Stevens and Beirut. Both have bars that make you want to hang out all night, featuring brews like Hitachino Nest White Ale and Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. And both are white hot, with lines that form early, since neither place takes reservations. But despite these similarities, the food at Fette Sau and Fatty Cue couldn't be more different.

Meats at Fette Sau are ordered by the pound at the front counter, where they're sliced and dumped, prison style, onto a paper-lined metal tray. We were there for Fat Pig Thursday, meaning the menu was mostly pork, cut from a 100-percent pure-breed Kurobuta, slaughtered the previous Sunday, then butchered and smoked in-house. We sampled a slice of loin ($24/lb.), a sweet sausage ($4), a chunk of belly ($24/lb.) and a foot ($10/lb.). Yes, you can order a single foot, as well as an eye, a snout, or a lip. Really.

click to enlarge Fatty Cue's coriander-marinated bacon with yellow curry custard. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Fatty Cue's coriander-marinated bacon with yellow curry custard.

As we attacked our tray of swine, it was clear that the guys at Fette Sau aren't fooling around: This was extreme, masculine, straight-up barbecue. The loin was beautifully crusted and the belly tasted like smoky cream. We picked up the foot, braised in Fette Sau's spicy barbecue sauce, like a lollipop, licking the sauce and nibbling away at the gelatinous bits ― it made us feel like a mischievous 8-year-old. It was all so meaty and so primal that the sausage (yes, the sausage) was a mere palate cleanser. There was a stunningly good side of baked beans, made with burnt ends of course. We flicked up every last morsel from the plastic foam cup with our tongue.

We knew we were in for a different experience at Fatty Cue when our server brought out an amuse bouche of veal brain pâté on toast points, served with a mini shot of sweet vermouth ― no prison trays here. Fatty Cue is a mashup of Southern and South Asian, with small portions. Our first dish, a half-filled teacup of "master fat" with salted Pullman toast ($4), was like the last few bites of your second grilled cheese sandwich, just as the richness is getting a little too intense. The fat in question varies nightly ― ours was dripped from a smoked duck.

Heritage pork ribs with smoked fish-palm syrup ($12), a signature here, were similar to East Coast-style Chinese spareribs, only not as sweet, and expertly smoked. When we finished gnawing the bones, we dipped them in the remaining puddle of sauce, longing for more of that Pullman toast. We closed out with coriander-marinated bacon ($14), surprisingly bland on its own but redeemed by a few dribbles of the accompanying yellow curry custard.

Could one of these smoked-meat meccas thrive in the Bay Area? Maybe Fette Sau, simply because of its bold, brash style and smoked meats usually not seen in these parts (Gorilla Barbeque in Pacifica is the closest place we know of, food-wise). With its "Hey, let's take Southern barbecue and do a twist on it!" mantra, Fatty Cue screams San Francsico, but after Fette Sau it felt a bit prissy. Still, we enjoyed both feasts so much it left us wishing that Williamsburg was no more than a few subway stops away. Like Pittsburg.

Follow Alex Hochman at @urbanstomach . Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

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Alex Hochman

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