Tuesday, December 21, 2010

P'Cheen - Mike's Bone Lick BBQ - Atlanta

It’s time for more bbq in Atlanta, but it’s something a little different. Instead of visiting a restaurant that serves all bbq, all the time, Jennifer suggested we try P’Cheen. On most days of the week, P’Cheen functions as your Inman Park gastro pub, but on Mondays, P’Cheen drops the regular menu and features Mike’s Bone Lick BBQ. I have to admit I was a little skeptical; bbq isn’t something you take lightly. It’s a craft that envelopes people for years, all in the pursuit of the perfect rub, sauce, or succulent meat. Even with that gnawing at the back of my mind, I’m always open to trying something new. So with a little bit of a late start, we hit the interstate and soon found parking on Highland Ave.

I have to give P’Cheen credit; it’s not often that I see wooden menus in a restaurant. What was even more impressive were the accolades in the first page of the menu: “Atlanta Magazine Just Named Us BEST BBQ IN THE CITY and #4 in all of North Georgia!” Even though Georgia isn’t known as a bbq destination, best in Atlanta is no small feat.

Looking through the wood clad menus, I was nearly salivating at some of the options, particularly the Died & Gone to Bacon. Going by their description, it’s made of jalapeno bacon wrapped around hickory bacon wrapped around Andouille sausage, all house made and brushed with a chipotle glaze and slow smoked for a day. As staggered as I was by the description, it didn’t compare to the letdown I received when out waitress told me they were sold out of the Died & Gone to Bacon.

Hoping to salvage my deflated hopes and dreams, Jennifer, Aaron, and I decided it would be best to start with what appetizers remained, Redneck Charcuterie and Smokey Wings.
This plate of Redneck Charcuterie really was something else. I’ve seen a fair number of charcuterie plates in my day but never one with three types of jerky, homemade jellies, ketchup and Velveeta. Unless they’ve got a chemistry lab in that kitchen, I don’t even know how they go about making homemade Velveeta.
The first jerky I tried was the jalapeno jerky and while it had an excellent beef and jalapeno flavor, it was a little on the salty side.
On the far right was the simple pepper jerky. Relatively easy to chew and with a nice blend of black pepper and beef, it was a great middle of the road jerky.
It was in the middle of the platter that I found what I think was called the Devil Down jerky. Made with habanero and Serrano chilies, this was a potent piece of meat. Not as tough as the jalapeno jerky, it had an intense and lingering heat that left us fighting for the last piece. As much as I enjoyed the other two jerkies, I could have been just as happy with a triple portion of this smoldering piece of beef.
I’m sorry but the idea of Mountain Dew just cracks me up. Fortunately, there’s nothing hidden in this jelly as it tastes like they just added fruit pectin to Mountain Dew. It’s a delicious, inventive way to enjoy more of Yellow #5.
Like the Mountain Dew jelly, the RC Cola tastes like you’d expect. I can’t help but wonder if you can make RC Cola into a jelly, how would you change a moon pie to match?
Homemade Velveeta, it may seem like an oxymoron but there it was, staring at me from the wooden board. Actually this tasted like really good velveeta, I just wish I had some macaroni to go along with it.
I’ve crawled through the minefields of homemade ketchup before, and I was impressed with this last component of the Redneck Charcuterie Plate, especially its extra vinegary twang.

After the excess of the Charcuterie Plate, the only other appetizer available was an order of the Smokey Wangs.
I generally avoid chicken when it comes to bbq, but I could start making an exception for these wings. Yes, the skin was gummy, but there was a residual spice from the rub. Underneath the skin was a smoky, juicy bit of meat. There was no sign of that dry, chalky chicken that I so often find at bbq restaurants. BBQ chicken wings are still far from my favorite, but this was excellent example of the breed.

With the appetizers behind us, it was a matter of deciding which bbq meat we were going to order. The list included baby back ribs, pulled pork, housemade andouille, Texican beef brisket, and the mysterious “International BBQ of the week”. Hoping to try a little of everything, we tried to order the Fat Ass Sampler, a taste of all five meats. However, my disappointment from the bacon was only revisited when we were told the Brisket was sold out. The only real alternative was The Biggin’s.
Four meats and two sides still gave us a pretty good sampling of what P’Cheen had to offer.
The pulled pork seemed like the best place to start and what an opening. Each piece of this pork was rich & unctuous. With a nice smokiness and plenty of potent bark spread throughout, the pulled pork didn’t need any sauce.
However, with a little of the Pepper Vinegar sauce, this pulled pork was made damn near perfect.

Seeing andouille on a list of bbq meats seems just a little odd to me, but it makes sense. After all, andouille is a heavily smoked sausage, so it only seems fitting to be on a list of bbq.
Well, this was certainly a spicy and smoky andouille but there was something odd about it. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just wouldn’t call this andouille.

Third in the Biggin’s plate was an order of the Baby Back Ribs.
There was certainly an impressive bark.
Even though there wasn’t much of a smoke ring to these ribs, they were extremely well cooked and bursting with smoky pork flavor.

Of course, I can’t forget the fourth part of The Biggin’s, the International BBQ of the Week.
Fish, yes, it’s a fish taco. That was not at all what I was expecting, but this smoked cod taco was certainly unique.
Actually, the cod had a pleasant smokiness, but it was really too dry and flakey for my tastes.

Just like the appetizer and entrees, our first choices for sides weren’t available either. With no Jalapeno Mac-N-Cheese to accompany our bbq, we went for the next best thing, double fried French fries.
These were pretty good fries, well salted but not overly crisp.

Our second side was another traditional bbq side, baked beans.
Those aren’t just any beans, these were actually Housemade Smokey Pork-n-Beans and they weren’t very good at all. The beans were dry, chalky, and overcooked, but outside of that the bowl was littered with pork, spice, and pepper. So everything was great but the beans.

I think getting a third side was Aaron’s idea, mainly because I don’t go out of my way for collard greens.
Labeled as Pork Braised Collards, I was surprised at just how little pork flavor there was in this bowl of greens. Even with the missing pork, the peppery, spicy flavor and not cooked to death texture made for a nice bowl of collards.

It’s a pet peeve of mine when a bbq restaurant has more than one sauce. Usually it’s a case of trying to appeal to everyone and instead of one great sauce, you get three or four half-assed attempts at a sauce. That didn’t stop me from trying every meat with each of the three sauces at P’Cheen.
The KC Thick & Sweet was very vinegary but surprisingly not too sweet.
South Carolina Mustard was the second sauce and it was thin and full of mustard & vinegar.
North Carolina style was the third and it tasted like a spicy Memphis style sauce, a real mix of sweet and spice. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of my favorite sauce, the Pepper Vinegar.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give about eating at BBQ Mondays at P’Cheen, it’s to get there early. While I enjoyed most of the dishes we ordered, I can’t help but wonder about the Brisket, Died & Gone to Bacon, and the Jalapeno Mac-n-Cheese. Still, considering that bbq isn’t their specialty, P’Cheen does a fantastic job with the bbq. For me, the combination of white oak & hickory smoke shone the brightest with the pulled pork, combined with liberal applications of the Pepper Vinegar sauce, I was close to bbq nirvana. Of course, the jerky wasn’t too shabby either. It was good enough for me to get an order to go.

P'Cheen Address & Information
701 Highland Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312 // 404.529.8800 // P'Cheen Website
P'Cheen on Urbanspoon

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