Upon arrival, we were seated near the back where the kitchen was set up. The tables were set up with a couple ramekins of BBQ sauce (a sweet ketchup based, I believe and a tangier mustard based). We also got a couple buckets half full of spicy, sweet and salty popcorn.
I’m not really sure if they dispose of whatever diners leave behind before seating another set of guests, but honestly, I was starving by the time we arrived and the popcorn was so delicious, I really didn’t care who had licked their fingers, then gone in for a second dive before me. Meh- it was what it was, and it was delicious.
Now for some time now, Barque has been serving up a Sunday night “family night” which basically means a variety of dishes (appetizers, BBQ meats, side dishes and dessert) served up on platters to be passed about the table. I have never been but I do follow their weekly tweets to see what might be making it’s way out of the kitchen (and it always sounds divine). Well apparently they are also offering this to interested groups of 6 or more throughout the rest of the week, an option that at $35/head seemed to be quite the steal. In our family’s experience though (where we’ve got some pickiness to reconcile with), pre-fixes are generally not the best bet, so we opted to dine a la carte instead.
Most of us, went with the sampler for one which allows you to choose 3 meats, and 2 sides. My sister and her partner were apparently feeling agreeable and opted instead for the sampler for two (3 meats, 3 sides). We started the evening with a few appetizers to share, so throughout the evening here is what was sampled:
Smoked Dry Rub Wings
Really meaty, juicy, substantial wings, with a delicious dry rub that had a perfect amount of heat.
Smoked Miami Beef Ribs
Gorgeous. The ribs were not fatty, but rather, perfectly rendered and satisfyingly chewy. I loved the sweet and sticky glaze.
Brisket Burnt Ends with Ginger Onion Fried Rice
Probably the best dish of the whole night. The burnt ends were meltingly tender, and coated in a deeply aromatic, sweet glaze. What was really interesting was the large rice “cake” that had been fried to crispy perfection and positioned to catch any meaty juices from above. I loved all of the contrasting textures going on- tender, rich meat, supple popping rice grains, crispy fried edges, and a delicious chew from the caramelized exterior. Addictive doesn’t even begin to describe this dish.
Merguez Sausage, Sweet Baby Back Ribs, Brisket
Wow, that sausage had the most incredible spicy flavour, and a satisfying “snap” in the casing. It was just bursting with juiciness, without tasting greasy or fatty. While I really loved the heat level, most of my family found it a bit too much for them.
The ribs were beautiful as well. Tender, smokey, and just the right amount of resistance on the bone. With a nice balance of sweet and acid, the sweet sauce was just perfect.
The brisket was another clear winner. It was perfectly seasoned, and while delicious on its own, was really special with a smear of the mustard based sauce.
Competition Chicken Thigh, Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs, Brisket
Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs, Merguez Sausage, Brisket with Side of Sauteed Garlic Kale
Kale was okay, but probably one of the least interesting dishes. The garlic was a little too pungent and the kale itself probably could have used a bit of acid or maybe just a touch more salt.
Side: Crushed Potatoes with Chives, Sour Cream, Frizzled Onions
Very similar to the potatoes I whipped up at Thanksgiving so of course I enjoyed them. They were smooth, but still a nice weighty consistency, with a lovely crunchy textural contrast.
Side: Pasta with Smoked Provolone and Pumpkin Sage Cream
Wow. This was by far the best side dish, and actually one of the tastiest mac-and-cheese type product I’ve ever tasted. The pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce had both fluidity and cheesy, stringy pull, but the flavour was really what made this dish stand out. It had a comforting autumnal aroma with a mild sweet and smokey aroma. Really lovely, I ate the whole thing.
Also really delicious. The fries were nice and crispy with a great mildly spicy seasoning. My only criticism would be that the mayo (?) type dip was a little off putting. It had a strange gelatinous consistency, that was thinner (and more translucent) than mayo and didn’t have the same rich or tangy flavour.
Mixed Greens with Apple, Pecorino, and Hazelnuts
A nice, fresh, perfectly dressed salad for those looking to give their palates a little vacation from all the heavy flavours.
Also a nice palate cleanser. These pickles provided a satisfying crunch, but were maybe a little too spicy for most of my dining companions.
Gelato Trio : Mango, Cinnamon, Vanilla with Lemon Rosemary and Shortbread with Coffee Buttercream
The cookies were just okay, but the gelato (not housemade) were all very nice. The stand out by far was the spicy cinnamon.
Pecan Pie with Cinnamon Gelato
For someone who dislikes pie crust, I was really happy about this tart. It had a really tender, moist, yet flaky crust, and a sweet and sticky filling. My only criticism would be that the filling:nut ratio was a little too nut heavy for me, and I would have liked a little more of that delicious sticky goodness.
As for drinks, Barque has a pretty creative and delicious sounding cocktail menu.
While the drink itself was great (though relatively standard), the rim just took it over the top.
Before closing, I must add that the service was a pleasure. Our server was friendly, attentive, and did not need to be reminded about my mother’s birthday (I notified them when I made the reservation). Mom got a full on birthday song and candle in her gelato! Love!
Alright, well for: 12 drinks (either cocktails or pints), a couple large sparkling waters, 3 apps, 4 samplers for 1, 1 sampler for 2, 4 desserts, a coffee and a capp, the bill came to about $400 including tax and tip. I thought that was pretty reasonable considering that there were 6 of us, we left completely stuffed, and we all had a couple (good) drinks. Service was stellar, the food was dream-worthy (the past few nights I have been waking up to visions of burnt ends dancing on my head), and the whole vibe was just a blast. The next morning I had a wicked food hangover, and you know what? I just embraced every minute of it. That’s a worth-while meal, my friends. It is too bad it’s such a struggle to get in there on a weekend (and then a trek out west once I do get a reservation), but honestly, after this great experience, I will definitely make the extra effort in the future.
Thanks Barque! I hope to see you soon for my next carnivorous craving.
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.