I met some people at the Smoken Bones Cookshack in Langford last night. I had heard a lot of good things about the place. Kudos from all over in fact. I was going in with high expectations - they were not met.
The food was not bad, but it was not something I would cross a city for. I had some higher expectations of the food, I was going in for some high quality BBQ but alas it was only average.
When I go out for BBQ, I want something better than I can do at home. Fairway Market often has some screaming deals on large pieces of meat such as pork shoulder. When they are on special I buy two or three and freeze them. In watching Good Eats I learned a bit about how to cook a cheap piece of meat and make it amazing. I can not BBQ my pork because I do it in my oven, but over a 24 hour period I can get that low and slow BBQ heat. I also put on a nice rub. By the end of the process I have meat that falls off of the bone, the collagen has transformed into gelatine and the outside has a wonderful crisp bark. There was no smoke, but the result is a wonderful cousin to pulled pork BBQ. I aim for a sauce that is not to sweet and has a nice spice bite to it.
Last night what we got was not as good as what I make at home. Sheila had the pulled pork po' boy and felt the meat was over powered by the sweet sauce and did not have that lip smacking mouth feel or the crunch of the bark. She was also unimpressed with the bun itself.
I had the beef brisket and I hate to say it, the meat was the junior partner to the sauce. It was tender but lost. It was also sliced and not pulled apart which I expected. The sides I had were the BBQ beans - forgettable - and the dirty rice cake which was very good.
The restaurant was full and people were waiting to get in, so clearly my opinion of the food does not mesh with the public opinion of the food. Ultimately I can not help but wonder if the BBQ there is muted to appeal to a larger audience. Running a restaurant in Victoria is an exercise in Pollyanna optimism, so few of them succeed. Success comes from getting people in through your door and promoting yourself. Smoken Bones manages to do that.
I have to give a lot of credit to chef Ken Hueston for working with local producers and trying to source his ingredients locally. He is a member of the Island Chefs' Collaborative.