My wife and I tried Dhamaka last night, using a gift certificate that our friends gave us as a housewarming.
We started with some of their delicious cocktails, and then moved right into some meaty apps. The first thing that came out was my favorite item of the meal – lamb ribs!
These had such awesome flavor and tenderness. The mint chutney that came with it is something they should sell by the jar!
Next up, smoked goat belly. This was cleverly presented in a tiny barrel smoker:
It was a bit too aggressive on the salt level, but over all we loved it. It was similar to some kofta / meatball skewer dishes that we’ve had.
These prawns were a little bit overcooked, as they were difficult to pull from the shell. They were spicy and really tasty, however. Especially the heads.
Our first main was the stewed mutton dish. They smush an entire bulb of roasted garlic into this, paper and all, so be prepared for dragon breath as well as picking garlic paper out of your bites of food! The dragon breath wasn’t so bad actually, but I wish they somehow removed the paper first.
Our other main was this delicious chicken and rice dish.
The chicken is bone-in, so the meat remains really juicy and tender. The ]rice reminded me of a really tasty, elevated rice-a-roni! Love that stuff.
That about covers it. We will definitely be eating here again!
Meat 201 is an advanced examination of the four major cuts of beef that you’re likely to see at a steakhouse. The four major cuts are Filet Mignon, Strip Steak, Porterhouse and Rib Eye. For more general information about these cuts, and for information about other cuts of beef, please see my MEAT 101 and MEAT 102 posts.
Etymology: There is some difference of opinion on the origin of the word “Porterhouse,” with several restaurants and cities claiming to have created the name. For example, Martin Morrison served large T-bones in his Pearl Street (Manhattan) “Porter House” around 1814.This history was popular in the late 1800’s, but some say a Cambridge, Massachusetts proprietor by the name of Zachariah B. Porter added his name to the steak. Still, others argue that the Porterhouse name stems from various 19th Century U.S. hotels or restaurants called Porter House, such as the Porter House Hotel in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Anatomy: The Porterhouse is a cut of steak from the short loin portion of the animal that contains both strip loin and tenderloin meats. See the highlighted portion in the diagram below:
It is cut from a lumbar vertebra that is sawed in half through the vertebral column.
The downward prong of the “T” is a transverse process of the vertebra, and the flesh that surrounds it (spinal muscles) makes up the meat of the Porterhouse.
Essentially, it is a large T-bone steak from the rear of the animal that has two different types of meat (tenderloin and strip loin), one on either side of the “T.” In the picture below, the strip loin or Strip Steak is on the right, and the tenderloin or Filet Mignon is on the left.
The small semicircle at the top of the ‘T’ is half of the vertebral foramen, which is the name of the hole that passes through each vertebra for housing and protecting the spinal cord. They run the whole way up the back, all the way up to the brain of the animal.
The anatomy of a Porterhouse differs from that of a T-bone only in that the Porterhouse contains a larger portion of tenderloin than its T-bone counterpart.
This is primarily due to the fact that Porterhouse steaks are cut from further in the rear of the animal, from lumbar vertebrae, where the tenderloin is much thicker. Experts differ, however, on how large the tenderloin must be to differentiate a Porterhouse from a T-bone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications state that the tenderloin of a Porterhouse must be at least 1.25 inches thick at its widest, while that of a T-bone must be at least 0.5 inches.
Here is a shot of a short loin with multiple vertebrae still intact and not portioned out into individual Porterhouses and T-bones.
You can see on the left there is a good sized, thick portion of tenderloin. That thins down as you move the the right, and seems to disappear by time your eyes reach the far end of the cut.
Just to drive home the anatomy a little more, here is a great excerpt and image from Russ Cooks:
“Up close and personal, this is where the T-bone fits.
The black line across the top of the two T-bones pictured here is the outside (top of the back) of the steer. You can see the T-bone in the schematic illustration higher up on this page as the topmost part labelled Rib. Above the ribs, what you touch if you pat the steer’s back, is the New York strip. Beneath the ribs is the tenderloin from which a filet mignon is often cut. T-bone steaks cut closer to the shoulder are known as Porterhouse while those cut closer to the loin are just T-bones.”
Preparation: Most times, T-bones and Porterhouses are either grilled, seared in a pan, broiled or blasted with high heat in specialty steak ovens made for charring the outside of the meat without over-cooking the inside. Butter is essential, and heavy seasoning is important as well. Herbs and garlic help boost the flavor too.
Flavor: Since this cut contains both the Filet Mignon and the Strip Steak, I refer you to the flavor sections for those cuts below, with a notation that the bone being left in often adds a more robust flavor while helping to retain tenderness and juiciness. These are very popular items at steakhouses because they can be cut large enough to feed anywhere from two to four people. Additionally, with two different types of meat in one steak, one can vary the flavors that one experiences with each bite.
2. Filet Mignon
Etymology: Filet, in culinary terminology, means boneless. Mignon, in French, means dainty or small. As such, this is a steak ideally suited for chicks: small/dainty, and with no bone.
Occasionally on a steakhouse menu you will see a “bone-in filet.” Given what I just mentioned above, that phraseology is completely self-defeating and confusing, as it simultaneously means both “bone-in” and “boneless.” However, it seems this sort of language is becoming commonplace. If it were up to me, I would prefer “bone-in tenderloin” to be listed on menus instead. There is no wording conflict with that phrasing, and it is an accurate description of what is being presented. In other words: all Filet Mignon is tenderloin, but not all tenderloin is Filet Mignon.
Anatomy: Traditionally, a Filet Mignon was cut from the anterior end of the tenderloin. In the beef chart image below, you can see a portion of the tenderloin section highlighted in red.
That is where Filet Mignon was typically located, though most butchers label all steaks cut from the tenderloin as Filet Mignon (this allows for larger portions). The tenderloins run along both sides of the spine. They taper from thick, in the posterior of the animal, to thin in the front.
In their unbutchered form, they contain what’s called the “silver skin” still attached to the flesh. This is a thick connective tissue that is pretty much inedible. When butchering the full tenderloin, you will want to slice that off (it is NOT tender).
While this next photo is a repeat shot of a lamb vertebra Barnsley chop (the mutton chop from Keen’s), the anatomy is exactly the same for beef. This will illustrate exactly where the filet comes from. Essentially this is a double porterhouse, with a filet and a strip on each side. In addition to understanding the Filet Mignon, this image is useful in demonstrating the anatomy of the Strip and Porterhouse cuts as well, since they all come from the same place – the vertebrae of the animal:
Preparation: Preparations of this cut vary greatly. You may see this cut sliced thin and pounded flat, served raw for carpaccio. You may also see it finely chopped for tartare. A simple pan sear with butter and herbs, however, is probably the most common preparation.
Yet another style is Chateaubriand, which is a large section of the thick portion of the tenderloin that is roasted boneless, then sliced and served with a reduction sauce.
There is also Beef Wellington, which is a portion of tenderloin that has been coated with pate and then wrapped in puff pastry dough prior to cooking.
Flavor: Widely considered the most tender and least fatty cut of beef on the animal, the flavor should be uniform from one end to the other, with very tender and soft texture the whole way through. There is hardly any fat content in the standard cut of Filet Mignon. Some chefs will wrap the filet in caul fat (a lacy, fatty, web-like membrane that surrounds the stomach of an animal) before cooking. The webbing melts away during cooking and imparts a fat flavor into the meat. But it is more common to use things like butter, or to wrap a filet in bacon to add the fat flavor into the meat.
3. Strip Steak
Etymology: According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this steak is marketed under various names, including Ambassador Steak, Club Steak, Hotel-Style Steak, Veiny Steak, Kansas City Steak and New York Strip Steak. Delmonico’s offered Strip as a signature dish way back in the early 1800’s. Due to the cut’s association with NYC, the New York Strip Steak name was born.
Anatomy: The Strip is cut from the other side of the tenderloin, across the vertebra on the T-bone or Porterhouse.
Also known as strip loin, the Strip Steak is cut from the short loin part of the animal, from a muscle that does little work, like the Filet Mignon. It is generally more tender than the similarly situated but more posterior-located sirloin section of the animal. While it is essentially the same kind of meat as sirloin, the muscles in the rear do a bit more work than the short loin, so can be a bit more tough.
Preparation: For me, the Strip is best at medium rare, to preserve the tenderness and reduce any mealy or grainy textures that can develop from overcooking. It is always best to get a really great quality cut for this chop, something prime+, as all the intra-muscular fat, or marbling, will become soft and the muscle will tenderize all over. You will often see it marinated or rubbed with spices, to impart additional flavors, but grilling and broiling in the traditional style is fantastic as well, especially with butter and herbs. It can be served bone-in or boneless. Leaving the bone in will impart more flavor and help with the cooking process, since the bone conveys heat into the center of the meat while locking in juices. At home, marinade this puppy in something like soy sauce and garlic, and slap it on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side and you will have the perfect home-cooked steak.
Flavor: This cut contains fat in levels that are somewhat in between the tenderloin (virtually none) and the Rib Eye (plenty of good, melty fat). Like the tenderloin, there is little variation throughout the cut, so the flavors and textures are more uniform for the Strip Steak, unlike the Rib Eye which has varying textures and flavors from one end of the cut to the other. The texture of a Strip can sometimes be a little bit grainy or mealy, and a bit more tight than a Filet Mignon or a Rib Eye – especially if it’s cooked too much.
4. Rib Eye
I’ve saved the best for last. The Rib Eye is the most ultimate of steaks, period. It is an awesome cut of beef.
Etymology: The etymology on this is pretty self-explanatory. The “rib” part of the name is because this cut of meat is connected to a rib bone. The “eye” part of the name is a reference to the circular, more centrally located portion of the cut that is more uniform than the outer portions of the cut. You will likely see the Rib Eye steak, or rib chop, called by many names.
For example, the Cowboy Rib Eye is a bone-in version of the cut:
There’s also the Tomahawk Rib Eye, which is so named for its resemblance to a Tomahawk-style hatchet. When butchered, a long “handle” of rib is cut clean to expose the bone (it is “Frenched,” as they say), and the steak meat is left at the end of the handle to form the hatchet blade:
Here’s a shot of my buddy; he’s about to get clobbered with a Tomahawk Rib Eye by Chef Josh Capon at Bowery Meat Company:
There’s also the Delmonico cut, otherwise known as a Scotch Filet. Applying what you’ve learned here, you can probably guess that this cut is boneless (filet means “boneless” in French). Delmonico’s claims this cut as their own because they named a house special boneless cut Rib Eye steak after their restaurant, way back in the early 1800’s when they first opened.
Anatomy: The rib section of beef spans from ribs six through twelve, and, obviously, hails from the rib section of the animal.
Rib Eye steaks are mainly composed of the Longissimus dorsi muscle (the “eye” portion of the steak) and the Spinalis dorsi muscle.
The more anterior your cut, the more Spinalis you’ll find in the steak. The Spinalis is the coveted cap of meat that wraps around the fatter end of the steak and usually has much more marbling than the rest of the Longissimus eye, or interior of the steak. That “fat cap” is also sometimes butchered away from the remaining eye.
Highly skilled butchers know how to remove it from its position across an entire standing rib roast section of ribs, so as to keep it all together as one giant cut. But then that ruins the rib chop, in my opinion, since you’re taking away the best part. Some steakhouses have taken to tying several Spinalis cuts together in a spiral formation to create an all-fat-cap steak. Bowery Meat Company has one such cut, which they call the Bowery Steak:
STK also offers one on special from time to time:
The Spinalis has a more intense marbling, and, thus, much more flavor and tenderness. If you are so bold, the next time you order a Rib Eye at a steakhouse, ask for an anterior “chuck side” cut that has more of this fantastic Spinalis muscle.
Preparation: There are a ton of ways to prepare a rib steak. The most comon forms are searing in a pan, grilling, or broiling. Another common method of preparing this kind of meat is roasting. A “standing rib roast” is a section of Rib Eye steaks that has not yet been portioned into individual steaks.
When this rack of ribs is roasted slow and low to a pink medium rare, the end product is called Prime Rib.
It then gets sliced out into portions for individual consumption. This is a mammoth cut that we got from Burger & Barrel:
I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is Yes: Prime Rib and Rib Eye steak are the same exact thing. They are just prepared differently, using different cooking methods.
Cheaper cuts of rib steaks are actually the most common type of beef found in Philly Cheesesteaks as well. The meat is cut super thin and then cooked on a flat top with cheese, onions and other toppings, then shoved into long sandwich bread (incase you’re an asshole who has no fucking clue was a cheesesteak is).
Side Bar: is a Philly Cheesesteak better than a Cheeseburger? I think so… Man… Now I’m hungry for both…
Flavor: This steak has a high fat content, and that makes it very important to have a quality cut of beef, or an aged cut of beef. In high quality and aged cuts, this fat will render out or melt away much easier during the cooking process. This will impart a tremendous amount of flavor into the steak, and it will leave the remaining flesh with a very tender and soft texture. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Fat is not the same as gristle. Fat is good. Fat is your friend. Any good butcher will get the gristle off and leave the good fat behind. And when that good fat is REALLY good, it’s like having a delicious beef jelly with each bite of steak.
As discussed above, the Rib Eye is really like having two steaks in one (The small Spinalis or fat cap, and the larger Longissimus eye). The Spinalis is soft, tender, has lots of fat flavor and sometimes develops a crisp during cooking. The eye is more dense, but still well marbled so that it retains intense flavor. The eye is more uniform than the Spinalis. So: two steaks in one, kind of like the Porterhouse. Plus, there’s a nice, meaty beef spare rib to gnaw on at the end, if you order a bone-in chop.
Since there is generally more fat and marbling in this cut across its entirety, you will get better flavors than with the tenderloin or Strip, in my opinion. Clearly, high fat content is not for everyone. If you want to avoid fats in your diet, then go with the tenderloin. I actually really enjoy the flavor of fat. Fat, now, is sometimes referred to as the sixth flavor sensation. There were always four: (1) savory, (2) sweet, (3) bitter and (4) sour. “Umami” claims to be the fifth, and is meant to encompass the earthy, funky, fermented flavor sensations that you experience with mushrooms, truffles, aged beef and blue cheese. I just dislike the word “umami,” so I use “earthy” instead. The sixth is “fat,” apparently, as decreed by various food people who get paid to sit around and do these things. I’m not sure how it works, but I seem to be able to recognize a distinct sensation on my tastebuds, along with a buttery flavor and slippery feel, whenever I eat shit like pork bone ramen or a Rib Eye steak. Maybe there’s something to it?
Anyway, I hope this was an informative and educational post for you meat minions out there. Knowing this shit, I think, is very important.
Nestled below a pole dancing and twerking school (I shit you not; you can see the poles in the windows above the right hand side of the entrance in the photo), is Akbar Palace.
We scored a flash deal for this joint: $20 gets you $40. The management was nice enough to honor our Groupon even after the expiration date too, which was cool.
Each table gets some flat cracker type bread with some chutneys.
There was tamarind sauce (left), apricot chutney (center), and a really nice tomato, onion and pepper chutney that I never tried before (right). That was my favorite of the three.
We started with a pair of apps that sounded delicious but ended up being a bit flat from our expectations. First was the pepper crusted scallops. I liked that they had a good grilled-on-the-flattop flavor, but the portion size was a bit small.
Same goes for the crispy calamari. The tempura-esque coating was interesting, though I didn’t get that curry leaf flavor that I expected from the menu description.
My wife ordered a boneless lamb dish but got semi-bone-in goat instead. No matter – it was really tasty, and the meat was tender.
I had chicken makhani, which is like chicken tikka, but served in a mildly spicy tomato and yogurt sauce. This was pretty good. The meat was of good quality and the sauce was nice over rice, or on top of the naan bread.
The naan was good. It was soft, yet crisp, and had good texture from the tandoori oven flames. It was lightly coated with olive oil as well.
We skipped dessert since we had the lassis earlier. They were smooth and creamy, tart and sweet, and ice cold. Perfect. This place is known for its mango lassis. They are truly excellent, so if you go here, make sure you try one.
I felt that the bill was a bit high even after applying our $40 credit to it. We still had to shell out $50 for the remainder, the tax and the tip. Does this look like a $90 meal to you? I don’t know… I’m starting to think that some of these Groupon deals aren’t so good. As Admiral Ackbar would say (namesake of this restaurant?): IT’S A TRAP!
My official recommendation on this flash deal: skip it, but stop by for a mango fucking lassi if you’re in the area.
In case you’re from a different planet, barbecue is a culinary technique that involves cooking meat for long periods of time at low temperatures with smoke from a wood fire. BBQ pits add a distinctive smoky taste to the meat.
Clearly we’re not talking about what you do in your backyard on Memorial Day with your Weber propane grill. We’re not talking about slapping a piece of thin, raw beef onto a hot electric mesh of metal either.
That’s GRILLING. Never confuse it with real deal BBQ, which involves smoking a massive carcass for days on end, and the low-and-slow roasting and/or constant basting and sauce-mopping of meats for hours and hours. No my friends. This is a whole different beast. Speaking of different beasts, there’s really no limit on what animals can be cooked in this style.
In the American south and midwest, however, barbecue has become more than just a cooking style. It’s a way of life, as is often said, and it varies greatly from place to place. Regions differ on things like sauce or no sauce, what type of animal or cuts of meat are used, and even what types of wood is burned. This page will serve as your guide to understanding these great varieties.
May as well start with the big one. Texas has regional styles within it’s own style. Central Texas “Hill Country” is known for its old meat markets, which were heavily influenced by German and Czech immigrants. Here, the focus is on the meat, so they use dry rubs (no sauce on the meat, or it is not a primary element to the food). Beef brisket and ribs are king, and sausage links are also prominent, with pecan and oak wood being used in most smokers. East Texas BBQ is pretty much split 50/50 between beef and pork, but, similar to southern styles, what you get is usually chopped rather than sliced, and served sandwich style with a tomato- and vinegar- based hot sauce.
North Carolina, like Texas, has variations within: eastern style and Lexington style (not to be confused with Lexington Steele). Three unifying things you need to know about NC BBQ: (1) the meat is PORK all the way; (2) said pork should be brushed with a spice and vinegar mix while cooking; and (3) hickory or oak wood is used in the smoker. Two differentiating things you need to know about NC BBQ: (1) eastern NC is a whole-hog BBQ, using the entire animal, while Lexington favors just the pork shoulder and ribs; and (2) eastern style NC BBQ favors an apple cider vinegar-based sauce, while the west prefers a ketchup- and brown sugar- based sauce.
Here, it’s all about the sauce differences, otherwise it is pretty much the same as North Carolina. Central South Carolina is typically BBQ with a mustard-based sauce known as “Carolina Gold.” The coast is all about pepper and vinegar, and the far west and north are into ketchup- and tomato- based sauces. Preferred cuts/dishes across the state are pork butt and ham.
This info holds for both Kansas and Missouri versions of Kansas City, as they are neighbors. But because of its geographic location, KCBBQ has a mix of culinary influences from all regions. And given its history as a hub for the meatpacking industry, Kansas City style BBQ embraces all kinds of meats. Everything is done “slow and low,” as they say, and usually with hickory wood, although all woods are used. Burnt ends are big here, and smothered with a thick and sweet, molasses- and tomato- based sauce, because, well, in Kansas City, “sauce is boss,” as they say.
St. Louis-style barbecue consists of mainly pork dishes, a staple of which is the pork steak, which is sliced from the shoulder of the pig. However another item unique to the St. Louis area is crispy snoot. This nose and cheek cut is prepared by removing the nostrils and cooking until crispy. Similar to pork rinds, these can be presented many ways, but the two most common are either (1) covered in sauce, on a sandwich, or (2) broken into pieces and dipped in sauce.
Pulled pork and pork ribs are both big for this style of ‘cue. The dry rub is usually paprika and garlic, but served with a thin and tangy tomato-based sauce. Wet ribs are also prominent as well. Hickory is the choice wood, although oak, cherry, pecan and apple are all used.
Alabama tends to be a mixture of Texas and Carolina styles, but they’re big on sandwiches and cole slaw. They usually go with pulled pork or pulled chicken, but ‘Bama’s signature is the white sauce that they use as a topper, which is a mayonnaise and vinegar concoction.
The thing to know about Kentucky BBQ is their use of mutton: older lamb and sheep. Don’t think of the word “old” as a bad thing. Lamb comes from a sheep that is less than one year old. Mutton comes from a sheep that is more than one year “old.” Kentucky mutton usually comes with a Worcestershire dip as well. Pork is prevalent here as well, but the mutton is what makes this region unique.
I’m bogarting this description right from Wikipedia, since it is absolutely fascinating and I have nothing of my own to add to it: “While less prevalent than the other Southern styles, Virginia barbecue is a fair mixture of Carolina and Memphis barbecue. Originating in Hanover, Virginia in the 19th century, the traditional meat is pork (often Virginia ham) or chicken, although more gamy meals contain venison or squirrel. Unlike Carolina barbecue, the texture of meat is sweeter and finer. However, it does contain the smoky blend of Memphis barbecue. During Thomas Jefferson’s tenure as ambassador to France from 1784-89, he engaged in lengthy letter correspondence with James Madison regarding the preferred game for Virginia barbecue. While Jefferson exhibited a general preference for venison, Madison insisted that smaller critters were more consistent with the smokey flavor of the sauce. The key ingredients of Virginia barbecue are bourbon/wine, vinegar, peppers, corn, and a tomato-based sauce.”
I’ve decided to pull this directly from Wikipedia as well, since I never knew California had an official style of BBQ: “The original use of buried cooking in barbecue pits in North America was done by the Native Americans for thousands of years, including by the tribes of California. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries eras, when the territory became Spanish Las Californias and then Mexican Alta California, the Missions and ranchos of California had large cattle herds for hides and tallow use and export. At the end of the culling and leather tanning season large pit barbecues cooked the remaining meat. In the early days of California statehood after 1850 the Californios continued the outdoor cooking tradition for fiestas. In California a well-known barbecue dish is grilled tri-tip beef rump, sometimes cut into steaks. The Santa Maria Style BBQ, originally from the Central Coast of California, uses a portable ‘towed’ trailer version frequently seen at farmers markets. The old Mexican Ranchos of California would cook tri-tip over a pit of red oak, and simply season it with salt and garlic to enhance the flavor. It was served with pinqinto beans, pico de gallo and tortillas.”
Often overlooked is the luau, a polynesian tradition and celebration where whole hog is cooked. The centerpiece of any luau is kalua pork, which is a whole pig that is roasted in an imu pit – an underground oven traditionally made with lava rock – that cooks the animal for several hours, low and slow. The pig is ceremonially wrapped in banana leaves to impart sweetness and lock in moisture before being placed onto the coals.
Many other states, like Oklahoma, Arkansas and Georgia, are essentially hybrid forms of BBQ that exhibit techniques and flavors from the surrounding geographic areas of influence. New York City, on the other hand, is beginning to develop its own unique cultural hybrid BBQ style, as various African, Asian and Latin American immigrant communities weave the flavor profiles from their heritages into the American culinary tablecloth, so to speak. A true melting pot in every sense of the phrase, New York City has outlets for the flavors of African braai, Korean kimchi, Indian curry, Middle-Eastern cumin, Mexican mole and Brazilian churrasco/rodizio, just to name a few. In time, I see NYC as being a place where the boundaries of BBQ are expanded to a global level, as New Yorkers currently seem to be taking BBQ – something uniquely American – and applying it to various cuisines from all over the world. When that happens, everyone wins. Especially my stomach.
I realize that many BBQ aficionados might find my overview above to be a bit rudimentary. There’s so much more to know, and not even just about the meats. One could easily spend an entire day learning about the various side items that go along with American BBQ, for example. As a matter of fact, one of the most thorough and enjoyable resources I have come across for BBQ is a book called Be The BBQ Pitmaster, by Will Budiaman. This book is good for history, detailed discussions of the various regional techniques, tips for wood selection, smoking instructions, and even recipes from well known pit masters in each region. It’s a one-stop-shop for all your BBQ research and cooking application needs.
And if you are wondering what wines to pair with your BBQ, check out THIS ARTICLE by Bro BBQ.
Lastly, to see my small but growing collection of BBQ reviews, click on over to “The ‘Cue Review” now.