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Meat Candy : T-Rex BBQ, Berkeley, First Look…Finally

March 5, 2008

T-Rex BBQ in Berkeley has been open for a while, about 2 1/2 years actually.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make it over there for one nefarious reason or another, but recently…I finally changed that.

Here’s a couple of quick caveats:  I had food To-Go.  It sat in my car for over an hour.  We chatted up the chef and got a bunch of free samples.  They have a HUGE Enviro-Pak smoker set-up which had my inner kitchen design geek all aflutter. 

Okay. That’s all for caveats.  Now on to the meat.

Two-Way BBQ with Smoked Brisket and Spare Ribs was the main component of my order.  Accompanied by the following:  Cornbread with Maple Butter, Dino Kale with Parmesan Cheese and Butternut Squash, and French Fries with Chipotle Ketchup.  I also asked for sides of both their Medium and Spicy sauces.  While waiting, we started talking to one of the chefs about the Enviro-Pak, and in the process sampled some Baby Back Ribs straight from the smoker and some of their recently developed beef jerky.  Both were OUTSTANDING.  The baby back was damn near heartwrenchingly succulent.  If you’ve never had ribs directly from the smoker without having been refrigerated and reheated first, then friend, you been doing it all wrong.  The jerky is what inspired the term Meat Candy, and for good reason.  Sweet, a lingering and developing spice, and plenty of toothsome chew.

By way of quick run-down on the food, the spare ribs were delicious, though a tad over-smoked for my taste.  I occasionally get a bit of a wee headache from BBQ smoke if it’s over the line, and this one was just slightly.  That might have been just the spare ribs, because the aforementioned baby back was perfect.  Really…Perfect.  Next time i’ll get the two way with them instead.  The brisket was delicious, although a  smidge on the dry side.  Again, refer to my original caveat about it being To-Go.  I will say that for $17 for the two way, the portions are generous and include potato salad (delish!) as well as the obligatory slice of white bread.  This bread (I think?) was house-made brioche, or at least brioche bought from someone local.  Good stuff either way.

The sides were all killer.  The cornbread had a richness that was in the stratosphere (no complaints…) and the maple butter was 50/50 melted butter and pure maple syrup.  You can’t really go wrong there, and the taste sensation when maple collides with meat is pretty serious.  The kale was surprisingly awesome.  Not surprising in that I love kale, but that it’s often not to my liking in restaurants.  This was done well…nicely studded with little 1/2″ dices of squash and plenty of cheese…And more Butter.  Eh.  Not for the faint of heart I tell you, but then, what BBQ is?  The fries were also spot-on, whole-cut potatoes, skin-on, and well seasoned.  The chipotle ketchup did nothing for me though.  Well, it sat in my fridge for three days and then I threw it out.  It didn’t have much going on, and I was too busy using the sauces for french fry dippage anyway.

Speaking of sauces…They’re good.  Not great, but good.  They’ve got a bit too much of a ketchup-y thing going on, but seems like there’s enough molasses and spice to break up the whole Heinz, but real BBQ isn’t about the sauce anyway.  It’s about the meat…and the sides.  Really good ‘Q will keep you coming back, regardless of the sauce quality.  They didn’t spend all that money on Enviro-Pak’s so you could rave about their sauce, that’s for sure.

FYI – Enviro-Pak smokers are hefty, complicated, computer controlled affairs that allow for highly exacting cooking methods and processes.  You can control humidity, temperature, smoke content, and more, all from a technologically advanced interface that also allows you to export health and safety information from a HACCP standpoint.  (HACCP is an industry standard for examining the safety of a food chain…Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, but more on that some other time.)  You can control the ovens from your PC and can even do it remotely I think.  I’ll have to check on that.  Pretty amazing pieces of engineering and cooking science if you ask me. 

But don’t take my word for it…Let the offerings at T-Rex speak for the quality of the cooks and machinery too…so go take a look.

(BTW – They have killer Happy Hour specials and a MONSTROUS whiskey selection.)

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