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Review: East Side Kings (Austin)

East Side Kings Food Truck

East Side Kings Food Truck

So I learned the hard way that most food trucks in Austin are dark on Mondays. Thankfully, East Side King’s trucks still operate on Mondays so the food conquest wasn’t a failure. East Side King has three locations, but we settled on visiting the East Side Kings at Liberty Bar.

The space is located in a pretty quiet area of Austin, but it was still pretty busy for a Monday night. After looking at the menu, I ordered Poor Qui’s Buns, Thai Chicken Karaage and Derek’s Favorite Chicken Buns.

Something I love about food truck (and East Side King is no exception) is the fact that things are cooked to order. East Side King incorporates a lot of herbs into the dishes and all were fresh and crisp.

Poor Qui's Bun

Poor Qui's Bun

The first thing I tried were the Poor Qui’s Buns — roasted pork belly in steamed buns, Hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi and green onion. Delicious. The pork belly was crackly and blended perfectly with the crunch and acidity of the cucumber kimchi. The bun was light and fluffy and didn’t distract from the overall taste of all the elements.

Next I sampled the Thai Chicken Karaage — deep fried chicken thigh with sweet and spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeno. I’m willing to go on record and state that thighs are the most underrated cut of chicken. They have so much flavor and East Side King really brought out the flavor with the mix of herbs, jalapeno and the sauce. It was crispy, hot, cool and refreshing. The perfect dish for a warm night.

Thai Chicken Karaage

Thai Chicken Karaage

This dish also paired really well with my Shiner Bock. So don’t forget about the right beer.

Finally, I tried the Derek’s Favorite Chicken Buns. Once again, the chicken thigh pieces were crisped to perfect. This bun was composed of deep-fried chicken thigh, Thai flavored spicy mayo, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeno. This turned out to be my favorite dish. The pillowy soft bun mixed with the herbs and crispy chicken provided a very textured, yet simple dish.

I’m a big fan of Asian cuisine, and East Side King can hold it’s own as a serious Asian dining experience — albeit outside of the standard brick and mortar. It’s no wonder Anthony Bourdain stopped by on his most recent visit to Austin.

Derek's Favorite Chicken Buns

Derek's Favorite Chicken Buns

The brains behind East Side King consist of former chefs from Uchi, one of Austin’s top Asian restaurants. They’re really onto something here as they’re now up to three truck — each with a unique menu. They’re also smart to open on Monday nights, they pretty much have a Monday night monopoly.

I’ll have to wait to continue my food truck conquests on my next visit to Austin. Just not on a Monday.

East Side King trucks operate outside of Liberty Bar, The Grackle and Shangri-La in Austin. Hours vary so visit the East Side King site for more info.

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Lambert’s (Austin)

Crispy Wild Boar Ribs

Crispy Wild Boar Ribs

There was no way in hell I was going to take a trip to Texas and not leave without having barbecue. Brisket is one of my favorite cuts of beef so my tastebuds were set on having some great brisket. Based on my Austin friend’s recommendation, we headed to Lambert’s in downtown Austin so I could cure my barbecue/brisket craving.

After ordering drinks, we started with a charcuterie plate (not pictured because I forgot to take a pic until we were nearly finished devouring it) that came with two local cheeses and two from elsewhere as well as some nice meats. All of the cheese and meat was overshadowed by the foie gras pot de creme. Wow! That little pot was full of flavor and I really didn’t want to share it. I would have liked one of those as an entree.

A close second on the charcuterie plate was the local honeycomb. The honey was great and paired well with every meat and ever cheese we sampled. But did I mention the foie gras pot de creme? I did? Okay, moving on.

Natural Beef Brisket

Natural Beef Brisket

Not surprisingly, I ordered the Natural Beef Brisket in a coffee and brown sugar rub with pickled esabeche. The brisket was good, especially the fattier pieces. However, I really didn’t get much of the coffee and brown sugar effect. What made the brisket great was Lambert’s house barbecue sauce.

I should point out that I’m much more of Texas barbecue sauce fan than I am for a Memphis (vinegar-based) sauce. I enjoy the thick sauciness of Texas sauces. That said, Lambert’s was not as thick as some sauces I’ve had and it definitely had a spicy heat component that’s absent from most Texas sauces. A+ on the sauce.

I also tried the Crispy Wild Boar Ribs and the Natural Pulled Pork. The ribs were tasty thanks to the sauce, but in my opinion, weren’t crispy. The pulled pork was very well done and had a different sauce than the house sauce that was equally delicious.

Now for the sides. I’m convinced the art of a good barbecue should be evenly divided 50-50 between meats and sides. Well, Lambert’s has some of the best barbecue sides I’ve ever had.

We ordered four for the table: Brussels Sprouts in Brown Butter with Bacon, Baked Mac and 3 Cheeses, Smoked Bacon Braised Collard Greens and Green Chili Cheese Grits.

I tried the grits first. I’m very very very picky about grits. If the base is water, forget it. Thankfully, Lambert’s used some form of dairy with a load of cheese. All of that was balanced very well by the heat from the green chilis. I would have this grits again and again. I may try and replicate the recipe.

Natural Pulled Pork

Natural Pulled Pork

The Brussels Sprouts were also a hit thanks to the bacon and brown butter of course. The Collard Greens didn’t quite live up to the Brussels Sprouts, but were still tasty.

And I still haven’t forgotten about the Mac and 3 Cheese. It was bubbly, crispy on the top and creamy on the inside. A total cheesy success all the way around. The pasta wasn’t too firm and wasn’t too chewy. I was ready to lick the bowl, but I’m afraid I would have come to blows with the rest of the table.

We ended the night with Lambert’s Bread Pudding that ranks as one of the top three I’ve ever had. Which is saying a lot given the number of bread puddings I’ve had while living in New Orleans (I would rank only Mr. B’s and Boucherie’s bread puddings higher).

While Lambert’s is a refined barbecue experience, the place can totally hold its own with some of the best barbecue joints in Texas. The meats were solid, the sides were phenomenal and the service was exemplary. They also have a great happy hour on Mondays where all appetizers are half off. If I lived in Austin, I would make this my Monday night regular place to eat.

Lambert’s is located at 401 West 2nd Street in downtown Austin. Lambert’s is open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is available Sun. through Wed. from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Fri. and Sat. from 5 to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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