Friday, January 29, 2010

Percy Street BBQ Ribs and Pork Belly

I hadn't seen BJ in ages, so it was a wonderful surprise when he sent me a link to an article he wrote about this very blog on Phoodie. It sparked plans for a reunion over pork which culminated yesterday at Percy Street BBQ, a relatively new place on South Street.

Modern barbecue joints look one of two ways with few in betweens: the white tiled, no tables stab and grab, partially functioning fluorescent light signs in the window, kitchen activity visible from the counter, and a simplified menu of standards served on styrofoam (I'm thinking of Accu in West Philly). Then there's the modern gourmet option often found in a trendy neighborhood, dimly lit with traditional items served on plates, meat complementing craft beers on tap (my first of this sort was Brookyln's Smoke Joint).

Percy Street fits cleanly into the latter category. We met up with my friend Justin on the way, who had experienced this barbecue three times since it opened and vouched for its excellence. Once we arrived, we were joined by BJ's friend Jason, who seconded the lauding. I was starving and in deep anticipation.

I went with the option of two meats and two sides, forgoing the temptation of sausage and going with pork belly and ribs, along with a side of collard greens and German potato salad with bacon (!). To accompany my meal, I chose a mug of Brooklyn Brown Ale, one of my favorite standards despite my disdain for the burnt bitterness of the same brewery's lager. The food arrived in a presentation unbefitting the ambiance; each meat serving bagged with slices of supermarket pickle and raw onion, the sides in small round bowls, arranged on a metal cafeteria tray. Needless to say, the presentation made for a crappy picture. As I fumbled to photograph my meal in the dim light, a whiff of grill seasoning caught my nostrils. I put away my camera and went straight for bag number one, demarcated with a round pink sticker depicting a silhouetted pig. I reached in and pulled out one of the finest pieces of pork I have thus far consumed.

Percy Street's pork belly is thick cut and cooked to the point of nearly falling apart into its layer of meat, fat, and a substance I can only describe as meatfat. While it was still warm, I effortlessy bit off a chunk of this wide bit of belly and marveled as the fat disintegrated on my tongue, the meaty portion's texture lingering just slightly longer before going the way of its counterpart. The salty seasoning was encased perfectly in every bite of this stuff. The pork belly stole the show. I finished the first slice and noted that I shouldn't, under any circumstance, neglect the ribs.

Unwrapping the second parcel yielded slight disappointment at the lonely pair wrapped inside. Just two ribs didn't seem like enough, even in a meal containing other portions. However, the ribs, grilled and done wet, were excellent. They were cooked not quite to the point of meat falling from bone, but as close to it as you can get with the meat remaining in tact. I'll note here that the pinkness of barbecue spare ribs really bothers me. Maybe it's because I'm used to the rare appearance of beef that still pink pork looks under cooked to me.

I was initially excited about my sides, particularly the German potato salad. I found that I'm not a huge fan of vinegar and potatoes. Thus far, I've honed my expertise enough to discern that it was infused with real bacon and not some sort of seasoning farce, but somehow it wasn't doing the trick for me. Both the potatoes and greens were just sides to me, with no memorable traits.

Ever feel guilty because you feel like you should feel guilty about something that you don't? That's how that pork belly did me. I enjoyed it so much that I managed to momentarily shed the guilt that works so hard to engulf me while I'm eating pork.

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