We knew this was going to happen. Let's be honest - I think you all know me well enough to know I can't pass up a bowl of ramen, even if I have gone Paleo. It was Barbecue Ramen, people. BBQ FREAKIN' RAMEN. I had to try it.
It was a relatively small defeat. Luckily, the ramen was about one-third the size of regular servings of ramen I am used to, so I maybe had half a cup of noodles. All-in-all, still a good Paleo day on the road. I'm not beating myself up here - I knew this road-trip would be rough.
I travel more for work than some, and while I try to bring healthy snacks along, I won't deny I love researching, investigating, and discovering fantastic places to eat when I'm away from home. This means that yes, I go out of my way to stop at a place to eat JUST FOR THE FOOD. Not because I'm tired of driving, not because it's conveniently close to the hotel I'm staying at that night, but because I've heard, one way or another, that this joint is producing kick-ass food. And so I go. I added an hour and a half to my Day Two trip to Texas to stop at this the Woodshed Smokehouse in Ft Worth, TX because the food gods told me it was a good bet.
The food gods are rarely wrong.
Everyone knows Texas is a barbecue mecca. They love their 'cue and everyone has their own way of doing it "right". The Woodshed uses a variety of wood to smoke their meats, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan ... and it's all good. In addition to traditional barbecue (platters and sandwiches), they offered some quirky dishes, smoking meats other than beef and pork, like lamb, wild game and fish, which is really what made it easy to go out of my way to visit the place. The smoked whitefish dip was highly recommended, but it came with tortilla chips so I had to pass on it (you know what I ordered already, right?).
Sigh. I knew I had to order the ramen bowl, but I sincerely wanted to taste more than just the pork, so I ordered a small plate of brisket stuffed piquillo peppers in bone broth (what? yes! crazy!) with cojita cheese.
Mmmmmm ... bone broth ....
Ya'll (leave me be, I'm in Texas), that plate was damn good. I can't put it any other way. Tender, juicy brisket stuffed inside sweet and mild little peppers, swimming sexily in a broth of bony, umami goodness. Back up the truck, jack!
I ate there yesterday and I can still taste that brisket. Decadent, man. Kissed with smoke in just the right way.
I was only halfway through the stuffed peppers when the ramen arrived. I had to stop and take that bad boy down as it was crowned with a delicious little quail egg that I didn't want to cook too long in the broth. Ask any of my closest friends and they'll be quick to tell you I like my eggs "rare". Carbonara, anyone? (Sorry, still missing pasta).
When food looks good to me, I find it easy to tell myself that it also tastes good. My eyes win out over my tongue most of the time ... except this time. I LOVE the concept. I love the idea of the dish, and if you love barbecue and either don't know much about "real" ramen or don't care much for it (because you're a mental patient) then I could see how some people would like this.
But I've taken the road less traveled. I've been down the path of true ramen enlightenment, and this dish, as killer as it looked and sounded, did not do it for me.
I know. Some of you may need to sit down. It's okay. Grab a fuji water. I'll wait ...
Seriously, this was an interesting bowl of noodles, but it was just ... well ... too barbecue-ee for me. The barbecue pork in the dish was fantastic. It was perfect in the way you want a good pulled pork to be. The noodles were ... okay. The veggies were an afterthought. But it was the broth that I couldn't get past. It was too ... wait for it ... smokey. I know, what's wrong with smoke? IT'S BARBECUE, ROTH, IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE SMOKEY!
True, barbecue is supposed to be smokey, but not ramen. It's supposed to be rich, but not overly deep, which is where the smoke took this broth. The fat from the pork in the broth should hang out on the back of your tongue but the broth shouldn't smack you in the tonsils, and this broth did that to me. Additionally, while the pulled pork was spot on, it wasn't any better than the awesome roast pork I had in my ramen at Monta Ramen in Las Vegas (blogged about that back in July - go there. Now.).
In summary, this was a super fun place. They have great barbecue, some wonderfully quirky dishes, and a great location by the a river (is there a river in Ft. Worth?). I recommend it - just don't go expecting to find a traditional bowl of ramen and you'll be good.