Monday, June 23, 2014

Smalls Smoke Shack and More

The size of a restaurant has little to do with the quality of food that comes out of it's kitchen.  I have been to some small places that put out some good food, but I think I may have recently found a definite competitor for the smallest restaurant in town.  The place has a very apt name, that being Smalls. Smoke Shack and More.  Located in Albany Park, it is a counter service restaurant with six counter seats (which are different counters than the order counter).  The room is a light brown with the counter, the seats, an order window (where orders come out), a drink refrigerator, and that's about all.  There was a sign written on a brown paper bag by the counter that listed the specials in addition to the menu above the order window.  I went there thinking that I wanted some barbecue and making my standard barbecue order so I could compare it (half-rack of baby back ribs) but then I saw the Brisket Bibimbap.  I really like bibimbap and I thought if I ordered it, I could get an idea about both their barbecue and their Asian food so it would be a win-win.  With the bibimbap, I ordered one of the vegetables on special, the Long Beans.  While I had heard of long beans, I had never tried them, so that's what the order would be.  The order came out on a metal try like what you might expect at a barbecue place with the long beans in a Chinese takeout box.  The bibimbap was separated into it's component parts, as bibimbap is generally served, with the fried egg on top of the rice.  With this Bibimbap, it included, in addition to the Soy Maple Sesame Glazed Brisket (which was also sprinkled with Sesame Seeds), Carrots, Bean Sprouts, Garlic Fried Rice, the obligatory Fried Egg, and Korean Chile Paste.  It was also served with a small side of kimchi.  I am used to seeing a little green and Daikon Radishes in Bibimbap, but I suppose it depends on what's available.  I did taste everything separately before combining it all and everything did taste fine on it's own, if a little plain.  Eaten together as it's supposed to be though, it was very good.  The brisket was shredded and was sweet and tender with soy, maple and sesame flavors, that played well with the garlic flavor of the fried rice.  The carrots and bean sprouts were very fresh and crisp, and the egg was well fried.  The chile paste was thick and spicy and had what I thought was a peanuty flavor, but after a little research think that it may have been the fermented soybeans.  While it was pretty spicy, mixed with everything else, it was toned down.  It provided a spicy finish to a flavorful dish without being overwhelming.  The Kimchi that was served on the side was fairly standard kimchi composed mostly of cabbage.  It was sour and spicy, but still pretty good.  For the Long Beans that I had ordered on the side, I had never had them before, so I didn't really know what to expect.  I had heard of them, and I knew that they were eaten in Asian cuisines, but as far as texture and taste, I was clueless.  I had read that like their name implies, they are very long.  Wikipedia states that they grow to about eighteen inches.  When served, they looked like haricot verts (French green beans that are slightly more slender than regular green beans).  They were cut into more manageable size pieces and not served long which was fine because I don't know that it would have been that fun to try and eat a whole long bean.  Texturally, they were like also similar to green beans, but they had a flavor more similar to asparagus.  They were very good and a good complement to the bibimbap.  I really liked my lunch here.  The food was an interesting combination and I will definitely return or at least stop for take out to try more of the menu.  

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