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Wood-fired grill "off" flavor - Grace & One Pico

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My bf & I have experienced an "off" flavor several times now in the past year at restaurants here in LA that insist they only have "wood" for the grill. Last night we ordered a grilled pork chop at Grace, and it was essentially inedible because of some kind of chemical/starter fluid/gas/NON-WOOD flavor. When we mention it to the servers (this has happened more than once), they often get defensive and say that they don't use gas and that their wood is not treated in any way. At Grace, the server said that they use white oak, but that they do use a starter log to get the fire going. Maybe our chop was over the starter log or it left residue on the grill to which we're sensitive?

We had a similar experience at One Pico about two weeks ago... and at another place (can't remember where) within the past year. Places like Houston's or Bandera (yes, we frequent Hillstone Group restaurants as well...) never have this unpleasant flavor on their grilled meats.

Has anyone else experienced this... and more importantly, does anyone know what causes it and how it can be avoided? Thanks!

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  1. in the old days, when i used to eat meat, i experienced the same thing fairly often in restaurants that boasted of having a wood fire.
    i don't know what caused it, but it tasted the same way to me as you described it.

    you are not imagining it.