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Barque - Review

We were three at Barque last night. None of us will return.

We wanted to like this place. We understood that one of the owner/cooks had actually spent half a year studying and learning barbecue in the southern United States. This sounded promising.

The problem, it seems, is that Barque is already cutting corners. They are trying to speed up production. They are not doing things "low" or "slow" enough. Surely, they are deviating from what they must have learned stateside. Ironically, none of the food had the trademark "bark" that we were rightly expecting.

Baby back ribs, had clumps of rub falling off it. Now, mind you, the rub itself was delicious. But most people don't want to eat it in mounds. Rather, it should be applied early and allowed to meld into the meat. The ribs we had were not penetrated by the rub. The rub just fell off. Their rub, I think, is very good and would have worked well if given the chance. Smoke penetration was there, but not as deep as I prefer. It was almost superficial. But it was there, and there was some resultant deliciousness. But, for the most part, the ribs were a big let down.

Their smoked chicken wings were the highlight. Very delicious. Properly smoked. (It takes less time properly smoke a chicken wing, due to its smaller size). It's too bad they don't have the patience to smoke bigger pieces of food.

Breaded chicken tenders were dry. And, they were not all tenders, per se, but strips of breast meat, as noted by my dining companion who worked in the chicken business.

Brisket and beef rib were mediocre. Again, they would have been better if the kitchen didn't rush to prepare them. These are very fatty pieces of meat, that require low and slow cooking, in part to render off some of the solid fat. But, they apparently didn't do that. So, both of these items had large globules of solid white fat throughout.

On the positive side, they start you out with complimentary carbonated water. A nice touch, I thought.

Barque is still better than 95% of the ribs in this town. So, I think a lot of people will like it. The place was busy. But, they are not living up to their name.

I hear Buster Rhino's is coming to Toronto. I am looking forward to trying their stuff.

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Buster Rhino's
2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

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  1. I won't be hurrying back either. I've been twice and both times the ribs/brisket/chicken were dry and tasted as if they had been rushed though the cooking process. Service was good and the place was packed both times, so maybe my poor experiences were the exception - although my boyfriend's felt the same way.

    1. What does your friend say a chicken tender is? The USDA says it's "any strip of breast meat" so what you were served was chicken tenders.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USD...

      1. Thanks for saving me a trip. We'll stick with Buster Rhino's, Camp 31, or Kentucky Greg's. Nothing else around here is worth it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: TexSquared

          Memphis Fire BBQ is (in Winona). And, I had a much better experience at Barque when I went there for take out back in August. I have been to BR, Camp 31 and Memphis Fire and Barque was up there except for the salt crystals on the ribs but I enjoyed my meal overall. Sounds like quality control issues.

          1. re: ylsf

            I've still never been to Camp 31 but I've been to the others you mention.

            Barque is usually terrific, and very consistent. I've been at least 3 times in the past few months. I often dine alone when I get a craving for wings or meat after work.

            However, two Sundays ago, I had the worst brunch food. Eggs benny with brisket on cornbread was a bad idea. Mushy soft tasteless weird uninspired. Ew. The brisket had no flavour!

            But the service is generally great and the host is very gracious and helpful.

            Stockyards on the other hand has never failed me. So it has a slight advantage over Barque. But I still love Barque despite the bad brunch.

            1. re: Food Tourist

              i had the benny too-to me it was just meh. the fried chicken thigh sandwich is done better elsewhere-but why is there a version of this sandwich everywhere now? the new brunch menu isn't worth the wait...

        2. I found their pork ribs to be very good. Just the style I like - good rub, higher than average (Toronto) smoke and good 'bite' to the meat (I'm not a fan of fall-off-the-bone ribs - it's a style preference; your tastes may differ). I also liked the mustard based sauce better than the vinegar one - and at least you get a choice. And the cole slaw was coarser than 'traditional' Carolina (which tends to be more of a puree) - again to my taste (yes, I want texture not pablum - perhaps (?) over-emphasizing the point).

          I've been mostly disappointed with the Toronto offerings 'everywhere'. Some have good quality meat, but the style seems to be 'inoffensive' rather than making a statement. Not too much smoke, or rub, or anything for that matter!

          Buster Rhino's has 'nothing to dislike' - they do everything pretty well - except for their buns which are classic wonderbread (I know it's traditional Southern - but doesn't mean I have to like it - I'd rather not stuff a cotton wool/cardboard hybrid in my mouth!).

          For most styles (haven't had the chicken) I prefer Mad Michaels in Wyebridge - although their pulled pork is also a bit wimpy. Certainly their brisket is # 1 - but their pork is Texas-style, so hard to compare to the Carolina style which is mostly found in Toronto.

          Haven't tried Barque's beef - still haven't found ANY decent beef BBQ in Toronto (Greater) - probably my favourite is Black Camel - except little or no detectable smoke, so doesn't really qualify as BBQ for me.

          -----
          Black Camel
          4 Crescent Rd, Toronto, ON M4W1S9, CA

          Mad Michael's
          8215 93 Hwy, Wyebridge, ON L0K1E0, CA

          Buster Rhino's
          2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

          3 Replies
          1. re: estufarian

            Hear Hogtown smoke makes a good brisket. They do a catering truck in the business district.

            1. re: MODDER

              I've had both and Barque's is superior --- also, Hogtown Smoke is a place i wanted to love as my office is downtown, but after 2 visits and the absolutely chintziest servings ever, i'll pass...

              1. re: dannyboy

                I haven't been to Hogtown but they are getting a lot of press that's for sure, and from what people tell me their truck gets a lot of business... I know a lot of people that work in the area. How is their brisket? I can honestly say Barque's did a decent job with their brisket... it was the best tasting meat on my plate.

          2. Two of us went on a Sat. night at 5:30, lined up, and found the service gracious and considerate. We had a lot of BBQ, but found the rubs and sauces mostly sweet. I always prefer side spare ribs to back ribs, but they were not on offer. Also, most of the crowd was "suburban" and were visiting as tourists. The staff had a lot of "explaining " to do -- we could hear them.

            We never eat out on Sat night, but we happened to be right there at 5:25, so why not? It was interesting, but not worth a return. Has anybody had the smoked lamb nachos? Sounds awful...

            1. We went a while ago now, perhaps in the start of spring, and never had the chance to blog or write about it.. good that it's come up now!

              Both my partner and I were underwhelmed. The place was packed on a Friday at 7 or so .. we were sat at the bar at the back. There were no hints of smoke in the meats that we ordered (pork and beef ribs.. ). We wanted to try the chicken wings, but didnt get a chance to. Talked to the owner, who was explaining how proper BBQ should be, as he had been the judge to many BBQ competitions in the USA. And still .. we were just underwhelmed.

              Still havent tried Stockyards yet.. I think after that, then we'll finally get to compare..

              1 Reply
              1. re: jennjen18

                Have to agree with this. My SO and I were very underwhelmed. I wouldn't even call it BBQ. No taste of smoke. The popcorn, Wings and the service were standouts. Very good service. I ordered a side of beef rib, you literally only get one and it had 2 bites of meat on it. It was excellent, but only 2 bites. The potato salad was bitter and one of the worst ive ever had. I wouldn't say it was a bad experience, it just didn't live up to the hype.

              2. We went this summer on a Sunday prix fix family night with a group of 6. Everything was very good. My only complaint was that almost everything had smoke flavor, from the wings through the pasta and I got a bit tired of it. Portions were large, service was attentive and it was a nice room.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hal2010

                  Yeah I am surprised people are saying their food lacked "smoke" When I went I could smell the smoke for miles away and even when I got takeout I could smell the smoke in my car and I could definitely "taste" the smoke and see the smoke ring. I guess this place is very inconsistent indeed....

                  1. re: ylsf

                    I went for brunch Saturday and introduced the place to a friend. We each had the Brisket sandwich.

                    I just don't know where you can get better brisket than what we had! It was perfect and very smoky. It had a great smoke flavour too, almost like campfire smoke.

                    Anyway the place is always packed so I don't have to protect their business or "advertise" for them as word of mouth keeps the place humming so I know it will always be there when I have a craving.

                    I side with Hal in that sometimes the Sunday dinner is just smoke exhausting...

                    1. re: justsayn

                      My mother-in-law's brisket is better than Barque's. And, she's no culinary genius. But, she knows that brisket and other less expensive cuts of meat become delicious only with patience.

                      The place is always packed. So, it's good then right? I guess the Pickle Barrel is Toronto's greatest restaurant?!?

                      Anyhow, I don't want to be overly argumentative (is it too late?). You like it and I don't. To each his own.

                      1. re: Fwagra

                        There is nothing to argue about. If you really knew smoked brisket you would know to not judge it on one visit. I also have a belief that a restaurant can have an off day, so when a place has the right idea, I go back to confirm if something was amiss.

                        My statement about it being packed was not a statement about its quality but merely a statement about its secure place in my rotation, as I said.

                2. My family and I had dinner there last Wednesday and we enjoyed our meal. I was hesitant to go considering some of the poor reviews and a general feeling from Chowhounders that this place lacked consistency. Nothing worse than to eat at an inconsistent bbq establishment. My wife insisted since it was recommended to her by colleagues. I need to go back to give a true review, but I must say we enjoyed the brisket (very succulent) and the baby back ribs had a nice bite to it (and rightfully so a nice pink hue all the way to the bone). Some of the menu items others have mentioned I didn't see on the menu (could be just me simply skimming over them) i.e. chicken fingers, potato salad, brisket sandwich. My daughter simply loved the smoked chicken thighs. I can understand Fwagra's complaint about the rub or bark on the ribs. It was drier (the bark) than it should have been. I'm guessing they didn't use too much brown sugar in their rub OR they added another layer of rub just before being taken out. It did help when I brushed the ribs with the ketchup based sauce. The meat on the ribs weren't dry at all and I enjoyed the flavour. Our sides were the home cut fries (shoestring and very good), corn, gnocchi and a beet and brussel sprout salad. All the sides were quite tasty EXCEPT for the corn. It was bland. The service and atmosphere are very friendly. We will definitely go back.

                  1. Just ate there yesterday it was me and 4 other people so we went with the Chef platter. This platter comes with a 4 course meal. The first part is a appetizer which is chicken skewers basted with some BBQ sauce and chicken wings. The chicken skewers had no smoke flavor in them at all and where very bland and almost tasteless. If the BBQ sauce wasn't on the skewers then they would of been one of the worse pieces of chicken I have ever had. The chicken wings where much tastier and had a great rub on it. So to start off the dinner was a little disappointing.

                    Next came the salad which was a mixed green with a goat cheese dressing and watermelon. I'm not a big fan of fruits being in my salad, but the salad wasn't bad at all to tell you the truth. Still it's not that hard to make a good salad.

                    Next came the main platter of Beef Brisket, ribs and chicken thighs. The best part about the platter had to be the brisket and it was the only piece of meat that had a hint of wood flavor to the meat. The brisket had a great texture and the taste was their. However the ribs and chicken did not stand up to what I expect from a BBQ smoke house (I have been to many in my life and I'm also do a lot of slow smoking on my own). The ribs where a dry rubbed baby back rib, and the rub was caked on to the point that it was a little to much. I was always taught that you don't over do the rub because at the end of the day it's just like putting on spices on your meat. You put to much spices on your meat and it becomes somewhat offensive. The ribs where also lacking the wood flavor. The chicken thighs where absolutely horrible no flavor and no rub on the chicken again no smoke flavor as well.

                    At the end the meal we where pretty honest with our waiter and told what we liked and what didn't like about the meal. He told us they had a new guy on the smoker hence why there could of been some issues with the quality of food. I can honestly say this place does not live up to the hype it is getting. Oh yeah the dessert was amazing it was a chocolate moose and very tasty.

                    We gave this place a 6.5 out of 10 the food was lacking a lot of the smoke flavor to be called a smoke house IMO.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MODDER

                      I have to agree for the most part with Modder. I've been 3 times now and most of the food with the exception of the brisket (on a good day) lacks much smoke. Ribs are too dry and stringy for my tastes. I do enjoy their popcorn!

                    2. Say what you will about their smoked mains- some good days, some bad days, and that's barbecue for you- their Miami ribs are utterly outstanding. Ridiculously good.

                      My advice: skip the mains and order three plates of the Miami ribs. And one for dessert.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: biggreenmatt

                        If you go to a place like Stock Yards they always produce the same taste each time they serve their ribs with a nice smoke flavor and seasoned perfectly. Now that being said it is a side rib at Stock Yards and I'm a bigger fan of the baby back rib... just wish they nailed their ribs at barques. We had all the different rib options on that platter and they all lacked the smoke flavor. I'm pretty sure they are doing a lite smoke with their foods. When I chatted with the waiter he said they don't like to put a lot of wood in the smoker because it effects their cooking time. The more meat you put in that smoker the more wood you need to flavor the meat. The smoke flavor was missing from most of their food. However they are doing something right because you cannot get in that place with out a reservation. I've seen them turn down 3 people ahead of us that did not set up a reservation... they did not look to happy.

                        1. re: MODDER

                          Although I'm admittedly not a BBQ aficionado, perfectionist or purist, I do happen to love the ribs at Barque. I usually get the "wet" ribs (I do forget what they call them), the chicken thigh (which is consistenly amazing), and their wings. Their wings are 2nd only to Buster Rhino's, and comparatively, even though Barque can at times be inconsistent, I've always found them much better than BPs, Stockyards, Camp 31, or anywhere else in town. I order from SY and Camp31 quite frequently, but IMO, Barque has by far the best ribs. The two times I had BR's ribs, they were dry, tough, and forgettable, which is really disappointing because I've heard so many good things about them, and it's such a trek for me.

                          That said, I don't particularly care for or look for a "smoked" taste, I'm only concerned with the over-all flavour profile - and for that, Barque wins hands down.

                          _________________
                          www.foodnerds.ca

                          1. re: justxpete

                            The texture of their ribs where spot on, but the flavor wasn't their for me. From what I'm gathering barques has it's good days and bad as well.

                            1. re: justxpete

                              I don't eat ribs so I can't offer an opinion, but I have tried their dry-rubbed wings, and they're unbelievable...addictive in fact!

                              1. re: kwass

                                The wings where one of the food items that we enjoyed and yes very addictive!!!

                        2. The BF and I ended up here on Sunday without any pre planning. Didn't realize that it wasn't the normal menu but instead a family style set menu for $30 pp.
                          To say it was a disappointment is a bit of an understatement.

                          The first course(s) were one cornmeal fritter and black bean soup. The fritter was cold and under seasoned, the black beans in the lukewarm soup where still very hard and needed more time to be fully cooked.

                          The next course was a mixed green and pear salad. It was fine. But the pears were not ripe and there the almonds noted on the menu were missing from our tiny portion.

                          The next course was the meat course – three ribs and half a chicken breast pp with about half a cup of overcooked and under seasoned green beans and a skillet of room temp fries with some lukewarm chilli and un melted cheese on top. While the chicken was moist and tasty the ribs were dry and lacking any real smoke flavour. They desperately needed the sauces that were provided.
                          I don’t remember was dessert was as we neither of us are that big on dessert unless it is something truly over the top.

                          Overall it was a giant disappointment and I’m not even sure I would make the trip to go back to try the regular menu.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JennaBean

                            Yikes...

                            Yeah, I went there in the early days and tried to get take out to only find out it was their "family dinner" night (Sunday). At the time they didn't advertise/make this clear though and it really annoyed me.

                            Anyway, I have had take out twice from there and I enjoyed it both times but it has been a while since I have been.

                            1. re: ylsf

                              Their normal dinner menu is still great. The only problem I ever had was with food quality at Sunday brunch. Yes, it's a long wait some evenings, but still worth it in terms of value for money on that street.

                          2. i forgot to post after having dinner here 2 weeks ago, on a friday night. we got there around 6:30pm and were told we wouldn't get a table for at least another hour. we took a stroll and came back to wait the last 15 minutes. the walk-in list was probably 10 names strong by 7pm. We saw at least 10 groups come in, ask about the wait, and leave. i know they have a patio, but i suppose it's not heated. to me, it's a no-brainer to open it on fridays and weekends for all the walk-ins.

                            anyhow, we loved the smoked wings! good size, hot and moist. and the sauces that can be painted on were good. the smoked duck tacos were not exactly smokey, but still tasty. similar to peking duck (without the crispy skin)

                            the wait for mains took a LONG time. we ordered the full rack of sweet heat ribs that was more cold than luke-warm and dry on the inside. no real hint of sweet or heat. we confirmed later on that this is indeed how barque ribs are supposed to be. we got a side of sauteed kale, that was not really sauteed and the fries (which we thought was good). we added an order of brisket, which was nothing special.

                            i've wanted to come for a long time and finally made it there, but i don't see what the hype is about. it was definitely a disappointment. there's no shortage of people who enjoy it, so I suppose they have a good fan base.

                            i'll make my way over to electric mud bbq soon!

                            1. Had Sunday family dinner last night at Barque. $30 per person plus drinks. Ridiculous desserts "lime-lychee cupcakes" were basically corn muffins with candied orange on top. The food was mediocre. No smoke in the ribs nor brisket. Better were their smoked chicken thighs and the wings and the al dente brussels sprouts. Best part was the smoked bourbon sour.
                              Won't be back for bbq!