Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Mighty Mighty Cue & Brew - a mix of southern style in the big smoke

Every Saturday morning we walk off to get our weekly groceries from James Street Market.  Yeah, yeah, I know that you're thinking 'sure mate, you eat out every night', but I assure you I do eat at home sometimes and when I do I get my groceries from The Standard over at James Street.  But that's not the point of this post, it's more about the journey I take to get to James Street each Saturday morning.  As part of the walk, we wander down McLachlan Street, which has been dominated for some time by construction work.

It's a funny thing when you watch a construction site go up.  At first there is the big mess that is created, usually as a result of someone digging a dirty big hole in the ground.  Not long after the trucks have carried away all the dirt, more trucks start to turn up with building material and things start to take shape.  At first, things happen so slowly you don't notice much change, but as sure as night follows day (or is it the other way round), you start to notice a building take shape.  I couldn't tell you how many times we wandered down McLachlan Street and speculated about the building.  Sure, we could have gone to the web site, but that would have spoilt the fun of our guessing games.

Then one day, you notice it's looking a little different, maybe even a little finished.  Amazingly, this all happened over what seemed to be about eighteen months and one day, there it was, it was finished.  What started out as a hole in the ground became a fully fledged building.  What was better was what lay beneath the building, a shiny new laneway with restaurants and shops, but mostly restaurants.  M&A laneway was born and it was time to finally check it out.

We'd thought about getting some lunch there on the Saturday, but we had our groceries with us and decided we would come back during the week.  What actually happened was a visit the very next day.  There are three completed restaurants in M&A lane right now and for some reason we made a beeline for the Mighty Mighty.  Was it because of it's unusual name?  Or was it because of the crazy smell that was wafting out of the kitchen?  Well, it was a little of both.

The Mighty Mighty is an homage to meat, in particular meat done souther style, where service sizes are huge and the flavours bold.  American style food just seems to get hotter and hotter, with a number of restaurants opening lately that take their cue from the big, the brash and the bold (I'm talking the US of A).  

We decided take our chances and not make a reservation, after all it was a Sunday night.  As we walked up to the restaurant, we got a waft of an amazing smell that immediately got our tastebuds salivating.  Our request for a table for two was met with the question 'do you have a reservation?'.  Gulp, had we made a tactical error in not booking?  Phew, luckily were were able to get a seat outside, which on a warm day would have been perfect, but more on that later.

We were given a large selection of menus to look over, which included the food, drinks and cocktail menus, but we were only interested in the food for our Sunday evening dinner.  The menu certainly meets the aim of the Mighty Mighty as a temple of meaty goodness, with a very heavily meat dominated selections of entrees and mains.  Each of the southern United States options sounded appetising, but a couple of options really stood out for us.

Gumbo is really only something we've heard about in movies, so of course we wanted to check out the gumbo squid with creole bell peppers, sassafras leaf sauce and fried okra.  It's such a funny name 'gumbo', but its a very serious dish in southern Louisiana, where it was first originated.  Simply put, gumbo a really thick stock used to cook meat or seafood and almost always has okra, in this case it was used with squid.  We were divided on this dish, SC really loved the strong flavours but I found them to be a bit overpowering.  The squid was well cooked with the bell peppers and okra complimenting the subtle flavour of the squid.  Overall, it was a well balanced dish that suited SC's palate more than mine.

It was a complete reversal for my starter of Louisiana prawn and clam chowder with smoked andouille sausage, I loved it and SC thought it was way too smoky.  I'm a big fan of chowders, especially clam chowder and I thought this was a great example.  There was a lovely smokiness to the dish that came from the andouille sausage which complimented the chew clam chunks nicely.  There was just a little bit of heat to the chowder that made it interesting but not overpowering, but for me the smokiness was the real winner here.

SC made a bit of a tactical error with her main.  She had been eying off the buttermilk fried chicken ever since the day before when we first spied the menu, but to my surprise she went for the barbecue beef short rib smoked and glazed with southern spiced sweet potato fries.  I suspect it was the sweet potato fries that did it, SC loves sweet potato fries, but it turned out to be the wrong choice.  The beef rib was probably too smoky for SC, who is not a fan of smoked food (amazingly she doesn't even like the smoked octopus from Gerards!). After one bite she knew that it was not for her and pretty much couldn't eat any more.  Thinking there might be something wrong with the dish I had a crack and to be honest, I quite liked the smoky flavour from the beef rib, although it was a little dry.  I couldn't really help SC finish off the dish, I had my hands full with my dish!

I'd ordered the Mighty Mighty smoked beef brisket rubbed, smoked and topped with molasses barbecue sauce with potato and apple salad and it was huge.  The magnificent piece of beef brisket placed in front of me was just massive.  It smelt amazing and was clearly cooked to perfection, which I confirmed as soon as I placed my fork into the tender meat.  There was a rich vein of fat that ran through the beef that was so well rendered it just melted and added an amazing flavour to the brisket.  While the brisket didn't match up the the best brisket I have ever had (again at Gerards), it was super and I definitely enjoyed it.  What I was less enamoured with was the potato and apple salad, which didn't taste of much and added nothing to the dish.

SC was feeling a bit down after not really enjoying her main and didn't feel like dessert.  On the other hand, as full as I was from the brisket, I really wanted some pie.  Not just any pie, it had to be the key lime pie lime crust with candied lime foam and caramelised milk cream.  I had been fantasising about the pie ever since I first saw the menu the day before.  After catching our waiters attention, I ordered the key lime pie and set myself for a slice of heaven.  Then I got the news every diner dreads when looking forward to a menu item, the waiter came over to tell me they were out of key lime pie.  I was gutted, so much so I couldn't face any of the other pies on the menu.

It was a bit of a bummer way to finish of the night, but we really didn't want to hang around.  We were sitting outside, which would have been amazing on a nice summer's evening, but even though it was summer, the evening was anything but pleasant.  It was windy and cold with the M&A lane acting as a wind tunnel that seemed to blow cold air directly onto our table.  By this time SC was pretty much freezing her butt off and wanted to go.  We were a little disappointed with our outside spot as we had asked for an inside table when we arrived, only to be told they were all booked up.  Frustratingly, we sat outside freezing while and noted that the whole time were were dining, there were three seats for two inside that never had diners.  What's up with that?

There was a pretty decent vibe at the Mighty Mighty, which was detracted slightly for us because of our seat in the wind tunnel.  I think that the restaurant will need to look at that, particularly in winter, it won't be a great experience.  We found the service on the night to be a little mixed, it was really friendly but went missing at times and often we had to very actively try to get attention on the few occasions we needed help. It's not a large restaurant and we felt that outside was not attended to as well as the inside, something to keep in mind.

What we found a little bizarre was the the close proximity of two southern style American restaurants, with Papa Jacks and the Mighty Mighty located within seconds of each other.  I'm not sure what this means in the long run, will the M&A lane be big enough for two restaurants that are so similar?  I'm not so sure.  What I do know is that both restaurants will have to stay sharp to keep their customers from defecting next door.  I guess I'll have to check out Papa Jacks soon so I can do a comparison, I wonder which southern cuisine will reign supreme (any Iron Chef fans out there?)


We had mixed views about the starters.  Luckily SC loved hers and I loved mine, we just didn't like each others!
SC was letting the manager know that she didn't really like the beef ribs but I did.  They took it well
Yep, that looks like a Lionel Ritchie cowboy painted on the wall.  A little strange?
The M&A Lane has heaps of potential once everything opens.  It is a bit of a wind tunnel though and may get pretty cold in winter
The outdoor dining area was very cold, the windows were all shut up on the night we visited but it looks like it will be a great spot when the night time heat finally comes

Mighty Mighty on UrbanspoonMighty Mighty Cue & Brew

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