The Gem Bar and dining
I first heard of this place after an outing to Fancy Hanks one weekend; my friend said he’d wanted to try it and compare the different styles of Texan smoked meats, and I’m always up for eating copious amounts of meat. The standard menu is available week round, but they only run their Texan bbq on weekends.
A group of about 8 of us rocked up and took a corner booth on Sunday afternoon, it was still relatively early and the place was quite empty. I was last to arrive due to a miscommunication as to what time lunch would start. As usual, I’d done my research on the menu, but still needed to secure one – as well as three people willing to share it all with me
Enter my friend Andy, who is always willing to trust my judgment on food, and handed me his menu saying “Order what you will.”
I don’t know if you could really say I didn’t get carried away, but to me what I ordered was within reason of a sane man. For their BBQ menu they did a Texan plate which was two meats from a choice of 5 and two sides from a choice of 8 or 9. I ordered 2 of those, one with the pork ribs and the burnt end brisket the other with normal brisket and the pulled pork; the four sides I went for were the potato salad, the bbq beans and two mac and cheeses (one for another friend of ours who wanted a serve).
From the normal menu (the menu has slightly changed since I went) I chose the buttermilk fried chicken, a fish taco, a popcorn shrimp taco and the steak, a smoked scotch fillet done medium rare.
About 15 minutes the tacos and chicken came out; the chicken was crisp, flavourful and juicy, overall a delight to eat. One little problem was the crumb which didn’t stay with the chicken, it just fell away.
The tacos were also nice, the fish was good, not the best I’ve had but still enjoyable, and the same can be said for the popcorn shrimp taco. It however was lacking moisture, and needed some sort of chipotle mayo to tie everything together.
The BBQ plates came out next, and with so much meat to eat I didn’t know where to start, so I dove into the closest thing to me: the pulled pork. It wasn’t the greatest of starts, a bit dry and a touch flavourless, but I dove into the burnt ends next and they were fantastic; rich, well flavoured and tender.
The next things I picked up were the ribs. They looked great, and were done with a dry rub and smoked. They were a tad dry, but tender nevertheless. A little of the bbq sauce and they went down well. Like the fish tacos, not the best but still enjoyable.
The last meat was the brisket. Literally fall apart tender, it wouldn’t come out as one piece and broke off in at least 3 places. It was flakey, moist and flavoured with a nice rub.
As for the sides, the mac and cheese was terrible. I have nothing good to say about it, claggy, unflavoured and just yuck.
The potato salad was nice, creamy and slightly crunchy but still lacking seasoning; while the beans were good, baked nicely with some brisket in it and had a fiery spice to it. The only complaint I have is the liquid being too thin and runny, basically like beans in flavoured water.
Finally I got to the steak; it looked ok, charred a little, set atop a stack of roasted potatoes and onions. It smelled quite nice, being smoked and all, and cutting in it had a nice charred and smoked flavour, well-seasoned, and was tasty when eaten with the jus. Cooked well but not perfectly, it was still a little uneven; ranging from medium to medium rare and not being that tender.
I think the Gem, with a little refinement and improvement could live up to its namesake.
How well it’s cooked (ordered medium rare) – 6
Flavour (smokey and seasoned) – 7
Tenderness ( Passable) – 5