What would you call a 20-hour brined Duroc pork loin rubbed with Kona coffee grounds, seared, then finished in an oven and served over a potato-leek puree and drizzled with Patron XO Cafe sauce?
Wayne Halleran, 38, and Joon Yang, 41, call it epic. Maybe not that dish specifically, but it’s what they call their restaurant: Epic Smokehouse opened last night in Arlington.
Granted, there is no actual smoke in that dish — unusual for, you know, a smokehouse. But that is part of the point. Epic is out to reinterpret barbecue in a setting that the owners call “masculine rustic.” But don’t be too alarmed; there is actual smoking of meats (and other foods) going on.
The restaurant introduces Washington to the upscale barbecue experimentation occurring nationwide, at places such as Chicago q in the Windy City, Fatty ’Cue in New York and Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth. Rather than serve versions of regional barbecue (Memphis ribs, Texas brisket, North Carolina pulled pork, etc.), the new approach reimagines smoked meats.
“It’s a smokehouse, but what Joon and I really wanted to do was bring the whole barbecue thing to the next level,” says Halleran, a backyard barbecuer. “Our concept is to cross a fine-dining steakhouse with a barbecue joint.”
Their high-end concept will play with the very notion of barbecue. Exhibit A: a 60-bottle wine list.
“[Barbecue] doesn’t have to be pig and beer,” Halleran says. “Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with pig and beer. But you can enjoy it with a nice wine.”
For the record, Epic will serve beer.
Halleran and Yang met some 20 years ago at Winston’s, now the Rhino Bar and Pumphouse in Georgetown. Yang was a bartender, Halleran a bouncer. The two ended up working at The Palm in Tysons Corner, Halleran as a waiter and bartender and Yang, a level 1 sommelier, as assistant general manager.
“We’ve been talking about doing our own thing for about five years,” says Halleran, who attended culinary school in Virginia and catered private events at Chateau O’Brien, a friend’s vineyard in Markham, Va.
In spring 2011, they landed a place on the ground floor of The Millennium at Metropolitan Park, a three-year-old apartment complex near Pentagon City. The ventilation system is highly specialized to make sure that, as Halleran puts it, “residents don’t get smoked out.” The filtration system is so large it has a catwalk to easily change out filters.
What comes out of that kitchen is an essay on new barbecue interpretations. There is, for example, horseradish-crusted smoked prime rib. The beef is brined for 22 hours, rubbed with a horseradish-and-spice mixture and smoked over hickory wood for about four hours.
Baby back ribs will be spice-rubbed, then mopped with an apple-wine reduction sauce while smoking. The beef brisket, smoked at 215 degrees for around 16 hours, receives a complex rub that includes dried ancho, dried chipotle, jalapeno seasoning, Old Bay, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, kosher salt, thyme and black pepper. Certified black Angus steaks and chops will be broiled at around 700 degrees.
Halleran maintains the restaurant’s name says it all. “We want to go above and beyond anything anyone’s seen for a smokehouse.”
Epic Smokehouse, 1330 S. Fern St., Arlington, 571-319-4001.
Into the Fire: To commemorate 9/11, Mission BBQ, which last month won the best barbecue award from Baltimore magazine, will offer a free sandwich to police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency responders from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today. Mission BBQ is at 7748 Governor Ritchie Highway in Harundale Plaza, Glen Burnie.