Skewers, Skewers, Skewers!
Northern BBQ House
10824 97 Street, (780) 760-1110
Just north of the main Chinatown area on 97 Street lies a small little nondescript restaurant with a blue awning named Northern BBQ House which is open only in the evenings. I went at about 8:30 p.m. and felt a bit awkward as a single patron, especially since there seemed to be a boisterous crowd standing around. But soon it dispersed, leaving me to ponder the menu.
The menu had a singular theme: skewers. Everything could be skewered! It reminded me of the small outdoor grills I had seen in Asia where a meat skewer would be fanned over some charcoal. But there was more than just chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. There was kidney, heart, gizzard, belly, and gristle. Vegetable skewers included chives, enoki mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green pepper, potato, and corn, some of which could each be paired with curd. Prawn, squid, oyster, and clam as well as sausage and luncheon meat could be skewered. Even rice cakes, hot buns, and toast were available on a skewer! Most were in the $2 to $4 range for a pair. A smattering of soups, rice, dumplings, and Asian salads completed the offerings. A few choices each of teas, juices, soft drinks, and beer were on the menu. I settled on a variety: lamb, prawn, zucchini, and bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms.
The prawn skewers arrived first (with an extra one because “they were small today”). And indeed they were. By the time the shells were removed, there was almost nothing left, but they certainly had that hot, “fan the flame” tastiness nonetheless. The metal skewers meant I had to be careful not to burn myself as I pulled the prawns off. Next, came the zucchini and bacon enoki mushroom skewers. Hot and moist, the zucchini ones were the best. The perfect size and consistency, they were seasoned with black bean sauce giving them a delicious flavour. The bacon wrapping over the mushrooms could have been crispier for my tastes, but it complemented the mushrooms wonderfully. The wooden skewers doubled as utensils. The lamb skewers were the last to arrive, hot like the rest, seasoned with what tasted like Montreal steak spice.
While the food was good, I missed a sense of hospitality or pride in the place. In fact, the staff seemed insecure and hadn’t yet developed a sense of professionalism or attention to detail. While the service wasn’t terrible, it seemed to be a distraction from the cell phones. Likewise, the place wasn’t filthy, but could have used a quick scrub. The food, the important part of course, was innovative and interesting, and deserves a good try.
Only two years old, Northern BBQ House is still in the developmental stages, but has potential to be a fun place to go with friends, order lots of different skewers, and enjoy the different tastes!
John lives in Boyle Street.