Perched on the second floor of the notoriously labyrinthine Publika mall in Kuala Lumpur is Texas BBQ. The restaurant is a study in Texan charm – from the wooden floors to the logs piled everywhere, all alluding to the rustic nature of this legendary cowboy town.
The outdoor eating area meanwhile faces a swathe of foliage and offers a bird’s eye view of the cityscape beyond, a particularly beguiling option at dusk when you can watch the sun melt into the horizon.
The restaurant is the passion project of Frenchman Jean Louis Dieuleveut, who spent a career overseeing the opening of retail supermarkets like Carrefour all over the world, before deciding to spend his retirement years in Malaysia, a country he confesses to falling in love with.
“I bought a house here and I came back for my retirement. I enjoyed my first six months of rest but after that, I thought ‘I need to do something to make myself busy’, ” he says, a wide, gentle smile adorning his face.
A passionate home cook, Dieuleveut decided to open a Texas barbecue restaurant, deriving inspiration from a similar eatery that he stumbled on in – of all places – Paris.
“I tried this food in a restaurant in Paris and thought it was very good. And after I studied the market in Malaysia, I discovered there are very few smokehouses here, ” he says.
Having decided what he wanted to do, Dieuleveut set out to do it. First, he taught himself how to smoke meat, by watching online tutorials conducted by James Beard award-winning Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin, the founder of the famed Franklin Barbecue in Texas, the United States – touted to have the best brisket in the world.
Using a small smoker he purchased, Dieuleveut spent six months smoking meat in his back garden, a trial-and-error process that enabled him to identify the best local wood to use as well as hone his recipes.
“Two ingredients make the difference at a Texas barbecue restaurant – the first is the wood and the second is the dry rub. In the US or Europe, they smoke meat with fruit wood like apple or cherry to give it a sweet flavour.
In Malaysia, we don’t have those kinds of wood, so I tried a others and the one that I feel fits perfectly is rambutan wood.
“And for my dry rub, I did a lot of experimentation until I came up with my final recipes – people seem to really like it, ” he says happily.
Dieuleveut also commissioned a humongous, locally-made smoker (it can easily smoke 300kg of meat at a go), reputedly the largest of its kind in the Klang Valley.
At Texas BBQ, all the meats are cooked for hours in the smoker – the brisket for 16 hours, beef ribs and lamb shoulder for 10 hours and chicken and turkey for five hours. After that long smoke, the meat is allowed to rest for two hours to seal the juices before it is placed in a warmer to give it that fresh-out-of-the smoker feel without actually cooking it further.
Dieuleveut is also a hardcore fan of Gordon Ramsay and has watched hours of the celebrity chef’s shows in an effort emulate his core philosophies.
As a result, he is uncompromising about using only the freshest ingredients and making everything – from the mashed potatoes to the baked beans – from scratch.
Start your smoked meat journey here with the ultimate carnivorous platter – the Mixed Smoked Combo (RM99 for 2 to 3 pax).
The meal is loaded with 200g brisket, 200g pulled lamb, a quarter portion of chicken, mashed potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw and bread.
The goodness of the brisket is so potent it overcomes all else. You’ll sense it from the first mouthful of tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat, taste its surging power in the lurking smokiness that seems to be embedded into every fibre and molecule of the meat. Trust me, oohs and aahs of pleasure are virtually guaranteed.
The pulled lamb is equally good – the meat here has that same smoky quality and a gently silken mouthfeel.
So often, the supporting cast gets barely a mention – their presence almost seeming to intrude on the star’s personal space. But here, the sideshow attractions are scene-stealers in their own right – the mashed potatoes soft and buttery, the baked beans flavourful and eagerly yielding with a sweet underbelly.
The traditional roast chicken (RM49) is another sure-fire winner. Based on Dieuleveut’s mother’s recipe, this French inspired bird has a herbaceous outer skin (the result of a rub that includes herbs like thyme and rosemary) that yields to an inner core that is succulent and oh-so juicy.
If you prefer your meat sandwiched between buns (ahem), you’ll love the Smoked Beef Burger (RM24.90), which features slices of brisket in the middle of two hunks of bread.
The brisket is incredibly juicy and this liquid seeps into the bread, lending it added flavour. The French fries served on the side are made in-house and very good – each long cylinder is perfectly crisp and seasoned well.
Texas BBQ also makes two kinds of barbecue sauces – one that has peppery nuances to tickle the palate and another spicier version well-suited to South-East Asian tastebuds. Both are very good and promise to enhance your meal here.
Dieuleveut says although the restaurant is still new, he has been inundated with requests to franchise, something he hopes to do in the future.
“First I would like to make sure this restaurant is running well and then as soon as we are well known, I would like to franchise. Already many people are asking me, ‘Are you franchising?’, ” he says, flashing that signature smile.
D5-G4-6, Publika Shopping Gallery
No, 1, Jalan Dutamas 1,
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-6419 2414
Open Sunday to Thursday: 11.30am to 12am; Friday to Saturday: 11.30am to 2am
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