Billy’s Smokehouse – Playing with fire
Wood, Fire, and Smoke
Barbecue is the ubiquitous, well-loved cooking method enjoyed all around the globe and much adored in the USA. Barbecue can mean many different things to many different people, whether it’s the whole hog barbecue of South Carolina or the slow smoked beef briskets of Texas to the strongly spiced barbecue style of Memphis. At Billy’s Smokehouse it’s not about American Barbecue heritage, it’s about having the best barbecue ever, this is amazing slow and low American Barbecue with a flamboyant Latin flair!
As we arrive at Billy’s Smokehouse, we are greeted by the man himself Billy Bautista of El Osito and La Monita fame. We’re welcomed with a morning shot of mellow, sweet and spicy tamarind chili vodka, that’s when I know we’re in for something rather special.
Hailing from San Francisco California, Billy grew up in a multicultural household, with a Spanish father and an Italian mother he grew up surrounded by Spanish-Mexican food, language and culture especially influenced by his local ‘taquerias’ serving Mission style Mexican food commonly referred to as Cali-Mex.
Billy explains that he was not actually part of the culinary arts while living in the States but was a network engineer by trade, this was where he met and married his wife (owner of the fantastic Thai Niyom Cuisine) before moving to Thailand 16 years ago. This is where he began his new life in the world of hospitality with his first restaurant La Monita which he started with just 5 tables, 2 partners and 1 serving staff.
Still in the same part of town, in fact the very same building as El Osito is Billy’s Smokehouse. The philosophy here is that great barbecue starts with great wood, and for Billy this means Mesquite, Hickory, Cherry, and Apple which has been dried for up to six years to give the perfect amount of flavour, heat, and smoke whilst cooking.
At Billy’s they boast not one, not two but four exceptional head chefs in the kitchen. Chef Beto from Mexico City who’s a jack of all trades but puts out the most incredible Mexican fare. Also from originally from Mexico City is chef Mauricio who is a baker trained in Leon, France and just happens to be the king of salsas. Then we have two home grown chefs, Chef Leh, from southern Thailand and Chef Kai from Bangkok. Chef Leh is a master behind the grill and the Billy proclaimed “Beef Genius”. While chef Kai is also a trained baker working with the big hotels, who makes outstanding baguettes and pizzas.
Chicharrón De Ribeye
This off-menu delight is cooked up by chef Beto, cubes of Australian wagyu ribeye with is fantastic marbling are deep fried in pork lard which is rendered in house until a deep golden. Simultaneously tender and crispy, these sumptuous chunks of ribeye steak are lovingly placed atop a mound creamy guacamole. This dish is served in a molcajete, a traditional Mexican version of a mortar which made from volcanic rock and accompanied with both soft corn tortillas and tostadas both of which are made fresh in house.
Taking a generous spoonful of guacamole and some of these beautiful crispy, tender cubes of wagyu, I make myself a taco with the corn maize tortilla (hand ground and pressed). To this I added a healthy amount of salsa both green and red salsa (remember green is always hotter) as well as a smoked jalapeño salsa which adds a lovely smokey depth to the salsa. This is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth, a complex amalgamation of flavours, from the creamy guacamole, with its lime, garlic, tomato and coriander to the perfectly fried chicharrón.
Being fried in pork lard adds another layer of flavour, at the same time giving the cubes of ribeye a crispy slightly chewy exterior whilst that beautiful marbling of the wagyu has rendered nicely leaving the meat extremely moist and giving a luxurious unctuousness that melts in the mouth. Taking a tostada are repeating the process of loading it up, the crunchy tostada adds just another element of texture to the dish. Simply divine!
The Pulled pork at Billy’s Smokehouse is in the Kansas City style it’s smokey, succulent and incredibly juicy. All parts of the pig are used which incorporates many flavours from the hams, shoulders as well as the crispy crackling. This gives the pulled pork a lot of different textures from the crispy, sticky chewiness of the crackling to the saucy succulent meat, it puts me in mid of carnitas where in each morsel you get a little bit of everything. Then a touch of BBQ sauces is added to give the pork its tangy, richness that just works so well.
This was greatly complimented by the sides, especially the American style biscuits which are layered a bit like a croissant, making them unbelievably crumbly and buttery. Is this the best pulled pork in Bangkok? It’s a bold statement to make, but I for one believe it is.
These sausages are made by ‘Sloane’s Artisan butchery’ and are one of only two products the other being the beef hotlinks that are not made in house at Billy’s Smokehouse. The Butifarra are a type meaty, semi-cured Spanish pork sausage made with lots of garlic. The sausages have been smoked, then finished over the grill giving them a beautiful colour and caramelising the skin.
They have a slight smokiness but the savoury pork and garlic flavours really shine through, the fat has rendered nicely throughout the sausages making juicy and flavourful. Try smearing some of the roasted garlic on a slice of sausage, it will change your world! Smokey, meaty savoury pork sausage, with that caramelised roast garlic paste straight from the bulb, heaven!
BBQ Pork Spare-Ribs
Taking the whole rack of pork spare ribs from top to bottom this is done in the California BBQ style which is a little more chewy and meatier than in Kansas City style of ribs. The ribs are smoked for six hours in the 3,2,1 method meaning that the ribs are smoked for 3 hours open (so all the surface area is exposed to the smoke), 2 hours wrapped and then a further 1 hour open. This means that they get plenty of that smokey flavour from the wood but also that the bark on the ribs gives a little bit of that delicious chewiness.
The ribs are then covered with an in-house made BBQ sauce. At Billy’s Smokehouse they roast peppers and aromatic vegetables to which they add a cup or two of coffee, which adds a great depth of flavour to this smokey, spicy, tangy sauce.
The meat is so tender that just falls right off the bones, this paired particularly well with the sides of creamy, chunky potato salad as well as the white coleslaw with its finely shredded raw cabbage with its creamy, vinaigrette dressing.
The beef brisket is one of the nine beef primal cuts, these muscles support more than half of the animal’s body weight, which means the meat is a lot tougher than many other cuts of meat. This is why the brisket at Billy’s is smoked for around 18 to 22 hours. Billy’s choice of wood is hickory giving the beef a unique savory, hearty, almost bacon-like smokiness.
The outside edge of the brisket develops a robust, scrumptious bark which is almost charcoal black this having been heavily seasoned with salt and pepper prior to being smoked. Just beneath the blackened surface of the bark of the brisket is what all those hours in the smoker have been for, a tantalising smoke-ring, a deep red fading to pink, this is a serious sign of time, skill and most importantly, flavour!
During all those hours the, fats, connective tissue have broken down and dissolve to become a delicious, unctuous gelatin which coats the mouth and beef that’s just so tender it melts on the tongue. This worked very well with the house-made sauce, I especially like the Carolina gold sauce, with it’s tangy, vinegary-mustard zing that really helps cut through the unctuousness of the brisket. Don’t forget to add some of those gorgeous deep-fried onions on top of the brisket, the crispy, sweet fried onions works so well with the smokey beef
Billy’s Smokehouse Beef Short Ribs
When it comes to the ultimate barbecue show stopper, it’s hard to beat the decadent, the beautiful beef short rib. Served on the bone, protruding from the big hunk of beef with its intense marbling and deep dark bark incrusted with salt and black pepper. In short, short ribs are just bursting with flavour.
At Billy’s Smokehouse the beef short ribs are smoke for an incredible 26 hours! That’s 26 hours of fat rendering, low heat, smokey deliciousness. The bone slides out effortlessly and as soon as you lightly touch your fork to the glistening meat and it just falls apart. This is the most intense beef flavour I’ve experience outside of a dry-aged steak. At first you get a deep, rich savoury beef flavour as you chew you get the punch the spicy black pepper together with the robust smokiness all amalgamate so well together.
Billy’s Smokehouse Smoked Chicken
Before I ever set foot in the restaurant, I was told to get either the chicken or the fish we opted for the chicken and in one word, WOW! At Billy’s Smokehouse, they smoke the bird for 2 hours using Hickory wood before finishing it off in the oven for another hour whilst in the oven it’s basted with French butter, salt and lemon juice. This results in giving the chicken a beautiful deep golden, crispy skin. Again, imparting that hearty, woody, bacon-like flavour from the smoke. The chicken meat was so moist and juicy it could make you weep with pleasure.
All the barbecued meats pair so well with sides with the chicken I’d recommend the grilled corn salsa with the crumbly and creamy queso blanco or the frijoles charros pinto beans stewed with onion, garlic, and chorizo or my particular favourite the Oxtail Chili, a mild, slow-cooked chili with chunks of oxtail in a richly spiced tomato sauce (great with the cornbread) if you like it a little hotter you can always add some hot sauce for a bit of a kick.
Now, I am all for simplicity in cooking and it doesn’t get much simpler than clams in butter and parsley. However, getting them perfect is no mean feat but that’s just what Billy has done. He takes fresh Hokkaido clams smoking and cooks them in their shells in the firebox over the smoker’s embers. Sautéing the clams in a copious amount of French butter and finished which a liberal sprinkling of fresh parsley.
At Billy’s Smokehouse they take extra care to ensure there is a clam in each of the shells and none are left empty. The freshness of the clams is evident as they have nice meaty texture and natural briny sweetness, they’ve also taken on a lovely subtle smokiness. This works wonderfully with the creamy richness of the French butter and the herbal freshness of the parsley that cuts through some of the richness of the dish. Make sure you pile a slice of toasted baguette with clams and lashings of that delicious buttery sauce for a lovely bite of food.
The Sandwiches: Corned Beef Vs Pastrami
When it comes to the American Deli-Style sandwich there are really only two heavy weight contenders.
In the red corner we’ve got the mighty ‘Reuben’ succulent slices of corned beef, tangy pickled sauerkraut, gooey melted gruyère cheese and creamy Russian dressing.
And in the blue corner we’ve got the ‘NY Pastrami’ smokey, spicy, and savoury slices of beef pastrami, tangy pickled sauerkraut, and a tangy brown mustard.
Both sandwiches are on a light rye and coated with butter, then pressed in a panini to a golden toasted perfection. it’s almost impossible to make a choice of which is the better sandwich. The Rueben with its tender, slightly briny and flavoursome corned beef, combined with the creamy, nutty melted gruyère cheese and the sharpness of the sauerkraut. While the pastrami is having a little more complexity with the spices and smokiness, again the picked sauerkraut works alongside the tangy mustard. For me this battle royal finished as a double K.O.
Drinks & More
When it comes to barbecue for me there is really only one drink of choice and that’s a good cold beer and my word does Billy have you covered. Tucked away nicely in one corner of the restaurant is the ‘Rogue Corner’ specialising in American craft beers from Beervana. Billy is also known for his love and collection of high-end quality tequila and mescals whilst there are also amazing wines available.
If you are enjoying a cold beer or glass of chilled wine while waiting on friends, I whole-heartedly recommend the edamame, at Billy’s Smokehouse as always fire is involved. The beans are grilled over flames, giving them a wonderful charred, smokey taste. Fresh, salty and smokey, hit them up with some of the roasted lemons for an amazing bar snack.
Billy is such a wonderfully, warm and convivial host. His passion for his food is abundantly clear and shows in every aspect of the restaurant, from the sourcing of quality local ingredients, to the effort, time and care that he puts in to the process of producing some of the finest barbecue you’re ever likely going to eat anywhere, let alone Bangkok. So, if you looking for great barbecue look no further than Billy’s Smokehouse. I know I’ll definitely be back.