The tiny but artsy West Texas town of Marfa has a new lease on culinary life – thanks to talented chefs from far, far away. Over the past couple of years, two chefs from New York City gave Marfa its finest dining to date, in the form of Cochineal. Now two different chefs, Rocky Barnett and Uday Huja, have served up a menu featuring the former’s Deep South comfort food and the latter’s Indian heritage – such as the savory, spicy shish kebab with cooling yogurt raita pictured above.
The new restaurant called Miniature Rooster, in the space that used to be Blue Javalina (the location likes animals, apparently) is fairly evenly divided between all-American (meaning mostly all-Southern) foods and tastes from India. And it’s hard to beat what the chefs have cooked up with, well, beets. Rather than roasting or some kind of grilling Barnett and Huja offer these beets braised in balsamic vinegar, with a crisp, wonderful salad and half a hard boiled egg from a hen house down the street.
Even French fries get a fresh approach at the Rooster. In this case, they’re sliced from sweet potatoes, deep fried, dusted with coarse salt and served with spicy Indian ketchup. In the sense of, say, curry, there’s nothing powerfully Indian about this ketchup. But it is certainly tangy, different and totally delicious.
It was inevitable, I suppose. Any restaurant that cooks Southern cuisine these days would just about have to make fried chicken and waffles. Though the dish now turns up in soul food joints in Georgia and Alabama, it captured the two chefs’ taste buds in Nashville – a stop on their crosscountry tasting trip. This chicken, in the spirit of what they tasted in Nashville, is spicy, the perfect counterpart to the sweet waffles and syrup.
Arguably, the single most Southern dish on the Miniature Rooster menu is this compilation of pulled pork, black-eyed peas and greens. Chef Rocky admits the inspiration for this one involved hog jowls, but the pulled pork with pepper vinegar borrows from the Carolina barbecue tradition. And heck, any dish that shows up with a slab of cornbread is welcome at my table.
Desserts at the new restaurant are made by a Marfa baking legend, whose sweets are already famous from the Saturday farmstand market in the center of town. Several desserts have already found a fan base at Miniature Rooster, but my favorite might be the vanilla cheesecake. On this particular night, for no particular reason, the cheesecake wove in white chocolate as well. This addition drew no complaints from yours truly.