To make the new Smokehouse Brisket sandwich, Arby's starts with quality beef brisket, smoked for at least 13 hours for that falling-apart-in-your-mouth texture. Then it covers it in unnecessary junk, because that's what Arby's does.
Note that in the video I say 24 hours several times. This is because 24 is a better number than 13.
My wife pointed this out to me after she finished her sandwich earlier this afternoon. I had been complaining about the Smokehouse Brisket as she ate, ranting about the inclusion of mayonnaise, the generically sweet barbecue sauce, and crispy onions becoming the hallmark of the over-$5 premium sandwich.
"It's Arby's" she said with a shrug, as if that explained everything. It did not, and I said so. "I've been eating there for years, and it's always been the same: bland meat, bland bread, and sauces and toppings to add actual flavor."
She's onto something. A plain roast beef sandwich from Arby's is about as boring as fast food gets. Add a little Horsey and Arby's sauce, and it's a party. The Beef and Cheddar is all about the cheese and sauce. The more recent mini sandwiches the chain has released? Cripy onions and sauce.
The Smokehouse Brisket could have been different.
The meat in this sandwich, eaten on its own, is actually rather lovely. A little dry, which often happens during the extended smoking process required to make the network of connective tissue running through the beef cut edible, but definitely flavorful. If you handed it to me on a plate by itself, I'd guess it came from one of the several hundred barbecue joints within a ten-mile radius of my home.
If Arby's had stopped there, maybe left the sauce on the side, this would be a triumph of fast food animal flesh. But they couldn't leave it alone. It's not Arby's style.
Smoked gouda? Okay, I can handle some smoked gouda, even if the slice here seemed a bit old around the edges. The crispy onions might have been nice, but they're placed underneath Arby's patented phoning-it-in barbecue sauce, becoming mush onions, which isn't quite the same.
And then there's the mayonnaise, the ultimate condiment cop-out. The Arby's food scientist who tasted this sandwich and said, "You know what this really needs? Mayonnaise," should have his taste buds sanded off. Seriously, what the hell?
Buried deep within this gooey morass of overwhelming flavors and ruined textures there is a delicious pile of smoked brisket. It sits there, sullen, wondering why its makers didn't have enough faith in it to let it stand on its own. I may have just described the setup for the next Pixar feature.
Snacktaku is Kotaku's take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands. Past critiques can be found at the Snacktaku review archive.