For the second time in as many years, Mr. S-P and I went to Smoque in the Bailey’s Corner arcade for Thanksgiving dinner.
When this American-style BBQ restaurant opened in 2011, I was crazy excited. Finally, no more waiting for my annual trip to my homeland to load up on regional foods! There were growing pains, to be sure. On that first visit, the cornbread was too salty and the macaroni and cheese was not salty enough. But I had absolutely no quibbles about the quality of the meat: the ribs, brisket and pulled pork were stellar, smokey and richly flavored, without the overly-soft texture that comes from meat improperly cooked (not authentic Southern bbq, in other words).
On this trip, we decided to up the ante, and instead of the smallest combination platter, we got the medium: beef ribs, pork ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket and sides. I ordered an extra portion of stuffing because it was Thanksgiving after all. I needn’t have bothered: it was revolting, tasting more like cat food than any traditional accompaniment (and no, you shouldn’t ask me how I know that.)
The ribs are still sensational, but in the Canberra restaurant scene they now rank a notch below Soulfood Kitchen‘s. I have no qualms about wholeheartedly recommending the pulled pork–juicy and chewy even without generous shakes of the house-made BBQ sauce, but dreamlike with it. The brisket was a little fatty but extremely tasty. The chicken was…not exactly disappointing, but nothing extraordinary to speak of. It was a decent roasted chicken without much smoke or BBQ flavor. The beef ribs were an almost alarmingly huge hunk of meat on the bone with a superbly concentrated, almost gamy flavor. I’d return just for this.
The cornbread, although extremely dry, at least no longer tasted like a salt lick. For drinks, a well-priced and generous pitcher of “Floradoras” was had for $26. It’s a combination of gin, raspberry liqueur, and lime juice, and you bet I’ll be learning to make these at home.
An American food pedant would find several things to quibble with at Smoque. Newcomers and homesick expats however, find it blissfully satisfying.
New York-style soft pretzels. For when I get homesick.
Pita bread. Shockingly easy.
A chocolate thing that is not really brownies, not cheesecake either, but it’s awesome and impresses people to no end.
Bread for the time deprived.
Pasta with four cheeses. Fattening and delicious in the extreme.
Another simple-but-impressive breadstuff: Foccacia.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, one of my dad’s signature recipes.
If chicken paprikash married mole poblano and had a baby, this might result.
Latkes, also known as potato pancakes.
Meringue mushrooms. For when you want to get fancy.
As long as I’m on the topic of food, let me reveal some of my not-always-logical food preferences.
Things I like cooked but not raw: Onions, tomatoes
Things I like raw but not cooked: Capsicum (bell peppers), carrots, cabbage
Things I like pureed but not whole: Mushrooms (I like the flavor but the spongy texture bothers me)
Things I like on their own but not mixed in with other things: Sultanas (raisins), and most other dried fruit
Things I absolutely refused to eat until an epiphany a few months ago: Offal
Things I still refuse to eat and cannot forsee any circumstances that will change that: Insects
Things I will eat if the only other choice is starving or offending someone, but I won’t be happy about it: Seafood, spinach, brussels sprouts
Flavors that make me gag: Anise, caraway, marzipan