Sunday, December 15, 2013
Smoke (Dallas, TX)
I've been aching for an opportunity to try out Smoke, especially given their recent #23 ranking as part of D Magazine's list of the 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas. This weekend was full of festivities for my 30th birthday, and Smoke was my top pick. They didn't have any reservation times left for a Saturday night dinner, so I had to settle for Sunday brunch.
Smoke is located right next to The Belmont hotel, so it's fairly easy to find. I wasn't sure where to find the self-parking lot, and rather than driving around in circles I simply opted for the $5.00 valet. They don't take reservations for brunch, and we were slated for a 60-80 minute wait. Most of the other customers in line passed the time with mimosas and bellinis. We only ended up waiting about 50 minutes for a six-person table, which wasn't that terrible under the circumstances.
The atmosphere at Smoke is much more upscale than the vast majority of barbecue joints. Younger Dallasites gravitate toward the posh and the hip, so this probably adds to the busy brunch scene here. The tables are still lined with butcher paper, so there was at least some sticking to tradition, or so I thought until our waitress's blue and purple hair blew that notion out of the water. She and the rest of the waitstaff could have easily passed as coffeehouse baristas, or possibly roadies for Phish.
I love trying out unique barbecue offerings, so I eagerly ordered the Pulled Whole Hog BBQ Eggs Benedict, which comes with goat cheese potato cakes. Yum! Even though it was brunch, I couldn't resist adding on a half-pound of their Coffee Cured Beef Brisket for good measure.
The potato cakes ended up being much denser than I envisioned. Maybe adding some risotto or possibly hash-browning the potatoes would do the trick. They were mostly potatoes, with only a hint of goat cheese in the mix. I wish there had been more creamy cheese to lighten things up. The flavors were ok, but the texture wasn't quite right.
My eggs benny, on the other hand, were delicious. The runny eggs worked beautifully with the spicy pulled pork, and the creamy hollandaise helped things too. I found a slight sweetness from the barbecue sauce. There were too many powerful flavors to catch any smoke in the pulled pork, and I really couldn't find a smokey hue either. Regardless, it was all really tasty and very tender. I've been vigorously searching for a breakfasty take on barbecue, and these eggs benedict fit the bill quite nicely.
The brisket had a gorgeous black crust and a nice smoke ring. Some of the leaner cuts were a little too dry, but the fatty slices were perfectly tender. I found a pretty hefty amount of smoke in each bite. The seasoning was very nice, with a hint of sweetness from the coffee grounds sprinkled on top. I'm sure it was there, but I didn't notice too much coffee flavor in the crust. It wasn't quite what I was expecting as far as the coffee aspects go, but I liked the inventive flavor combination nonetheless.
Even though I'd definitely had my fill of barbecue, I'm certainly not going to pass up the opportunity for more. My mom ordered up a half-rack of Smoke's dry-rubbed Pork Spare Ribs, which I coaxed her into letting me sample.
My initial reaction was disappointment at the lack of bark on these ribs. I bit in, and was surprised to find a good sweetness to the crust from some caramelized honey (and possibly an extra pinch of sugar). There was also a good punch of smoke, even more than in the brisket. The meat itself was very tender and had been cooked just long enough. These certainly weren't Central Texas ribs, but they were still pretty tasty.
I later found out that Conan O'Brien was eating dinner at Smoke on Friday night. Too bad we missed him, because I would have loved an autograph or at least a picture of his giant red hair. I was really happy with my meat-tastic smorgasbord. Smoke has some really creative twists on traditional barbecue, and I'm anxious to see what the future holds for them.
901 Fort Worth Ave
Dallas, TX 75208