Smoque (Southern American BBQ) - Civic

Smoque has only just recently opened in Canberra and is pulling the crowds that its predecessors (Antigo’s and Pelagic) never did. Loyal repeat customers have been raving about the food like it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

When someone mentions Southern American cuisine, I immediately conjure up visions of biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak and hearty servings of peach cobbler. Alas, none of those dishes were to be found on the menu.

According to the menu, “Our meats are rubbed in our signature (and secret) spice mix and smoked over hickory chips at 85 degrees for up to 16 hours. This is what makes our style of barbeque different from grilling. The smoke from the hardwood brings out the clean flavors of the meat, and gives it that signature pink color. After hours of careful attention from our chefs, the meat is served quick with our homemade sauce.”

They promised slow food served fast, but on my very first visit to Smoque (within days of the official opening), it took over 45 minutes to receive my order. However, the service was much more prompt on subsequent visits.

Carolina Pulled Pork $14.90 The pulled pork was much too sweet, even for me. If Willy Wonka had had a river of sugar water instead of chocolate, and a pig had fallen into the river instead of Augustus Gloop, I wonder if this dish is what the meat from that pig would taste like?

The pickle was disappointingly boring. I was hoping there would be a sharp sourness in the pickle to cut through the sweetness of the pork. And I wasn’t a fan of the very dry and crumbly corn bread.

Texas Brisket $14.90 I liked this dish better than the pulled pork. The brisket was tender and was packed with flavour.

However, the homemade bbq sauce was very watery and thin, and tasted mostly like vinegar. I personally tend to prefer my bbq sauces thick and sweet (like tonkatsu sauce or hoisin sauce).

BBQ Trifecta $39
Pulled Pork, Pork Ribs, Brisket & 1 side (serves 1-2)

When this “platter” came out, I felt incredibly underwhelmed by the amount of food that I had just paid for. As we had shared the cost between two, for $20, I was getting:

  • a quarter of a pickle,
  • a bite of the corn bread,
  • half a serving of pulled pork,
  • one slice of brisket, and
  • one rib.

Yes, one rib. There were three rib bones on that “rack” of ribs. So I generously let my male companion have the (very slightly) larger portion of ribs. Even if I had ordered this platter for myself, I can immediately come up with numerous ways $40 could be better spent.

Portion whinging aside, I was also disappointed with the taste of the food. First of all, the brisket was tender but not very flavourful. I've had more flavourful brisket in a beef noodle soup. The meat on the ribs was cooked well, but I like my ribs to be well marinated and covered in thick, rick, BBQ sauce. And the pulled pork I have already discussed above, however, the serving size here was considerably less than as an individual meal. Overall, this was not the hearty, mighty, rich, southern American experience I had envisaged.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the side that came with this platter - Mexican Street Corn

Using the slice of lemon and the fork for comparison, I wondered if this was what baby corn looked like if it had been left to grow a while longer – is there such thing as toddler corn? It was hardly enough to share between two people. Having said that, the ranch dressing on top was genius. In fact, if they had smothered ranch dressing on all their dishes, this review would probably have been very different!

Hand Cut Fries with House Seasoning $3.90/$5.90 The chips were soft and not very crispy – as if they had been oven baked or microwaved, rather than deep fried.

Daily pie $6.90 Thank goodness for the pumpkin paaah. The pie filling was smooth, creamy and had delicious spices, which complemented extremely well with the pumpkin.

Buffalo Hot-Wings (regular/hot/suicidal) with Blue Cheese Aioli, Carrot & Celery Sticks 6 $8.90   12 $16.90   24 $32.90   48 $59.90 Much better value for money than the other dishes, in my opinion. But again, the big, bold flavours were lacking in the marinade and the sauce as well. I think ranch dressing would have worked better.

Based on the hype surrounding this place, Canberra has been crying out for the Southern American Barbeque experience. Smoque has developed a niche concept that is satisfying a huge demand and is executing it in a way that appeals to the hipster crowd.

Food Avenue rating: 4.5/10

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