Stepping into The Big Smoke
Let me begin by managing your expectations.
The Big Smoke is not Home Plate Bar-B-Que. From tasting my way through their menu, the interior design and vibes, this is something very different even if both restaurants specialize in *BBQ.
*I have just been corrected – The Big Smoke is not an American BBQ restaurant, but “a menu drawing on Latin influence and featuring a wood-fired barbeque, known as an Asado (the traditional Argentinean pit of fire).”
That being said, I came to dinner at The Big Smoke not knowing what to expect. I hadn’t done any prior research and I hadn’t even planned on coming here for dinner. I happened to be in the area and our dining choices boiled down to three: Frost nails (I hear they serve some killer burgers), Uncle Otis or The Big Smoke. I haven’t been to any of these three and I’ve been meaning to check all three off my restaurant hit list since I’ve heard good things about all. I knew Big Smoke was the newest of the three and since we heard it’s the “sit-down” brother of the “take-away” Uncle Otis with a larger menu selection, we went with it.
At 7:30PM, we were the only people in the restaurant, but it was a treat to walk in and out of all the empty, perfectly set-up and prepared dining rooms and explore how far the space stretches. The space is massive. With a big welcoming “cafe” space at the entrance and plenty of outdoor dining space right outside, this is plenty for quick lunch turn-around seating. But for dinner guests, you are easily lured into their long hall way that leads into bigger dining rooms, private dining rooms and a long bar at the end of the hallway, which looked seriously legit.
While it’s captured my curiosity, I’m really not sure why a BBQ restaurant would need private dining spaces and so much seating room (apparently it can seat up to 200 pax). Even after we left at the end of the night, the entrance cafe space had hardly filled up with the 3 tables of guests, leaving still more seats to spare.
It’s definitely a cool space and I am a big fan of the lighting with nouveau gothic chandeliers hanging throughout the various rooms, but I can’t imagine it ever utilizing all its various dining room spaces and even the bar is quite oddly placed. I can give them credit for making the most of the space they were given, but the bar is super narrow and uncomfortably cramped at the very back end of the hallway.
As the restaurant is still in soft opening, it’s still got time to develop and I’d very much like to come back and see that all its cool rooms will be put to good use.
LumDimSum Snapshots of The Big Smoke:
Stepping inside the main entrance of The Big Smoke
Comfy, Cozy Seating at The Big Smoke
Bigger Dining Spaces Tucked Inside
Nooks and Crannies in The Big Smoke
Perfect for a Party of Foodies
Private Dining Spaces in The Big Smoke
Glowing “Bar” at the end of the Hallway of The Big Smoke
Legit Long Bar Set-Up
The menu outside caught our eye and anything that’s been roasted or braised for 8-9 hours is generally bound to be delicious.
The Big Smoke’s Menu Intro
Big Smoke Menu: Starters / Salads / Mains / Sweets
We were only two, but we wanted to sample our way through the menu so we shared a couple starters, a salad, and a main.
Considering we were dining at a BBQ restaurant, we expected a more interesting selection of beers. We weren’t in the mood for cocktails or wine, we wanted pale ales, perhaps a choice between a range of craft beers or maybe even a couple of ciders. Instead, their beer menu consisted of three Australian lagers. There is no mix of nationality, nor are there other types of Aussie beers other than lagers. It’s clear they are trying to be more “cocktail-y” which is odd considering their kitchen specializes in smoked BBQ meats that should pair perfectly with beers over any other beverage choice.
LumDimSum Snapshots of The Big Smoke’s Dishes:
Truffled Oiled French Fries (RMB 32)
We ordered all the things that sounded best, but were really only sold on the Truffle Oil French Fries (RMB 32). Anything with truffle oil is a hundred times better off, but the added dipping sauces (gravy and a tangy sauce that the servers couldn’t name or explain to us) were a big bonus as well. The fries were thick with a perfectly crispy exterior crunch.
Charred Fennel & Grilled Zucchini Salad (RMB 37)
The Charred Fennel and Zucchini Salad (RMB 37) was completely bland and neither the presentation or taste appealed to our senses.
House Flat Bread with Prosciutto, Caramelized Onions, Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Fresh Herbs (RMB 40)
The House Flatbread (RMB 40) was dry and served cold (was it meant to be cold?) and the toppings of caramelized onions, goat cheese and Prosciutto just didn’t fuse together in harmony. The sweetness of the caramelized onions overwhelmed all other flavors and the toppings also weren’t easy to bite through which made it difficult to eat.
8 Hour Apple Wood Fired Pork (RMB 68)
The 8-hour Apple Wood Fired Pork (RMB 68) had a great smoky flavor, but I can’t believe it was cooked 8 hours because if it was, it should have been so tender that the meat ought to fall apart at the slightest touch of a utensil. But instead, it was quite chewy with a crispy outer layer. Instead of a slow 8-hour roast, it’s more like a crispy 1-hour roast.
That being said, half way through our meal, we saw a group of four diners come in that we knew and they ordered almost everything we didn’t order and their dishes all looked (and probably tasted) much better than ours did.
Overall, we found everything other than the Truffle Oil French Fries to be quite mediocre.
I’ll say up front that I wasn’t a very satisfied customer, but I see potential and the next time I return, I’ll be prepared to order other dishes to try like their 9 hour braised lamb shank (RMB 68), grilled scallop starter (RMB 47), and New York Cheesecake (RMB 36).
Review of The Big Smoke: Next to Uncle Otis and across from Frost Nails, Lee World Building, 57 Xingfucun Zhonglu, 幸福村中路57号楼利世楼 Tel: 6416-5195, Open Tuesday-Sunday (not Mondays)
- Truffle Oiled French Fries were fantastic.
- I wasn’t crazy about the smoked pork, but I’m keen to try their 9 Hour Braised Lamb Shank
- The restaurant space is huge with plenty of private rooms and dining spaces for bigger parties
- I hear their bar serves up great cocktails
- Related to Uncle Otis, you can dine here and get the best of both restaurants
- Still in soft opening I believe, I’ll need to come back and try other dishes on their menu and perhaps even a cocktail or two.
- They serve plenty of cocktails and wine, but what about beers?! It’s a BBQ restaurant and their beer menu consists of three Australian lagers. Where are the American pale ales? Craft beer selection? Ciders? Mixed nationality of bottled beers at least!
- Their interior decor is snazzy and I dig the wide selection of dining room spaces, but I just can’t see all the rooms filling up or seeing the restaurant reach max seating capacity. The private dining rooms with long tables and a chandelier on top just seems out of place in a BBQ smoke house.
- The restaurant was very empty on the Thursday night we dined here, but I’m hoping one business picks up, more of the restaurant’s odd spaces will become occupied.
- Service was mediocre, the waitstaff were unable to answer questions about the menu or the dishes that were served. When asked what the sauces were that came with the Truffle Oil French Fries, they replied by saying “home made sauce” and admitted they didn’t know what the sauce was.
- They claim their dishes are slow cooked 8 hours here, 9 hours there, but I really couldn’t taste it in the 8 hour Apple Wood Fired Pork we ordered. It was far too chewy and crispy to have been cooked through so long. I wonder if it was a one-off kitchen mistake or if it’s this chewy and crispy every time? I’ll have to come back to confirm this.
- As with all restaurants in soft opening, I’ll have to return after a few weeks or a couple months to see how it’s coming along.
Rating: (On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being best)
- Food: 6
- Atmosphere: 7
- Service: 6
- Overall Experience: 6
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