Blowout at Blue Smoke : A Restaurant Week Winner

Fancy restaurants don’t usually succeed on the restaurant week downgrade.  They grit their teeth and toss out salmon and chicken that we grit our teeth and eat.  Yes, the toilet paper and linens are the same at Jean George, the Modern and elsewhere during RW, but the food almost always looks and tastes like the catering version of the real thing.

So why ask upmarket to go down when it’s so much easier for downmarket to go up? Abundance and variety are easily added. Cheap subs for expensive ingredients, however, are hard to hide.

With that thought in mind, I headed to Blue Smoke for a delightful feast at a relatively low price point.  Barbecue is all about making the most of cheap meat, so I had no fear of rubber salmon or chicken.  My optimism was amply rewarded.

Yes, there were some duds amidst the delights, but I’ll definitely be back.  Below are five picks and pans from the meal.

1. Too tart yellow tomato gazpacho with pickled onions: Way too tart, vinegar heavy to point of pain.  Also, a bit one note in the flavor and color departments.  An herb or two on top and a slick of olive oil could have fixed the problem in an instant.   Gazpacho is a very easy dish to make look good and a pretty easy dish to make taste good.  This was neither.  Since the chef was out front interviewing prospective employees, I will have to lay the blame on the sous chef.

2. Succulent short ribs: The meat was beautifully cooked.  The ribs were tender, flavorful and kept enough textural contrast to keep each bite interesting.  It tasted like those “mountains of beef” ads make you think beef should taste, kind of like getting a cup of coffee that tastes the way it smells.  N.B.: Lose or replace the succotash type base of brown sauce, lima beans and corn.  It added little to the plate.

3. Superb shortcake with blackberry ice cream and whipped cream: The highlight of the meal.  Moist steaming center on the shortcake with snapcrackle crust.  Best I’ve had in years.  Super ripe fruit was unexpectedly intense in flavor.  A bit of lemon in the cream balanced the tastes beautifully.  I’ve been to Blue Smoke a dozen times, but this was the first visit when dessert was the best part.  Like Otto, Blue Smoke has finally added sweets worthy of its savories.

4. Delaminating lemonade: Housemade isn’t always a good thing.  As overtart as the yellow tomato gazpacho.  I can’t imagine this teeth tingler was made by the same pastry chef who put together the shortcake.  Next time I’ll get an IBC root beer and damage my dentition at a more deliberate pace.

5. Superlative service: Not many people were eating at 3:00 when I arrived and none were dining solo and boozeless.  Neither feature stopped my server from being as attentive, friendly and competent as she would have been to a sixtop slugging Barolo and house bourbon.

Closing thoughts: The deviled eggs are too good to resist ordering even when faced with a plentiful RW prix-fixe.   They aren’t that filling, and they are that good.  Next time, I’ll add a “supplement” to my tasting menu.  I’d do the same with the toasted ravioli, though only if I had the fish special instead of the short ribs.  Even gluttony has its limits!

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2 Responses to “Blowout at Blue Smoke : A Restaurant Week Winner”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I can’t go there without ordering the Dark&Stormy, even if it is a bit pricey. Then again, I can’t go there at 3PM, so it’s really not an issue.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I wish the prime rib were available every day. It’s the tastiest thing I’ve had there.

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