Smoque signals a good start

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THERE’S no doubt that the new, authentic southern American barbecue place in the city is “smoquen”. And I mean “smoquen”!

Smoque dares you to change the way you think about fast food. It promises slow food, served fast, and that’s exactly what we got on a very busy Thursday afternoon. This place, although only open a couple of weeks, is running hot. It’s packed. It’s noisy. It’s on to a good thing.

So what is this southern American barbecue experience? It’s a style of food with a long history. Meats are rubbed in a spice mix and smoked over hickory chips at 85 degrees for 16 hours. It’s not to be confused with grilling. What happens is that Smoque does all the hard work before you get there, which means they can crank it out pretty fast without affecting the quality of the food.

My friend said she could feel her arteries closing in as she read the menu, but there was no stopping us from digging in. The Carolina pulled pork was sensational. Once cooked, the meat is so tender it can easily be “pulled” into pieces. Hence the name. The juices at the bottom of the cardboard container the meat arrived in were quickly soaked up with home-made corn bread ($14.90).

My Kansas City chicken, a famous dish in the US (served in more than 200 restaurants in the city itself) packed a punch on taste. You order by ¼ ($9.90) or ½ chicken ($14.90). Parts were a bit dry, but it all still went down the hatch.

We shared a yumbo red cabbage coleslaw, whipped up with sultanas, and hand-cut fries with sexy house seasoning. This is food that is very difficult to stop eating, even once you’re stuffed.

Smoque has a barbecue etiquette in place, which essentially means you can eat with your hands. It’s a finger-licking-good experience, but you can use cutlery if you want it.

At Smoque you grab a table (be quick), check out the menu, order at the counter and in a flash your food is brought to your table.
The combo platters include the Smoque Ultimate ($99), with pulled pork, pork ribs, brisket, beef rib, chicken, 12 wings and three sides. The menu says this is for one to six people. I dare one person to wolf it all down.

I want to go back for the famous sloppy Joe sandwich – meat smothered with chilli and cheese ($14.90). Mum used to make sloppy Joes for us when we were kids as a treat.

Homemade sweets include a super-dense, fudge brownie, and a fair sized one at that. A bit burnt and dry around the edges, but beautifully moist in the middle.

Salad lovers are well taken care of, with eight meal-size options available. Kids’ meals are $8.90 and Smoque offers the little ones cookies and milk for $1.90.

Smoque is an experience. And a great one at that.

Smoque, 131 London Circuit, Civic. Lunch from noon. Dinner from 5pm. Call 6162 3350.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.


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