Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fire's Out at Blue Smoke

Blue Smoke
116 East 27th Street
New York, NY
(212) 447-7733 | Map

One of the unofficial purposes of the Lehigh Dinner Club is to experience the world through food. Over the past several months, Brian, Kym, and I have traveled to Italy, China, Germany, and Brazil. Given that, Kym decided that we were overdue for some good ol' American food, so we met up for some barbecue at Blue Smoke this past Wednesday. One of my coworkers brought in some leftover ribs from Blue Smoke to share with the office not that long ago, so I was looking forward to trying the food when it was hot and not cold, straight out of the container.


Blue Smoke was pretty full when we got there, both upstairs in the restaurant and downstairs in the jazz lounge, so I was relieved that Kym made reservations beforehand. It took us all a while to figure out what we wanted, and then even longer for our waitress to come back to take our order, a problem that seemed to reappear throughout the evening. Brian thought that the Warm Barbecue Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dip ($7.95) sounded good, so he ordered those to start and shared them graciously with us. The chips were presented in a charming little bucket with a generous portion of dip on the side. They had good flavor and, because they were served slightly warm, the chips were both crispy and chewy - an interesting combination of textures that worked well. Unfortunately, I think the bucket of chips was the highlight of the meal.

In my opinion, the real test of any restaurant is the entree, since a restaurant can completely miss with an appetizer but win you back with a phenomenal main course. Blue Smoke, however, got it backwards. We were all happy with the chips but were disappointed with our entrees. Brian and I both went for the Sliced Texas Beef Brisket, though he ordered his marbled and as a sandwich ($11.95). I ordered mine lean and as the platter, which came with Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Onions ($17.95). Since Brian ordered a sandwich, his meal came with coleslaw and pickles in lieu of the mashed potatoes and crispy onions. Kym opted for the Applewood-Smoked Organic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Onions ($18.95) and a side order of Macaroni & Cheese ($7.95). Then we waited... and waited... and waited.

Eventually, Brian and I were served our meals, but Kym was only given her macaroni-and-cheese. Due to some miscommunication in the kitchen, there was a delay with Kym's chicken, a little suspicious since you'd think smoked chicken would be something that would be ready to carve and put on the plate as soon as the order made it back there. While we were waiting for Kym's dinner to come out, the manager (at least, we think it was the manager) came over to tell us, again, that there was a delay but that the chicken would be right out. "Right out" was way too optimistic. I think Brian and I were halfway through our meals before Kym's main course finally made it to the table. Thank goodness she had that macaroni-and-cheese!

I wish I could say this was the moment that it all turned around. After all, Brian decided to order the Iceberg Wedges with Creamy Blue Cheese & Bacon Dressing ($7.95) to close out his meal ("a wedge to close," we joked). But things didn't turn around. In fact, it was at this point when we decided that we had enough. Kym's chicken was completely undercooked. Even in the dim light of the restaurant, we could see the pinkness of the undercooked chicken, something the people working in the kitchen should have seen when they carved the bird. Sure, the skin had a lovely golden brown color, so the chicken looked done on the outside, but someone must have failed Remedial Chicken in culinary school, because what was put on the plate for Kym to eat was not cooked. Unacceptable. Poor Kym picked at the mashed potatoes, but it was clear that the meal was over.

Thankfully, Blue Smoke did not charge Kym for her meal. While we were settling the check, we discussed how disappointed we were with the price of the meals given the size of the portions. A lot of restaurants out there wind up giving you way too much to eat in one sitting, so the price is typically justified. Or, if the portion doesn't justify the price, the quality of the food does. But the food we ate at Blue Smoke was sub-par and utterly unimpressive. While Brian enjoyed his sandwich, he told me that, after trying a bit of the lean brisket I had ordered, he would order the sandwich again with the lean cut. The drier cut would have stood up to all the barbecue sauce he put on there. I agreed, in that if I were ever to order the Sliced Texas Beef Brisket platter again, I'd order the marbled cut because the lean cut was a little too dry for my tastes. But that's a big "if." Sure, the brisket tasted fine, but it certainly wasn't the most memorable meal I've eaten in the last month.

Kym joked with me later about how our experience at Blue Smoke managed to lower the bar in terms of expectations for the next meeting of Dinner Club. With the so-so brunch experience at Friend of a Farmer last Sunday and the dismal experience at Blue Smoke this past Wednesday, I'm hopeful for November. I have yet to choose the restaurant for Dinner Club (my choice again!), but I have made a reservation at The River Cafe in Brooklyn for Stephen and me for the 22nd, and I fully plan on getting the most out of the gift certificate I won at the FoodBuzz/Electrolux event last week.

Bring on November!

Blue Smoke on Urbanspoon

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6 comments:

Kimberly said...

You didn't mention another highlight of the evening: the ladies' room was out of order. Forcing your customers to "hold it" = not cool!

Michelle said...

Kym - I must have deleted that detail when I was editing the post last night...

Not having access to the restroom at a restaurant that happens to offer free soft drink refills is definitely not cool! I suppose it's a good thing those refills of Coke were free... weren't they something like $3 a pop?

(No pun intended.)

Sue said...

Wow, that's a shame. I love your headline, though. Isn't it against the law to have an unworking bathroom? What was the staff supposed to do?

You have to organize a camera before you go to the River Cafe. Make sure you get another picture with the chef.

Michelle said...

Sue - I'm not sure what the laws are about having a non-working bathroom. I'm pretty sure the men's room was working, so, I suppose Kym could have tried that bathroom. But who really wants to be the woman walking into the men's bathroom?

As for the camera, don't worry, I'm working on it!

Foodista said...

I'm really surprised at your experience. Blue Smoke is among one of mine and my husband's favorite restaurants in the city. I really think that your experience was a fluke because I've been there about ten times and I've never seen that at all. What I'd suggest for next time (if there is one) is to get hush puppies and the baby back ribs. Their fry bread is also phenomenal along with their own beer--I think they brew it there? Maybe give it another chance? Oh and p.s. the pulled pork is also awesome!

Michelle said...

Foodista - I was really surprised by our experience, too, given all the positive reviews I had heard about the restaurant. I'm hoping they were just having a bad night in the kitchen and that they've ironed out the problems. Thanks for the suggestions for next time!