What a difference two years make. When this haute smokehouse opened next to North Oak Cliff’s Belmont Hotel, chef Tim Byres’ fare and concept were a bit scattered and plagued with schtick. Does anyone remember those confusing Scantron sheets patrons used to order their barbecue? Thankfully, they’re gone. Likewise, Byres’ vision has evolved. It’s more focused, and the nationally lauded chef is now producing some of the most imaginative food in town. Yes, the menu is still dominated by house-smoked meats such as coffee-cured beef brisket and dry-rubbed pork spare ribs. They’re satisfying, elevating barbecue mainstays to a more refined level. But Byres’ newer dishes best showcase his deft touch. A whole roasted bronzini—the latest fish having its moment—was luscious, bathed in preserved lemon anchovy butter. Pit-roasted cabrito was served in masa with tamarind goat’s milk cajeta and green apple salsa verde. Rich, sweet, and crisp, it was a perfect mélange of flavors, as was the “picnic” chicken with tomato, cucumber, jicama, mint marigold, and watermelon salad. Alas, not everything dazzled. Spicy lamb meatballs were too dense and a bit dry, though my table loved the accompanying pasilla chile mole. Delicate slices of smoky pork jowl bacon contrasted nicely against house-pickled half-sour cucumber bits. But the dish seems a bit slight for its $11 price tag. Still, Byres’ creations excite and challenge the palate. If he can take Smoke to such gustatory levels in two short years, then the future seems bright for this hip and endearing eatery.
For more information on Smoke, visit our restaurant guide.