First Look: Smoke, a new temple to barbecue at Harbord and Manning
By Jon Sufrin
Smoke's baby back ribs (Images: PostCity.com)
There is an age-old debate in the world of barbecue: should the food be served dry, or should the chef season it with sauce beforehand? For Tony Gallippi, chef at Harbord and Manning’s new Smoke BBQ House, too much sauce implies that there’s something to hide. So his barbecue — lightly rubbed meats that are smoked with mild woods such as apple or cherry — is served with sauce on the side. Power, as they say, to the people.
Smoke opened last week as the project of first-time restaurateur Francesco Grandi. The space had been vacant for years; before that, it was a dingy students’ hangout. The new restaurant has a woody décor from Craft Studio (Nyood, The Ballroom), and it’s been significantly brightened up with the addition of two 16-foot windows facing Harbord Street.
The cooking showcases southern standards: baby back ribs ($25), Texas-style brisket ($12) and pulled pork ($12), but the corned beef brisket ($12) is a particular point of pride. Gallippi — who previously owned a restaurant in Windsor — has been tweaking the recipe for over 16 years; these days, it’s brined for 48-96 hours, dry-rubbed and then smoked for 16 hours. It comes with S&B hot mustard, an eye-watering Asian import.
Gallippi admits that diners might find it strange, at first, to have to flavour their own food. So his five house-made sauces are important: there’s a smoky mayo-based sauce, two sauces based on pop (orange and root beer) and two other, more standard, barbecue sauces. Tables at the 70-seat restaurant come equipped with brushes.
Smoke is open for dinner seven days a week, and it will serve lunch in the New Year. The place has the potential to become an institution — it will be interesting to see how the city takes to Smoke’s interpretation of barbecue.
Smoke BBQ House, 536 Manning Ave., 647-342-1840