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White Smoke Texas smokehouse - anyone been?

Has anyone been to the White Smoke Texas smokehouse in Motoazabu? I am being taken there soon and was wondering if anyone has tried it.

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  1. I had plans to go yesterday for lunch but they fell through. I've heard very good things from Americans however.

    The brisket sandwich seems to be a winner, as well as the baked potato covered in brisket and chili. I'm looking forward to checking myself soon.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lost squirrel

      lost squirrel, this is where I am going tonight (i.e., the dinner you said you were not able to join!). I am instead going with a friend who is your height and my girth, so we should be able to do some damage. Will report back on quality.

      1. re: lost squirrel

        Just to pile on, my girlfriend and I went there a couple weeks back. The food was good, but they fouled up a couple orders, bringing the mains first and forgetting two appetizers and a soup we ordered. The manager came and apologized that one of the items --the fries-- were no longer available. That didn't stop them from charging us for them though, which I figured out later upon inspecting the bill.

        I liked the brisket and my lady's chicken was surprisingly good. I concur with others here: this food is priced to perfection. I think they come decently close on the taste, but the execution is lacking. It may be unfair to make a judgement on just one visit, but a second one is a big ask for the price. Maybe during this tabehodai campaign?

      2. I have been to White Smoke twice for dinner. Overall I think the quality of the food is quite good. However, their BBQ is uniformly over-priced, and in the case of the "Dinosaur" short ribs, insanely so.

        I just checked their website and they have raised their priced over the last time I was there. The first time I went, the Dinosaur ribs were 4,200 yen and while I enjoyed them, I felt substantially over-charged. Now, it seems that they are charging 7,000 yen for this dish. For this amount, you could easily feed a family of 5-6 at the best BBQ joints in the U.S. The ribs weigh in at 450 grams, but half of that weight is the bone. Therefore, you get about 250 grams of meat for 7K yen. I would avoid this dish unless someone else is paying. Even then, I would still recommend ordering something else.

        On the plus side, the quality of the beef brisket is very good and it's not as severely over-priced as the short ribs. Definitely order the brisket. Also worth ordering are the baby back pork ribs and smoked chicken.

        From the sides, I liked the apple cabbage cole slaw and the roasted shallots with watercress. If you like dessert, their pecan pie is excellent.

        URL: http://thebettertable.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: ruprecht25

          ruprecht25, that is very helpful, thank you. I had considered the Dinosaur ribs (they look very appealing on their website), but now will not order them. Will order everything you mentioned (I am going with a gluttonous friend of mine so am comfortable that we can order half the menu between us...so much for my new year's resolution on losing weight).

        2. Last night's dinner at the White Smoke Texan smokehouse was quite good, although not as great as some of the reviews I read beforehand, and definitely overpriced, as ruprecht25 said.

          We had the bacon, chicken wings, "ham style" pork belly roll, baby back ribs, smoked chicken, brisket, roasted shallots with water cress, pork and beans, fresh and hot buttermilk biscuits (essentially scones) with molasses butter and warm potatos with bacon and onions.

          Out of everything we had, by far the most memorable item (which we re-ordered several times) was the bacon. Unbelievable. Thick cut, smoked to perfection, insanely good quality of pork. And not overly salty, which is so often the problem. One of the best examples of bacon I have ever had. They also sell it to take home, but I didn't buy it as it is incredibly expensive - 2,000 yen for a few short rashers. I'd rather go back to the restaurant and have them fry it.

          The second most impressive item was the brisket, their signature dish. Again, smoked to perfection and mostly juicy, although there were also some dry bits and it was definitely not one of the best briskets I have ever had (unlike the bacon, which I am still dreaming about).

          The other items were also good, in particular the chicken, although - again - I have to say they were overpriced. You can choose between small and large portions, and we chose small (except for the brisket) but note that when they say "small", they really mean it. JPY 1,500 - 1,700 for very small portions is a bit too much. They have found a bit of a niche in the market though - many American expats will love this place - so who can blame them for cashing in. The place was packed last night so clearly the prices are not putting people off.

          The wine list is small but OK. Absolutely nothing spectacular on it (other than some very expensive wines that surely nobody would ever order for 40-50K), but the mostly Californian wines (with a few from Oregon and Washington State thrown in) go quite well with the food on offer. Of the wines that are not insanely expensive, I'd go for a K Vintners "The Boy" (JPY 12,500) - mostly Grenache with a bit of Syrah. Newton's "The Puzzle" - if you like it more conventional - is a decent enough Bordeaux blend from Napa for 12,000 yen. If you feel like Pinot Noir, the Willamette Valley PN is a decent Pinot for 6,000 yen, and they do that by the glass as well (though the pourings are not generous).

          Service was friendly throughout the evening, but very disorganised. There were very long breaks between dishes (and we had to remind them several times that we were still there (and even so the coleslaw, one of their signature side dishes apparently, never appeared)) and the waitress, while genuinely trying, came across as completely untrained. We didn't say anything as she was friendly and doing her best, but it's unusual to see an absence of even basic training at what is not a cheap restaurant.

          Overall I liked the place and it gave me a hisashiburi injection of pure meat, but I am going back to my recent diet of fish and sake and probably won't need this kind of meat fix again anytime soon. When I do, I will just order ten portions of their bacon and one portion of the brisket.

          Afterwards, we went to California Wine Garden as it is only a few minutes' walk from the restaurant. If you like Californian wines, then this is a place for you. Sugawara-san (who runs it) really knows his Californian wine. The wine list has many well-known wines as well as some really spectacular and unusual offerings that you do not see very often. ruprecht25 - given your love of wine, you might appreciate this one: an Au Bon Climat blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligote (!) from 1999. Or some excellent 100% Roussanne. The wines that the owner of the place has made in California by various wineries are also excellent, unusual and available by the glass: a Barbera blend is particularly good. Slightly odd pricing policy (some mark-ups are massive, others are small). They also do good food - they used to just do nibbles as the focus is very much on the wine, but now have some seasonal winter specialities including venison and game pie with truffle sauce.

          19 Replies
          1. re: Asomaniac

            I have to agree with the brisket's dryness. I went today for lunch and had the brisket sandwich with an additional 50g of meat for an extra 250jpy. For a sandwich costing 1850, I was expecting something better.

            The bacon wasn't on the menu, but a dining companion got the pork and beans and it was good - but not very smokey.

            1. re: lost squirrel

              Apparently the pulled pork sandwich available at lunchtime is very good. The friend I had the dinner with at White Smoke had the sandwich the other day and thought it was better than anything we had had that evening, and price-wise you do not feel like you are being massively overcharged. Will try that sometime soon.

              I wonder what their burger is like.

              1. re: Asomaniac

                I've heard good things about the burger as well, and one of my companions said the pulled pork was good. I had a relatively decent BBQ pork sando at Bubby's NY Diner in Sakuragicho the other day, although it was a little small.

                The chicken wings weren't on the menu, but my companion said they ordered last time and each order is just 3 drummettes. He said they tasted good, but didn't succeed on a taste/cost ratio.

              2. re: lost squirrel

                By the way, I had an UNBELIEVABLE dinner last night with my wife at Casa Vinitalia - impeccable quality of food, wine list to die for and very reasonably priced (mark-up I would say of about 30-50% on most bottles). We both had the 7 course meal and 13 or 14 glasses of wine, ate almost incessantly for three hours and paid 29,000 yen - less than the 38,000 we paid for two at White Smoke. Really puts it in perspective.

                1. re: Asomaniac

                  Wait, you paid 38 Sosekis at some farkin' BBQ joint? I thought our sojourns at Ryugin et al were expensive, but value for money that has to be a low point....

                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                    ...and if you think that the dinner was overpriced, you should see their takeout & home delivery menu. I just spotted it in the kitchen of my office. The prices are higher than in the restaurant: the Dinosaur ribs are 9,100 (!!) yen, everything else is also more expensive, and in addition they charge whatever a round trip by taxi costs to deliver the food (unles you live very close-by, virtually next to the restaurant). Minimum order in the evenings in 10,000 yen.

                    If they get away with it and people actually use the service, I bow in awe of their chutzpah.

                  2. re: Asomaniac

                    Wow, 38,000 yen for dinner for two. Convert that into dollars and it takes my breath away. And for barbecue! Is there another bubble forming in Tokyo?

                    1. re: Tripeler

                      Tripeler - Obviously you need to look at how much things are in dollars or whatever your currency is when you are budgeting for a Japan holiday, but it is meaningless for evaluating whether something is expensive from a Japanese perspective. I remember around four years ago the British pound was 260 yen (those were the days!) and now it hovers around the 120 yen mark. Doesn't mean that another bubble is forming because from a pound perspective suddenly everything more than doubled in price..! (Plus if I converted everything back into pounds, I could not even buy a piece of bread here with a clear conscience.)

                      That said, 38,000 yen for a barbecue dnner is expensive regardless of what it is in another currency. Individual items were overpriced but not crazy expensive, but it does accumulate: We only had one bottle of wine - 12,000 yen - but we also had a few by-the-glass wines which are priced at p to 1,600 or 1,800 per glass, so around 20,000, probably more, went on the wine. Then we had most meat items on the menu and some side dishes, and the portions are small... The place is overpriced and if you are a big eater, it takes a lot of small portions to fill you up!

                      1. re: Asomaniac

                        Having lived here in Tokyo since 1977, I am certainly familiar with what things cost. Having a pork (essentially) dinner that costs so much is surprising, and when converted into dollars at the current rate, it is no less than mind-boggling. I mean, we are not talking about uni here. My immediate reaction is to wait and have pork BBQ during my next visit to the U.S.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          Or drop the wine, have the brisket and bacon and finish the evening with ramen to fill up. That will probably be my approach if I ever go back there.

                          1. re: Asomaniac

                            Or buy a Weber and devote a Saturday to smoking out your neighbors. That's my new plan.

                            1. re: lost squirrel

                              A yes, a Weber! Many a fine afternoon on the roof of Brooksie's manse smoking out the neighbors!

                              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                And now he is married. So much for mooching off the man.

                            2. re: Asomaniac

                              Or go to Hatos Bar and have some nice microbrew beers....

                              1. re: Robb S

                                I heard good things about that recently, looking forward to giving it a shot.

                      2. re: Asomaniac

                        I just read the Tokyo Food File's report on Vinatalia and I think I'm hooked. It looks like a nice place for a relaxed Valentines dinner.

                        1. re: lost squirrel

                          It would be perfect for Valentines. At least one friend of mine is taking his girlfriend there for Valentine's Day.

                    2. re: Asomaniac

                      Thank you for the information about California Wine Garden, Asomaniac. I have walked by there many times, but have never stopped in for a drink. Apparently that will have to change soon.

                      Speaking of Azabu Juban wine bars, have you been to Vino Hirata? Way back in the day I went to Cucina Hirata a few times for some wallet-emptying dinners, but had never been to Vino Hirata until a few weeks ago. Contrary to my experience at Cucina Hirata, I found some of the wines at Vino Hirata to be well-chosen and with reasonable mark-ups. Very nice setting, too.

                      Since I am venturing off-topic anyway, thanks to you I bought a few bottles of Percarlo for the holidays and drank a bottle recently. It's such a nice wine, with both complexity and balance.

                      1. re: ruprecht25

                        I will try Vino Hirata then - never been!

                        California Wine Garden: when you decide to go, if it is not a spontaneous spur of the moment decision when you are in the area but you are planning ahead, it's best to reserve a table - the place is very often packed, or there is a private party. I have very rarely been able to walk in and get a seat without having booked in advance.

                        I am very glad you are enjoying the Percarlo, I absolutely love it. This is what I think a Tuscan wine of that price range should be like. There are some good deals for the 2004 and 2005 on rakuten right now.

                    3. After reading the reviews of White Smoke on Chowhound I have to say that when my friends suggested that we go there I kept on fighting the decision. But I have to say now that I think most of these comments about the price and quality of the food there are way off base!!!

                      If you think, "the price of food in the USA should be the same as the prices in Tokyo" then you shouldn't go out anywhere in Japan. We talked to the owner (Craig White) when we got there and he suggested the Dinosaur Short Rib. I mentioned that people said it was pricey and he asked me an interesting question... "where can you go and get ~500g of meat of the same quality in Tokyo for a cheaper or even equal price?" He then offered to pay for the Dinosaur if we ate it and it wasn't of the highest quality. Well, we tried it and it was AWESOME. Yes... absolutely AWESOME. It wasn't dry, it wasn't fatty, it was just great. I usually eat at places like the Oak Door, the Molecular Bar and NY Grille and this was meat that was more awesome than I've had at any of these restaurants.

                      We were eating at the bar counter and had a chance to talk to the guy carving the meat and also watch all the action in the kitchen and I have to say that White Smoke is now on my constant restaurant rotation of places I'm eating.

                      If Asomaniac or any other posters on this forum would like american prices then they shouldn't eat out at all in Japan. In Japan a pizza that cost $8 in the USA will cost you $25 ~ $30.

                      Also, I've also eaten at Casa Vinitalia. I LOVE this restaurant... but they don't really serve meat. and I have to say, that I felt that the price was high considering that it was mostly veggies, pastas (and other starches) but very little meat!!!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: tokyostomach

                        American BBQ is cheap, Japanese BBQ is expensive. That's a given.

                        I still think White Smoke is a poor choice when it comes to cost/performance. Admittedly, I don't get to that area often and I'm basing this judment on just one lunch - but my brisket wasn't up to snuff. It was too dry and lacked the serious smoke I like in a brisket.
                        I spent 1850 on it and wasn't happy.
                        Had I spent 1000 I wouldn't have been happy either.
                        Had I spent 600 I would have been happy to be full, but I still don't think the meat was up to snuff.

                        1. re: tokyostomach

                          >If you think, "the price of food in the USA should be the same as the prices in Tokyo" then you shouldn't go out anywhere in Japan.

                          Thanks for the advice. I don't think this way, though.

                          I generally liked the quality of the Dinosaur Rib when I tried it. I just wasn't thrilled with the cost/performance. While they advertise the size as being 500g, the bones are substantial and seemed to account for about half of the weight. One portion was not nearly enough for me, though granted I am a large eater.

                          I don't begrudge Craig for charging the prices that he does. The Azabu Juban location is certainly not cheap, he created a nice space, and his concept is unique in Tokyo. In particular, the Dinosaur Rib is a dish you can probably find only at White Smoke in all of Japan. He does good business, so he obviously knows what he's doing.

                          >"where can you go and get ~500g of meat of the same quality in Tokyo for a cheaper or even equal price?"

                          Have you tried Wakanui, on the other side of Azabu Juban (Higashi Azabu, actually) as White Smoke? For 8,800 yen they offer a 1kg bone-in ribeye Angus steak that is excellent. It's grilled over binchotan charcoal, not BBQed, however. For me, that steak passed the cost/performance test. After presenting the just-grilled steak to us, the waiter sliced it into a few more manageable pieces. It was plenty for the two of us. The wine list is unexciting and a touch pricey, however.


                          Full and half portion photos of Wakanui's 1kg ribeye are attached.

                          1. re: ruprecht25

                            Wakanui is good advice. I stumbled out of there wishing I was dead because I was so full of red meat. I love the fact that your little amuse bouche to whet the appetite is a lamb chop, for 400 yen I think. They have the right attitude.

                            Agree on the wine list. It is short and contains the usual suspects. Quite unexciting, though I liked the fact that at least they offered some heavier reds - not always the case with a Kiwi wine list - such as Syrah, Bordeaux blends, Cab Sauv and Malbec. They also had the Providence Bordeaux blend and Syrah by the glass. Those are possibly the most expensive Kiwi reds so it's quite unusual to get to try them by the glass (whether you want to spend 3,000+ yen on a glass of wine may be another matter). I tried them and was surprised to see that the bottles they came from had clearly not been open overly long; the wine was in great shape. Unusual - often when top wines are offered by the glass in a restaurant you find that the bottle had clearly been open for a very long time and it's really not worth having and paying the price - at Wakanui, this was not an issue.

                          2. re: tokyostomach

                            > If Asomaniac or any other posters on this forum would like american prices then they shouldn't eat out at all in Japan.

                            I don't care about prices in America (a place where I have never lived). But paying 7,000 yen for 500 g of meat incl. bones (around 250 g of meat according to ruprecht25) seems a bit steep. We are not talking about some beer-fed high end wagyu meat from cows who had a more luxury-infused life than most of us - such ingredient would cost the restaurant a lot and would attract a very high price. How much do you think the meat cost Craig? I appreciate if you think that the hours spent getting the ribs from their original state to what you get on the plate may be worth it for you though - if the preparation is unique and yields a flavour you can't get elsewhere in Japan and the owner can get away with charging this and people leave happy, why not?

                            The other restaurants you refer to in your meat comparison puts your post in perspective though. I can see why you don't think White Smoke is overpriced if Oak Door is your usual go-to place - a bit like Two Rooms, it's an insanely overpriced place that's just not that great in terms of food. I have never understood why anyone would eat there, given the alternatives in Tokyo, unless it is a client event where the bill is picked up by someone else. NY Grill ditto. Not sure why you mention the Molecular Bar as it has nothing to do with the kind of meat you'd see at White Smoke or any place that does steak or barbecued meats so not sure what you are comparing against.

                            If you thought Casa Vinitalia's 7,500 yen for 7 courses (the same price as one set of Dinosaur ribs) is high then you have a very unusual understanding of quality of ingredients and costs of purchasing the ingredients and preparing a three hour meal involving vegetables, fish, shellfish, meat and various starches. Set against a single set of Dinosaur ribs.

                          3. Went to White Smoke a few months ago. Like others have mentioned here, I think it is waaay overpriced. Bu then again looking at the area where they put it, it is the corporate accounts they are looking for. I doubt I'll be going anytime soon, but must say their Dinosaur brisket was pretty good and although pricey, would be very tempting. BUT probably will go with something else. Pulled pork sandwich sounds like a good move.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sonik212

                              I have been to White Smoke a few times, and they are overpriced if you are the frugal type, but not everybody's a budget gourmand. You don't go to places like Azabu looking for discount ribs and blue light specials on rare imported cheeses. You are paying to eat in a premium piece of real estate and amongst corporate professionals.

                              White Smoke still has a ways to go before they perfect their BBQ, and I'm sure they know that. I am curious about their breakfast menu though. Their meat lovers breakfast burrito looks absolutely amazing. Has anyone been down to try it?

                            2. I talked to a friend last night who has been to White Smoke, and apparently it is not as expensive as I had thought. He said a typical bill per person would be about 6,000 yen. However, he said the brisket had flavor like "cheap smoked ham" and thought the food wasn't that great. Anyway, I would be interested in hearing from people who liked the food, particularly the sides.

                              1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I would say. How about you? Had a chance to get up to White Smoke to try their breakfast menu. Loved it.

                                1. Breakfast at White Smoke is epic, as well as expensive. I didn't mind traveling out from Yokohama for it either. Truly authentic and exactly what I was looking for in terms of a true American classic like bacon, eggs, and sausage. I would have preferred hash browns instead of the potatoes though. Everything else brought back all of home for me. Grits would also be a welcome edition, or maybe even oatmeal. Other then that, this breakfast was perfect and I left thoroughly satisfied.

                                  Price point:

                                  Expensive: Mimosa is over 1000 yen : 2300 yen for the eggs and bacon.

                                  Service: Excellent. Servers all speak excellent English and are very attentive.

                                  They charge an additional 250 yen for maple syrup whereas the ordinary stuff is free.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                    Well at least you got to eat amongst corporate professionals on a premium piece of real estate - I'm sure that was worth the extra expense.

                                    1. re: Robb S

                                      The name of the shop is "White Smoke," and I prefer to eat amongst corporate professionals, even if it is an extra expense.

                                      But if you know of a better breakfast joint in Tokyo where I can eat amongst corporate professionals who know their stuff, please do share - I would love to know.

                                      1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                        I guess you really need to get out to the true power breakfast spots around town. "White Smoke" doesn't quite cut it. Try Les Saisons at the Imperial or the Orchid Room at the Okura.

                                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                          I intend to make my rounds to these places next week, or so. Thanks. I knew about these two places, and have been wanting to try them both.

                                          1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                            You should try the French Toast at the Orchid Room. It is outstanding. They used to have two pieces as a main dish, but in the name of lightening things up they now serve a half portion and the other half is now fresh fruits. I recommend that as a better deal.

                                    2. re: thesoulofjapan

                                      I certainly don't like going OUT for breakfast -- for that kind of money, I will be happy to make bacon and eggs at home. Still, I have heard that the dinner dishes are not really that expensive. I may try then.

                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                        I think maybe you are missing the point. I'm sure any simpleton could stay home and fix his/her own breakfast - especially with the little Japanese wieners. It's nice to go out every now and then, even if it's for breakfast, and even splurge a little. It's the atmosphere, the music, the mimosa, and that classic breakfast that makes it all worth it. It's not like I eat out for breakfast everyday.

                                        1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                          I get your point, but I just don't agree with it. I know where to buy good bacon, and good eggs. I don't really need to be on expensive real estate surrounded by corporate professionals (or even corporate amateurs) to enjoy a good meal.

                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                            YOU know where to buy good bacon, but the fact still remains, good bacon is not easy to get. Good smoked bacon, that is, not the stuff they sell here. I can probably cook better than many of the chefs here in Tokyo, so I do not need to go out to splurge on a nice location, food, and company either. I was merely informing people about White Smoke's breakfast menu and what to expect, largely in part, because I would like to recommend it to those who aren't so light in the pocket book, and who do not mind going out to enjoy a nice breakfast.

                                            1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                              Bubby's at Ark Hills does a good American-style reakfast. The pancakes are very nice and they plunk a whole bottle of real maple syrup down on the table w/o any extra charge. I just about fell off my chair! Don't know how the atmosphere compares to WS b/c I've only ever sat at the bar there, I've never seen the upstairs. But it does have a nice outside area when the weather is fine and inside is sort of rustic and pleasantly bustling. And, though not standard breakfast fare, they do have great, fresh fries.

                                    3. White Smoke is having a special promotion from now through December 18. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during this period, they are offering an All You Can Eat deal for 5,000 yen. This deal includes everything on the menu except for drinks and dessert. Here is the URL with more information.


                                      19 Replies
                                      1. re: ruprecht25

                                        Asomaniac, how many orders of bacon (rashers?) are you going to put down?

                                        1. re: lost squirrel

                                          Oh Buddha. I wish I didn't know about this, but now I can't un-know it. My cholesterol is rising as I am salivating over the link in ruprecht25's post. I am going. ruprecht25, are you up for it?

                                          I will eat my (considerable) body weight in bacon and dinosaur rib.

                                          1. re: Asomaniac

                                            I'm going to miss the cutoff by 6 days, otherwise I'd be there with ya, as blasphemous and surreal as it is to travel from the US to Japan for tabehoudai bbq.

                                            1. re: lost squirrel

                                              Squirrel, you will be missed. I know very few people who are as well suited to an all-you-can-eat barbecue as you are.

                                              I am currently booked for three sessions. I missed one on Tuesday because I was sick, but am now back and can't wait for my first session on 3rd December.

                                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                                I went to White Smoke last night for an all-you-can-eat session. On the whole, it was a pretty disappointing experience.

                                                1. The bacon was not as good as it used to be. They said they still use the same bacon they always used, so I guess it's what they do to it that is the problem. The bacon was cut thinner than last time, it was crispier and drier. A real shame as the bacon was a real stand-out when I went previously.

                                                2. I had the dinosaur rib for the first time because it was part of the all-you-can-eat options (I would not have tried it for the regular price of 7,000 yen). I think anyone praising it is totally deluded. It is OK-ish, but inferior to the brisket and I would not pay more than 2,000 yen for it. The pricing is beyond insane. I expected something great, if overpriced. I got something pretty average, if unusual for Tokyo, which has a price tag that is very far removed from reality. One of the worst cost-performance items of meat I have ever had in Tokyo.

                                                3. We had a whole chicken. It was under-smoked, under-salted and a bit dry.

                                                4. The brisket was very good (though it could have been more moist). The pork rib was also very good.

                                                5. The warm German potato salad was absolutely divine, really amazing.

                                                6. They completely changed the wine list, unfortunately very much for the worse. Very average, overpriced wines. I asked for the Puzzle by Newton, not a world beater but a nice wine which was no longer on the menu, and luckily they still had it anyway. We had two bottles and subsequently tried one of the wines on the menu for almost the same price (a Syrah from Napa the name of which I have thankfully forgotten) and it was of pretty poor quality for the price. It was one of the few wines on the (short) wine list I had not previously tried, so we thought we would give it a shot. The other wines I did try previously in other places I can only say very much fall into the average category as well. I am only talking about the affordable wines - they have a special section of wines for 20,000 yen to 50,000 yen, which is not an amount I would spend on a bottle of wine with barbecued meats.

                                                7. Service was almost unchanged from when I last went: friendly and trying to be helpful, but seemingly untrained, a bit chaotic and very slow. This time it wasn't because they were busy - the restaurant was virtually empty, and yet they managed to forget a few of our orders and took ages to bring drinks whenever we ordered wine or water.

                                                I am not sure if White Smoke will survive 2013. As I said, the place was almost empty last night, despite the all-you-can-eat offer which included everything on the menu, so your savings, especially if you are a big eater and order the dinosaur ribs, are incredible (and there is no time limit). It may very well be that the place was empty simply because people just don't know about the offer - I would not have known either if ruprecht25 had not mentioned it here. It was a rainy Monday night, a pretty dead day of the week generally for restaurants in Tokyo. But I think - though obviously I might be wrong - that there is a chance that they feel the need to offer all-you-can-eat on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays because the place tends to stay pretty empty on those days (while other restaurants in the same area do not - I live 5 minutes' walk from there so have a reasonable overview as I spent a lot of time in Azabujuban) because they got their pricing policy wrong and people enjoy the food, but don't come back after the novelty has worn off because it is just too damn expensive for what it is. I hope I'm wrong - we'll see if they are still around in December 2013.

                                                As an aside, when I booked I asked for a table at 7:30 and they were adamant that a 7:30 booking was very difficult and made me book a 7 pm table instead. It meant we really had to rush to get there more or less on time. We naturally expected the place to be reasonably full, given that they just absolutely could not accommodate us at 7:30… it was quite puzzling to see all the empty tables, and didn't make a great impression on the people I was with (in particular those who had to travel quite far and had to cut corners to be able to leave work on time).

                                                  1. re: Asomaniac

                                                    Never been there. but sounds like we're looking at the classic Tokyo phenomenon of a great concept, poor execution, and the countdown to shutdown. My favorite place in that vein, that remains open for who knows what reason (money laundering?) has to be Mother Kurkku in Harajuku.

                                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                      I think at White Smoke it all really hinges on price. Any little imperfections with the execution could all be forgiven if they didn't charge such unrealistic prices.

                                                      1. re: Asomaniac

                                                        Price is the only reason I haven't been back. We live so close and we eat out every Saturday, but it's just so expensive. The pricing makes it special occasion only, but then for the money there are places w/o the service issues and where the food and prices match a bit better, so we go elsewhere on special occasions, too.

                                                        One thing I noticed when there was that they have some nice cocktails, but one guy in the kitchen made every drink. He obviously also had a full set of duties in the kitchen. That makes for really slow drink service.

                                                        I wish them well. The owner seems really nice. I hope it doesn't fail and yet I admit I've never been back after the first visit.

                                                        1. re: tokyopix

                                                          I think you have just summed up in a much less longwinded way than I did why the place is in trouble. I didn't want to keep harping on about price, but the disconnect between what things should cost and what they cost at the restaurant are so glaring. I am very happy to spend a lot on good food, but the price needs to be proportionate to quality.

                                                          The price works at the moment, so I am going back on Tuesday, quite possibly for the last time ever if the all-you-can-eat deal doesn't come back (it ends in mid-December). This time I will try the duck and lamb, the brisket again, the burger which i have not had yet, and mountains of the gorgeous warm German potato salad.

                                                          1. re: Asomaniac

                                                            How was your experience Tuesday night?

                                                            We were there this week as well. It was pretty crowded, so there was a good vibe. The food was okay but nothing spectacular.

                                                            There was some oddness about ordering. We were a larger group and they didn't let us order at first. They said they'd bring "everything" out and then we could ask for more. But we were never offered bacon (which I wanted to try again) and once the menus were removed no one thought to order it. We just ordered more of a few things we'd been given.

                                                            There was also confusion about sides. They were bringing meat for the table but when we'd ask for sides our server kept saying, "You mean one portion?" I thought it made sense to bring sides for the table as well. And sometimes they did, it was just inconsistent and people felt a bit confused about ordering in general.

                                                            Folks who'd been there before said the brisket was better, not so dry as it had been. We got 2 orders of the dino ribs, but then were told we probably couldn't get more b/c they were out for the night (at 8:30). Seemed odd. Seemed like they wanted to push cheaper cuts, which is fine. But then they should state a limit for the more expensive items and do it up front rather than hem and haw at the time of ordering. I personally didn't like the dino ribs - too fatty and I'm not a fan of the thick, pepper-heavy rub.

                                                            People were also confused about what was included in the all-you-can-eat deal. Some thought to try a burger or the fajitas but just weren't sure if those were included or not. Speaking with the servers didn't clear the matter up.

                                                            All in all it was a pleasant evening, drinks arrived pretty promptly for a busy night and were tasty (except maybe ask for less simple syrup in the Old Fashioned which was undrinkably sweet to me, but at least no muddled fruit!). Sides were generally great (I took to heart the warm potato salad rec and ate..... a lot of it). The biscuits were better than the first time I was there and the molasses butter was really awesome; something I'd never had before and very tasty. But none of the meat was anything I'd return for. And the reddish sauce provided was bizarrely practically tasteless. It was honestly strange in that it had no taste. I tried it twice and then abandoned it.

                                                            The experience was fine, but it will not encourage me to go back any more than my first visit did.

                                                            1. re: tokyopix

                                                              Tuesday night was good. First of all, we had the same experience as you did in term of diners - it was pretty crowded, I think at one point all tables were occupied. Very different from my previous visit.

                                                              We tried things we had not tried before, some of which were better than others. I think the burger is really, really excellent and would be back for that. The brisket was also its usual reliable self. The duck was fine (note that you need to order it a day or two advance) though a tiny bit dry. The lamb is a big disappointment - dry, not too flavourful and in my view just not really suited top this type of preparation. I admire that they are trying to broaden the range of meats on offer, but in some cases it just doesn't really work that well. The pork belly was very good and the pork rib I thought was excellent.

                                                              I am with you on the dinosaur ribs. We did not order them this time. I also think the rub is too pepper heavy and interferes with the flavour of the meat, and I much prefer the brisket. The (very friendly) owner, Craig, says that the dinosaur ribs are unique to Tokyo and I am sure he's right, but I still think they are just not that great - unique or not - and too expensive for what they are, unless you have them as part of an all-you-can-eat arrangement.

                                                              I am also with you on the red sauce - totally flavourless. I think I understand their motives - I seem to remember that someone said they were keen for the sauce to be subtle so that it doesn't overpower the meat. I think that's wise, but the execution is poor. "Subtle" does not have to mean "devoid of flavour".

                                                              I don't quite understand some of your ordering issues though - you seem to have gone with a very confused bunch of people! Everything on the menu is included in the all-you-can-eat, and I am not sure how speaking with the servers does not clear that up. They do have some set menu options (and I think they will probably try to stir larger groups towards ordering those), but it's up to you to accept those or say that you want to order everything a la carte. I think it's also a tad unfair to accuse them of not offering you bacon. The bacon is on the menu, you could just have asked for it.

                                                              Service was both below par and brilliant. Below par because I arrived on time, walked upstairs, was told by Craig to go downstairs again and when I was taken upstairs again half an hour later, it transpired that my friends had arrived a few minutes before me and were at our table the whole time! Not only did I wait for no reason for half an hour downstairs, but they ignored totally basic etiquette towards a customer - my table was (they thought) not ready at the time of reservation, so what any restaurant would do in such a situation would be to offer a seat downstairs and ask the customer if he wanted a drink to start with while he waits. I was just shown downstairs where I stood for half an hour by the exit door with no further attention. I was led to "my" table after prompting a server three times.

                                                              The brilliant part was that after a further error - this time wine-related - Craig very kindly offered us some very decent wines at cost to make up for it. That was generous and we really did appreciate it. I also got a chance to speak to Craig later about his wine selections, the price of the dinosaur rib and his approach. I understand his viewpoint better and agree with much of it, but on the dinosaur rib and some of the wine we'll just have to agree to disagree.

                                                              Apparently from January they will have some seafood as well. I'd be curious to try it, though will check prices before I go... If they don't keep the all-you-can-eat, I will probably be back for modestly-sized meals involving one or two of the burger and brisket / pork ribs, plus the warm German potato salad.

                                                              1. re: tokyopix

                                                                I can see what you mean about the confusion over what was included, or not included in the all-you-can-eat. The servers weren’t as clear about what could be ordered from the menu. I had one of the native English speakers come up and explain it to me in more detail.

                                                                Ribs and briskets are hit and miss sometimes, so maybe another day you can come back up there. The dino ribs were a bit too fatty the last time, but then I don’t see why that’s such a hot item for some. I get the hint that some folks don’t know a lot about Texas style ribs and probably just eat for taste while not understanding how good ribs are supposed to taste.

                                                                1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                                                  I stil don't get the confusion. Me: Can we order anything from the menu as part of the all-you-can-eat? Server: Yes.

                                                                  It's all included so not sure that would need to be explained in detail, unless the servers were deliberately trying to deceive you to con you into ordering less than you were entitled to.

                                                                  1. re: Asomaniac

                                                                    Indeed. Seems very straight forward.

                                                                    ".....From Monday, November 19th, until Wednesday December 19th, any guest can come to White Smoke and enjoy dining on as much of our full dinner menu they can eat for ¥5,000. Here are the details:
                                                                    All You Can Eat for all food on the Dinner Menu
                                                                    Drinks & Desserts are not included"

                                                                    I hope they can live up to that offer next week.... i.e if I want the duck and the duck is on the menu, they better be bringing out the duck if they want thier 5000 yen. Someone had said you needed to order it a day or two in advance. That doesnt cut it with the offer they have listed.

                                                                    It should be really simple. Ill have A B and C with a side of D and E. and then they bring out A B C D and E without stipulations or conditions or excuses that they are out of B and D etc etc...

                                                                    To be honest some of my coworkers went there for the all you can eat last week and they came away pretty happy. That was different than thier first experince. Their first expericence was in line with my first and only experience. Most of that is reflected in allot of the other peoples posts such as service was lacking, sauce wasnt subtle it was just bland and pretty tasteless, some items were good some were not so good or servered a bit cold etc...

                                                                    1. re: booffie

                                                                      You won't get the duck if you don't order in advance, so do give them a ring to make sure you get it, if you would like to try it. It says on the menu that it needs to be ordered in advance, and they only prepare ducks that have been pre-ordered.

                                                                      The only other limit I am aware of is 5 whole chickens per day (no pre-order), but I wouldn't worry about that not being available as it is their weakest dish in my view.

                                                                      Given that they need to make everything well in advance (I think they smoke it for between 10 and 20 hours or so) it's not totally unreasonable for them to limit some foods to avoid wastage if they don't think they'll be able to shift more than a specific amount.

                                                                      It's not unusual for restaurants to severely limit the menu items available for all-you-can-eat, and in Tokyo there is also often a time limit of 90 minutes, so I do think the deal is a good one, even if you might end up missing out on a chicken or something else they have run out of.

                                                                      As much as I think that their pricing policy is out of whack with reality (and I have a new favourite in that department: 5,100 yen for a turkey drumstick and some other bit of turkey), the all-you-can-eat is a generous deal.

                                                                      1. re: Asomaniac

                                                                        To be clear, I didn't "accuse them of not offering...bacon". They, in fact, did not offer us bacon. That's just what happened. What I said was, they actively did not let us order at first. We all had menus and were about to order and Craig himself said that what they do for the all-you-can-eat is just bring out a bunch of stuff and then you can order more if you like it. He said, "Believe me, we'll feed you well." The servers then collected the menus. We were ready to make individual requests and were actively stopped from doing so. This was our first inkling that the whole menu wasn't up for grabs.

                                                                        So, they brought sausage, brisket, dinosaur rib and lamb. Then more sausage even though we said we'd had enough. One guest asked for more dino rib and was told that they "think" it's all done for the night. They brought no sides so we finally ordered some of those.

                                                                        The discouraging individual orders in favor of them bringing what they wanted to bring, the collecting the menus from us and the confusion about ordering sides all gave us pause. We thought perhaps it wasn't a la carte, but rather certain items only in the offer.

                                                                        I must say, we did not read anything about the offer (as someone pasted above), we just turned up to dinner after hearing about this special. So since we didn't know the rules (everything is on offer) and our experience was that the staff was actively limiting choices, we all kind of backed off and just accepted what came.

                                                                        We had a nice enough time. We had some good food. There was some confusion and we could have cleared it up by asking the straightforward question, "Can we order anything on the menu." So we have no hard feelings. But it is fair to say that they very actively steered us towards certain things and we were with a very deferential crowd and I think no one wanted to be the person to speak up (which is totally silly but there you have it).

                                                                        It's definitely on us that we didn't ask and get to try more things. I was just describing our particular situation. At no point, even at the beginning when we were all about to ask about things and order, did the owner or our two servers say, "Yes, go ahead, order anything on the menu." They said we'll bring stuff and then you can ask for more of what you liked which made it sound like the offer was a bit different than it actually was. That's all.

                                                  2. re: lost squirrel

                                                    White Smoke has made the tabehoudai deal part of their regular menu, so you still have an opportunity to check it out. There are some changes, though. There is now a 2-hour time limit, side dishes are limited to one per person, and at least one drink must be ordered. More details can be found here:


                                                    1. re: ruprecht25

                                                      only change you listed from when I was there was the one side dish per person. everything else they had already "implemented" when I was there. note that had not been mentioned on the website at the time as well.

                                                      would also suggest calling them to see what they will actualy have available from the menu as it seems most items will run out before the main influx of diner people even arrive

                                            2. I had my all you can eat there recently.
                                              Really hit and miss.
                                              as for getting the orders right more miss than hit without a doubt.

                                              by 8:15 they had already run out of the dino ribs. their staple dish really... that is a bit of a joke. So never even tried to them to say if they were any good or not. Instead I preemptivley ordered a rather massive amount to try and ensure that by they time I did want it that they hadnt run out of that. they balked at bit at that but brought it out anyways in the end.

                                              They did try to push us into we will just bring out stuff that I quickly said thanks but no I know what I want.

                                              sasuage - tasted great. actually had a really good taste to it. too bad it was served room tempurature

                                              brisket - cant complain, tasted good and was hot and was a a decent size

                                              pork belly roll. - cant complain, tasted good and was hot and a good amount.

                                              pork ribs - (since they had run out of the beef ribs) sucked. I might as well have gotten a canned ham and microwaved it. same thing. Not much smoke ring going there and it was basicaly cooked to temp but wasnt cooked smoked if that makes sense.

                                              warm german potatos - did nothing for me except fill space in my stomach that could have been used for more sasuage. oh wait no it couldnt have. ill get to that in a minute.

                                              whole chicken - just read what I wrote for the pork ribs. same thing.

                                              cheese burger - not bad, nothing to die for or anything like that.

                                              pork and beans - good. liked that allot.

                                              corn bread - could take it or leave it. wouldnt order it again though.

                                              I got the large portions of all of the above and that was for myself. except the chicken, that was the wife but I tried some.

                                              by this time I was getting more than stuffed but wanted to order one more of something I liked in the small portion. Sasuage was by far the winner so I went with that. except they came back and told me that they had also run out of sasuage. go figure. blondie the waitress said this to me as I watched two people come in and sit downa dn I thought, wow hope they like the cornbread becuase that is about all that I think will be left......

                                              in short, it was hit and miss some food good some food not and running out of multiple items was the killer for me that would not make me recommend the place to people.

                                              Would I go back? Only if:
                                              it was another all you can eat
                                              I didnt make reservations and walked in off the street. (I wouldnt want to actualy make reservations and expect there to be food when I turn up and they are all out of half the menu. )
                                              even then if the offer was every day all day, I might only go once maybe twice a year.

                                              1. Last year I read that there had been a problem with their smoker and they were closing until early 2014 which seemed like such a long time. Now the website says they are not opening up again in Azabujuban and are moving and won't open again until the summer of this year. I wonder what happened. It doesn't say to where they are relocating.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: tokyopix

                                                  Right. I confirmed the same information on their website.
                                                  I do not know exactly, but if I were to take a stab in the dark, it is probably because of the rent and the inconsistency in numbers.

                                                  1. re: thesoulofjapan

                                                    I'm sure you're right. I found out some more info on their facebook page. It seems the first smoker had a malfunction and filled the place with smoke (but at least not fire). I also wondered if that caused the landlord to simply not want a smoker in his/her property.

                                                    I had actually grown fond of White Smoke and really enjoyed the sides and cocktails especially, but it was very local for me. If it moves far from the original spot I don't imagine we'll get there often.

                                                    I wish them luck, though. It must be so difficult to have something like that interrupt your business especially when it's still rather new.

                                                    1. re: tokyopix

                                                      Well, it's now well past summer and White Smoke remains MIA. I sense they're goners, like most places in Tokyo run by amateurs.

                                                      1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                        I guess so. I think he might still be selling meat to/at Costco, or at least was according to the facebook page.

                                                        It's a shame. I miss the sides and cocktails. I grew very fond of the slaw, one of the green salads and the potato salad. And they had a small but really excellent cocktail list and the drinks were consistently well-executed. And Craig was very nice.

                                                        ETA: it says the meats went on sale at National Azabu as of yesterday.

                                                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                          Okay, I should have read the whole facebook page before my first reply. They sell the meats at Costco and National but they seem to still be planning to re-open a restaurant.

                                                          The facebook page tells the whole story of the fire and the closing. I wish them success!