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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.

                          wakanui.jp

                          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?