Address: 167-169 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore (068618)
Cuisine tags: Barbecue, Smoked, American Deep-South
Good for: Raucous evenings, hearty fare and TGIFs
Summary: A cheat day for the innate, carnivorous beast that’s really part of your genetic makeup
*“So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
“This’ll be the day that I die.”
The chorus to American Pie by Don McLean is an appropriate starting point for this review. There’s a distinct vibe of stars and stripes to the tune, reminiscent of the deep South … and the inner sanctum of Meat Smith.
Welcome to a proper barbeque joint — clad in the livery of a counter-bar, plush leather couches, dim lights and an open kitchen. At different times of the day (I tried both lunch and dinner), there’s a steady trickle of diners waiting to grab a bite. Before getting into the thick of things, I find it necessary to stress the pedigree nature of the ownership behind the venture.
In recent years, a chain of restaurants has satiated the palate and interest of the global food arena. Unsurprisingly, a small handful of them are based in Singapore. At the top of the list, are restaurants such as Cheek by Jowl, Salted and Hung, and Burnt Ends (which we’ll get to in a moment). While distinct in style and the type of food proffered, it is the man behind them that binds them all together.
Meet prolific restaurateur and hotelier, Loh Lik Peng. Under the eaves of his group (Unlisted Collection), Loh has a foot in the iconic markets of Sydney, Shanghai and London. From luxury boutique hotels to some of the best restaurants in each city, it’s safe to say that Loh has a strategic eye. Take, for instance, The Commune Social in Shanghai. While the words of the pen do little to bring the justice it deserves, I daresay the beef cheek served is near the top of my list. It certainly is a must try, provided you’re able to book a table in advance.
Perhaps, the allure of the Unlisted Collection is in the partnerships formed with the up and coming who’s-who of the food and beverage industry. Each of the chefs partnered with has a distinct flavour to their culinary art, such that a range of choice is offered by the group. Back in Singapore, one of Loh’s most successful partnerships has been with Chef Dave Pynt of Burnt Ends. Packaged as a modern Australian Barbeque, Burnt Ends has steadily climbed up the ranking rungs, earning itself a coveted spot on the 2017 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
With the family tree laid out, we now turn to experience Meat Smith — one of Loh and Pynt’s latest collaborations.
As its name suggests, meats are the main star of the show. Then again, this is no surprise, given Pynt’s successful affair with his carnivorous clientele over at Burnt Ends. Upon entering the joint, there’s a wafting aroma of spices that cuts through the air, followed by the comforting sizzle of the flame. Further inspection of the open kitchen concept suggests a secret sauce bubbling away with fire and fury … representative perhaps, of a quintessentially American zeal.
While the menu changes slightly between the lunch and dinner seating, the protagonists remain. Of a particular favourite was the beef brisket ($28.00 for 220 grams). Served with a side of ‘secret’ barbecue sauce, the brisket is best enjoyed with company.
It’s a generous slab of brisket, with fifty shades of red getting darker toward the middle. A slice through the middle reveals the delicate cooking process. Like the rings of an onion, the outer-layer is firm and well-seasoned. Yet, the inner layers reveal a sweeter and more succulent cut. The science of it lies with the barbecue technique, which allows for the heat to pass through the meat without unevenly drying it out. My dining companions and I were urged by the bubbly wait staff to try it both with and without the barbecue sauce. While some preferred the earthy taste of the meat, I preferred mine with a dab of the sauce. This enhanced the sweetness of the dish and added a layer of complexity to the potpourri of flavour.
While waiting for the dry pork ribs to arrive, the allure of the beverage menu led to a round of Southern Spiced Ice Tea (free-flow at $4.00) and Bourbon Ice Tea ($10.00 per cocktail) being ordered. In my opinion, a more extensive drinks menu could be considered as the available non-alcoholic options were rather limited. The lack of root beer, for example, added a smear of shame on the Southern authenticity proffered.
To curb our enthusiasm with the drinks, the pork ribs ($25.00) arrived in good timing. This time, we added on a side of cornbread ($3.00) to dab up the jus. As with the brisket, the ribs were moist at the core. Evenly cooked around the edges, each part slid off the bone with ease. Pleased, we opted to go the extra mile with the hot smoked sausages ($8.00) to satiate the paleo in us all.
What a mistake.
At first bite, one word came to mind. Salt. Salt. Salt. Not only were the edges overly charred, the use of salt in each of the handmade sausages was simply overpowering.
In hindsight, however, we would never have appreciated the grilled corn if not for the sub-par sausages. Dusted with hints of paprika and cayenne, slivers of sliced corn were plucked straight from the grill. The heat from the grill had blackened the face of the kernels, coaxing the sugar-rich content and the natural tang. As it was not a usual menu item, we were fortunate to enjoy the dish on that particular day.
To top it all off, we opted for the Bombe Alaska ($10.00). An obligatory staple to any authentic American joint, legend has it that the dessert was created to celebrate America’s purchase of Alaska in the latter half of the 19th Century. While the purchase was initially criticized as ‘Seward’s Folly’, the Bombe Alaska served was anything but a folly. Think clouds of meringue, kissed by the flames of fire; a cosmic clash between the fury on top and the cool placidity of an ice-cream base.
This perhaps, was the ‘American Pie’ we had come in search for.
In short, it’s possible that Messieurs Loh and Pynt heeded the call of Don McLean. In a twist of fate, the lyrics of the song appear to have manifested in the physical form of Meat Smith.
With a catch, of course.
Not everything here is to die for, but it’s certainly worth a drive down.
*All opinions and images are that of the author’s. This was not a sponsored review.