The Smoking Joint reopens and makes a case for Being Metro Manila's best smokehouse
Any experienced cook would tell you that the preparation of meat—like any relationship worth the trouble—takes a lot of love and patience. For a fillet to develop that essential crust, you must let it sizzle over a pan or grill for a good couple of minutes each side, resisting every urge to flip it or swish it around in butter. The secret to the perfect roast is cooking in very low heat for over three to four hours, enduring the heady aroma of garlic and herbs emanating from the oven. A hearty stew—braised in good wine and aromatics—while easy to assemble, entails hours of tenderizing and reducing that sauce into a thick, complex, medley of flavors that could only be conjured through slow cooking. Yes, good meat requires patience, but when done right, the reward is unadulterated bliss.
The same principle can be applied to reopening a restaurant, as The Smoking Joint's managing partners, husband and wife tandem Tony and Reza Fernando and chef Dino Dizon can attest. The original joint in BF Parañaque had its cult following, sure, but the trio believed their smokehouse deserved a wider audience—something that only Makati could provide. They took their time, perfecting what was already good, tweaking dishes until they were deemed ready. Finally, after almost a year, they quietly opened their doors in a new space (a larger, two-storey prefabricated affair with a terrace) at Green Sun in February 2017.
Those who've been infatuated with the BF branch would quickly taste the improvement in their smoked brisket and pork ribs. "We adjusted it so the flavors are more Pinoy," Tony shares. "The glaze is sweeter." We're not convinced that that's all there is, but aside from the extra sugar in their BBQ sauce, the meats are juicier: The beef brisket falls apart with minimal prodding from a fork; the ribs have that desirable char from the smoker and juiciness from that perfect ratio of meat and fat.
New smoker, perhaps? "Not really," Reza ponders. "It's actually the same one. We use the old smoker from BF as back-up." Same meat supplier, too, so the seemingly better quality of the beef and pork cannot be attributed to good genes and expert handling. Whatever adjustments they made, perhaps even too minute for the owners to consider, it seems to be working.
Aside from the usual fare, fun additions such as the jalapeño poppers and corned beef sisig are immediate crowd pleasers. Ignoring the duck salad would be a mistake—it's actually really good. The ranch dressing has a nice kick of garlic that makes it more flavorful and, yes, more Pinoy.
Corned Beef Sisig
Mac and Cheese and Flatbread
It's not soul food without mac and cheese, and The Smoking Joint serves up a decent one in a skillet. Freshly baked bread buns are served fresh from the oven still in their tin molds, perfect for mopping up that sweet-tangy barbecue sauce. You must try the corn bread—theirs is speckled with jalapeño peppers, but just to impart flavor with barely any heat. The flat pan de sal—their version of pita bread—is great with the pulled pork and a light accompaniment for their smoked chicken.
Even dessert has been slightly localized, with that familiar tang from the calamansi cream pie counter-balanced by the sweet graham crust. It's Pinoy, but still distinctly American in that it conjures up images of lazy Sunday barbecues and tailgate parties-that easy, languorous lifestyle that Fernando wants to promote in his restaurant. He shares how some of his American guests (residents of the posh village behind their establishment) have been encouraging him to have regular Sunday barbecue buffets, a practice, they say, that is very much a beloved weekend activity back home. "That's what they say is their typical Sunday," Fernando shares. "I mean, they really don't like going to the malls!" Fernando, an accomplished musician, also plans to have his band perform sporadically, just to get a fun, evening crowd going as well. They do have libations and spirits on offer, and their house craft beers (a pale ale and a weizen) pair famously with the smoked meats. The casual, utilitarian feel of the prefabricated structure invites guests to come as they are and stay as long as they please.
Calamansi Cream Pie
While smokehouses in Manila have become quite a common sight, it seems that The Smoking Joint separates itself from the rest by offering not just their perfectly juicy meats but the whole simple, laidback lifestyle behind it. There is no over-conceptualized, hipster branding, nor is there the desire to adhere to a single, traditional style. No pressure, even, to be authentic. All they were was patient—and it seems to have paid off handsomely.
The Smoking Joint is at Green Sun, Chino Roces Avenue Extension corner Lumbang Street, Makati City.