Rural southern grillin’ in urban Shibuya


Originally published on on October 2013

David Chiddo, the local mastermind behind hot spots like Cicada and Beacon, has hit it out of the ballpark with Tokyo’s newest barbecue restaurant, Smokehouse. Chiddo is a native New Yorker and some Southerners might question his skills on the grill. But his time spent researching, testing and tasting recipes seems to more than make up for his birthplace.

Authentic American smoked barbecue, typically using hickory, is done in several styles at Smokehouse.

“There’s more meat on back ribs than spare ribs,” says Chiddo, so they do a Kansas-style back rib (¥2,200) with a genuinely spicy rub and is sauced before hitting the grill. While some expect the meat on ribs to fall off the bone, Chiddo says that authentic barbecue shouldn’t. The chopped pork shoulder (¥1,700) is done Carolina-style with a pepper and apple vinegar sauce, while the beef brisket (¥1,800) is also a dry rub—but Texas-style and enhanced with an espresso glaze that adds depth and richness. Even the chicken wings (¥900) on the appetizer menu are smoked and not deep-fried. And the bacon for the iceberg wedge salad (¥1,100) is twice smoked and served with a peppery blue cheese dressing.

All barbecue dishes are served with your choice of four different sauces—the essence of any true ‘que. There is an umami-rich “Porter Pepper” sauce made with beer and molasses and a tangy “Carolina Vinegar” version with chili and honey. The “House Pit” sauce is tomato based and sweetened with brown sugar while the “Voodoo Hot” is an exotic blend of fresh ginger and habaneros. Part of the fun of the meal is sampling your way through the sauces. Since they’re not available for takeaway (yet!), the restaurant is the only place to get your smackers on some.

Side dishes (¥400) are as you would find back home in barbecue country, with creamy mac-n-cheese, tomatoes with okra cooked al dente and fresh spinach in a light cream sauce. Their down-home corn bread is rich with butter and honey—crispy on the outside and dense in the middle.

The menu is big with offerings for everyone, including catfish and chips (¥1,000), burgers (¥1,500), salads (from ¥1,100), and even a kid’s menu with mac-n-cheese, chicken fingers and Yamagata hot dogs (all with fries or potato salad, ¥800). Of course, there is a host of American-style desserts including pecan pie, warm apple crumble and banana cream pudding (from ¥650).

As with other restaurants in the TY Harbor group there is an impressive beverage selection including their original microbrews (¥800) as well as a selection of domestic and imported craft beers (¥850). The restaurant also runs a guest beer program, changing the taps or bottles on a monthly basis. Currently, there are beers from Hokkaido, Hyogo, California and Oregon on tap. Whiskey-with-an-“e” aficionados will be thrilled to find a strong selection of bourbon, rye and other sour mashes (from ¥800). The shots are all served on the rocks with a side of water, a great way to taste whiskey as it should be and see how the H20 opens their flavors up.

In the front of the restaurant is a bar area, perfect for meeting friends for some drinks and appetizers. The main dining room that overlooks the open kitchen is dotted with small tables and to top of the décor, ambient lighting hangs from the ceiling in what else—smoke-colored glass balls.

A modern country music soundtrack plays during the day, but after the sun goes down it’s all Delta blues. When the weather is good the back wall of windows opens up onto a residential street.
Smokehouse is a well-oiled (and sauced!) machine that offers great value for money—although your vegetarian friends might beg to differ.