I'm not usually one for buffets, although Z. is and I greeted his finding of this excellent buffet with some scepticism. All-you-can-eat and a meat place, especially with a non-descript name like Smokehouse? Sounded like a recipe for gastro-reflux or worse a re-run of teenage memories at Seoul Garden. Since then, I've had to eat my words and my public service announcement is to blog about this place before their attractive weekday offer ends at the end of this month.
This place is opened by Kuriya and from what I discovered online, it is meant to be a pay-as-you-go place to experience Japanese meats. The idea is that you pay a cover charge for the salad bar and side dishes, which are not insubstantial, as it runs the gamut of a very tasty chicken soup and miso soup, to kim chi, pickles, daikon, mesclun salad and toppings like tomatoes, corn and edamame, as well as garlic and white sushi rice. You then choose your meats by the 100grams, from an Isetan-like counter and pay for those. You can also choose and pay for beers and desserts.
The supermarket-like greeting area of the restaurant is fascinating, varied products from Japan like packaged cakes, salad dressings, and all manner of foodstuffs that make it really fun to browse or at least peruse all that's on offer.
You can then DIY a BBQ at their Korean BBQ tables, atop fresh red-hot charcoal buckets. These sticks of black charcoal greet you in a glass-fronted display when you arrive at Smokehouse, there is something really evocative and primative about that. This is juxtaposed against the Japanese supermarket meat counter and then the whole concept is laid out in a stick person diagram similar to those at petrol kiosks, that I found simultaneously very Japanese and very Singaporean.
I guess the good people behind Ichiban Boshi were trying to do for meats what they had done for fish in the form of takeaway sashimi and sushi. I'm not sure if it will take off and I heard that they had some teething issues, including a few days when the whole restaurant was shut for technical issues. This might have something to do with why they are now running a promotion for an all-you-can-eat on their meat counter, for $60 at weekday dinners and $23 at weekday lunches, but without wagyu meats. On weekends when they presumably don't have a problem with crowds at Great World, this same deal costs twice as much ($120 for dinners).
For $60, it really is great value, as long as you can prevent yourself from stuffy your face of oily, rich wagyu. It sounds rather unbelievable but you can really go up to the counter, which looks an awful lot like the Meida-Ya or Isetan meat counter and pile up your cooking platter with 10 slices of thick Japanese wagyu rib-eye, 10 slices of fresh marbled Japanese wagyu short ribs, 10 slices of premium beef tongue, 10 large cubes of wagyu beef tenderloin , 10 steaks of dry-aged USDA prime rib, 10 slices of kurabuta pork and just for good measure the enoki, shitake and king mushrooms please. It is slightly mad- you don't even want to waste your time on the Australian and USDA beef, because you should concentrate on the Japanese wagyu.
Far from being stale and cheap, the cuts of meat are fresh and red, they look beautiful, like Japanese supermarket cuts and nothing like our wet market beef or even the dark purplish hue you sometimes see off frozen beef at Hubers or Indoguna, before they have been aired. They list out the provinance of each type of meat and cut and you can have anything from thin slivers of shabu-shabu to thick steaks. This is clearly, not the kind of place for vegetarians, pescetarians (although there is a prawn, fish and scallop offering, it did not look as great as the meat selection) or young children.
We really enjoyed ourselves, though the second time I went back, I ate with more restraint! You should definitely try it before the promotion runs out, as I'm not sure it will be maintained afterward when it goes back to a 100 gram pricing. I guess it has been so popular already that they plan to rescind it at the end of the month.
Smoke House Charcoal BBQ
#01-37 Great World City, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994. Tel:+65 62352185.
Opening Hours: Lunch 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm Daily (Last orders 2:30pm and 9:45pm)