An Israeli-born chef using French techniques to cook American low-and-slow food. That’s the equation that led Smokey Moo to outgrow its small East Brisbane shopfront so quickly.
“We closed just before Christmas,” says Shalom Bitton, who co-owns Smokey Moo with his wife Wensley Bitton. “The lease came up and it was time to move. It was a small shop and for that style of food you need somewhere to sit down and eat.”
The Bittons aren’t holding back, upgrading to a brand-new 110-seat space in Newstead’s Gasworks precinct. But that’s also a reflection of the following Smokey Moo amassed in less than two years across the river. Most weekends towards the end of its run, East Brisbane was getting bum-rushed by gangs of tragics drawn by Shalom’s skill with a $20,000 imported smoker he runs on black wattle and macadamia wood.
Also, this wasn’t just any old ribs joint. Smokey Moo sells itself as American low-and-slow food, but it dispenses with the typical side menu of burgers, chicken wings and pulled pork. There isn’t even barbeque sauce.
“I just love meat. I really love meat,” Shalom says. “I wanted to make smoked meats, big chunks, carved in front of people. I want them to see what they eat. We don’t inject the beef. There are no sauces – it’s all a reduction, this is the French approach … Our pastrami is a whole brisket that we’re curing for three weeks and then smoking.”
The new space at Gasworks will come with a couple of new additions, though. The Bittons will introduce meat platters that range up to a whopping three-kilogram selection, and a full dessert menu. For drinks, Smokey Moo will offer wine, bottled beer and cocktails for the first time.
As for the fit-out, the majority of the new seats will be outside overlooking the plaza but inside Shalom says you can expect a warm venue of brick and wood.
“It’s about creating that feeling of comfort,” Shalom says. “In today’s market people want to get back to basics … everyone needs to eat. That’s why there’s 200 grams of meat on our sandwiches, nothing less.”
Smokey Moo will open at Gasworks Plaza in mid-March.