1/16 Chippen Street Chippendale, New South Wales 2008
|Opening hours||Tue-Sat 5-11pm|
|Features||Bar, Licensed, Accepts bookings, Gluten-free options, Groups, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 8399 0929|
Where there's smoke, there's a young chef with tatts and a beard. In this instance, it's Luke Powell, who traversed the heights of fine dining as head chef of Tetsuya's before hitting the streets, cooking trashcan bacon in the back lane at Mary's in Newtown, and giving burgers and fried chicken a good name.
Now, with partners Joe Valore and Elvis Abrahanowicz of Porteno, Powell has put his moniker on LP's Quality Meats in Chippendale, around the corner from Mat Lindsay's Ester. A cross between a Western saloon and a Bavarian bierhaus, it's the sort of place where the heavyweight Texan Southern Pride wood-fired smoker attracts more tyre-kicking envy than the hotted-up black '70s Plymouth Barracuda parked outside.
LP's dives head-first into the cliches of its genre, with long, wooden share tables; a splendidly mustachioed bartender, a merchandise cabinet full of home-brand trucker caps ($25, seeing you asked) and music that runs from Creedence to Queens of the Stone Age. Just play Bad Moon Rising really loud, and you'll get it.
At the same time, it avoids (like the plague) such culinary barbecue cliches as bags of chips and piles of slaw. There are no, repeat, no, pulled pork sliders; no boxes of help-yourself cutlery nor bottles of hot sauce on the tables. They even give you rolled white cloth napkins, like grown-ups, while the shelves on the wall are lined with stemmed wine glasses, not jam jars.
Fellow chefs Shannon Debreceny and Kimberly Gastmeier, and front-of-house James Audas share a Tetsuya's pedigree with Powell, but they're all a long way from the measured degustation dining of Kent Street. A confidently brief menu runs from house-made cured meats to trays of smoked meats, pausing at mash and gravy and ending on a single pudding.
A classy little starter of sweetly pickled, butterflied sardines ($12) is dee-lectable, but that's enough of that, it's meat o'clock. Time for bierwurst ($12), the minced pork and beef steeped in Hopdog Beer Works' Cosmic Highway pale ale before being sausaged, smoked, and sliced tongue-coatingly paper-thin. With it, a long, gnarly, rye pretzel stick, tiny Ligurian olives, mustard and a perky pickled jalapeno chilli.
Next up, rounds of smoky, fatty lamb belly rolled around coarse merguez sausage ($26), and the star of the show: a precisely carved, twelve-hour-cooked Flintstonian smoked beef short rib ($35) of maniacally good, charred, tender, smoky, juicy richness that invariably ends, at every table on which it lands, with someone picking up the bereft bone and gnawing it.
The few vegetable and salad sides appear to be riched-up in self-defence, which means the menu lacks a single, clean, cut-through antidote to all that fat, but for a bowl of pickles and a bar list of bourbons, tequilas and 11 different gins. Another star: the unfined, unfiltered, vegan 2013 Budenberg pinot noir from CRFT in the Adelaide Hills ($80/$18) from Audas' short, snappy, hippy, happy wine list. Pouding chomeur ($12), a Quebecois ''poor man's pudding'' doused in a sugar-shack's worth of maple syrup and served in a foil tin, is like golden syrup dumplings for a new generation. And the upbeat bunch of young creatives in hand-knitted beanies around me is lapping it up.
There's nothing sloppy-joe about the cooking here, which is cleaner and leaner (a relative term) than any bleeding-obvious rendition of American barbecue I've tried. There's methodology and repetition, precision and control, none of which negates the primal appeal of meat cooked by fire. Where there's smoke, there's one very hot restaurant.
Best bit: It's a man-cave of meat and smoke.
Worst bit: Not crazy about the chilli sauce.
Go-to dish: Beef short rib, $32.
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.”