New York, NY 10016
Blue Smoke, like Zampa, is a place where the experience is greater than the quality of the food. We went there to celebrate a friend's birthday and also take in a show at the Jazz Standard. Pedrito Martinez was playing that night and while I had never heard of him until then, it was pretty extraordinary music, at least to this novice.
We started the meal on the first floor of the restaurant with a round of drinks for everyone and some appetizers. I ordered the Porch Swing for my drink which is gin, some Pimm's, lemonade and cucumber. While some found it a little too sweet, I thought the gin was balanced well with the lemonade and it was overall a well rounded drink. Also, this being a birthday part, there were several orders of Patron Silver throughout the night but I, for one, don't want to relive those particular memories.
Now, on to the food. We ordered the Crispy Chili Crusted Calamari (say that seven times fast) with a red pepper mayo dipping sauce along with the Warm Barbecue Potato chips with blue cheese and bacon dip. I guess I'm not a fan of introducing spicy elements into a dish for the sake of introducing some sort of spicy element into a dish. The Calamari, while always tasty since it is deep fried and it is calamari, seemed run of the mill with the only difference being some mixing of chili powder into the batter. The barbecue chips received the same treatment but this time it was barbecue rub on potato chips. The dishes weren't a complete loss due to the wonderful richness of each of the dips. The bacon imbued into the blue cheese gave it more depth than you would expect and the smokiness in the red pepper mayo kept you coming back regardless of the blandness of the calamari.
For entrees, there were many sides ordered such as the macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, fries, corn bread, etc... Let's just say, they were satisfying but not necessarily memorable. There were also several orders of barbecue and the Rhapsody 'n Cue is a good sampler platter that allows you to try their Kansas City spareribs, Pulled Pork, Smoked Chicken and sausage. Additionally, we tried the Fried Chicken also. All in all, the barbecue is what you might expect from a rather large barbecue joint. The meat was tender and seasoned well. It had the right amount of kick and portions were generous. But, while you received the expected flavors of barbecue and fried chicken, there was nothing here that woke up your palette that told you this was special. It was satisfying and hit all the notes but probably not a place that you would come back to.
If I were to come back, I would just keep the Porch Swings coming and sit back and enjoy the music. And then find dinner somewhere else in NYC.