Barque Smokehouse

Over a year ago I tried to go to Barque without a reservation and on a Friday night. After an hour of waiting, we called it a night and moved on. I’ve since learned my lesson! Reservation is a must and not just a few days ahead either, a week at least if you’re looking for a table of more than 4 (I’ve failed at booking several times in the past year for large parties 2-3 days ahead of time). It’s just a testament to the sustained popularity of Barque, 2 years after opening.

Atmosphere: We visited Barque on a Sunday for “Family Night”, where there is a themed set menu instead of the usual a la carte menu. There are two seatings, 5:30 and 8:00 and you’re able to order as much as you’d like of each dish for the set price. People began queuing up outside the restaurant by 5:00 (us included). We started off seated at the bar, but was moved to a table because there was a mix up with the reservation. The restaurant interior is filled with natural wood decor and a few long long tables that would be great for large groups. The noise level was on the louder side with the restaurant being full capacity. Servers seemed a bit rushed and there was a hectic energy.

Service: The main impression I got from the service that night was inconsistent. It was a busy night. The bartender was really friendly, asked about any food allergies and tried her best to find out if the menu had dairy and accommodate us for the dessert course. However the offer was to substitute the planned rice pudding for gelato, which was still dairy based. I was a little confused and wasn’t sure if she meant sorbet but no she did mean gelato. I really appreciated the effort! With the family night format, the timing of when everyone received each course varied by table size. While we received our appetizers quickly, we were one of the last tables to get our mains. Also, our server described the dishes to the table next to us, but just left our plates and walked away. Good thing I have good hearing. Then when I wanted to order seconds of our favourite dishes, it was hard to get anyone’s attention. So yes, inconsistent.

Food: The food really was the highlight of the night and three dishes won me over. A bucket of spiced popcorn was at each table to munch on while everyone was seated and pursued the night’s menu. I finished our bucket, every last one of the lightly buttered, airy kernels. The theme of this “Family Night” was Indian and featured pork samosas, pakoras, smoked lentil dahl, vegetable biryani, a light salad, eggplant and bitter melon curry, smoked tandoori chicken, tamarind ribs, goat vindaloo and mango rice pudding.

The pork samosa, lentil dahl and biryani were mediocre. Indian is obviously not their specialty and I found these dishes to be ok fillers. For the proteins, the ribs were heavily spiced and salty. I liked the chicken, but ours was still a little pink near the bone. The BF has a sensitive stomach and had a few rough days after. We’re not exactly sure what caused it, but this may have contributed.

My favourite dishes by far were the goat vindaloo (pictured below, served in cast iron pan) and the eggplant and bitter melon curry. The goat was flavourful, gamey, tender and fell apart in the sauce. I ordered a second helping and would have happily forgone the other dishes to have more stomach real estate for more of the vindaloo. This is the dish that still makes my mouth water looking at the pictures. I also really enjoyed the use of bitter melon in the curry and the two strong flavours complimented each other without overpowering either.

Dessert was also a hit. The rice pudding was creamy and served warm. I loved the peanut brittle on top and the buried chunks of mango. I finished both servings at our table and had to resist asking for another.

I feel like I need to re-visit Barque and taste their a la carte menu. Family Night was a great experience. The dishes were hit or miss but I love the concept and you get to try dishes not normally part of the chef’s repertoire. I’d love to re-visit Barque and taste what’s tried and true.

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