There were whispers of excitement when the Moose & Roo Pub and Grill opened its doors on Ma May Street in 2013. Tourists flocked there after reading emphatic TripAdvisor recommendations, while locals quickly spread word about the restaurant’s tasty cuisine.
At the beginning of this year, Moose & Roo Pub’s highly anticipated sequel arrived. And just like the pub before it, the Moose & Roo Smokehouse is making waves. The smokehouse carries over some of the popular dishes from the pub’s menu, including the highly acclaimed “Beef N Bone Marrow Burger” (VND155,000) that made our top 3 in March’s ranking of Hanoi’s best burgers.
But the main difference between the two is a custom-built smoker that churns out delectable, melt-in-the-mouth, slow-cooked meats, including, but not limited to delicious pork ribs. Not salivating yet? We’ll see about that.
Smoke Up, Jonny!
The man behind the menu is Scottish chef Richie Bardsley, who has cooked his away around the globe, dishing up high-end fare from Stockholm to Sydney. Training under the tutelage of famous TV chefs Rick Stein and Luke Mangan, Bardsley describes himself as something of a “crazy scientist” when it comes to creating food that’s as innovative as it is delicious.
“A lot of love has gone into this menu,” says Richie, handing me a plate of the restaurant’s delicious fennel-cured pork rinds (VND75,000) and a canister of apple sauce. “Even with the smoker, we tested 10 different kinds of wood before settling on the right one.” That perfect wood that he’s referring to is a special cashew variety imported from Saigon, which helps infuse all of the smokehouse’s meat with smoky, barbecuey goodness.
One downside of this love-infused menu is that it’s actually pretty stressful deciding what to order. Coming to my aid, Richie points me to the “BBQ Tasting Board”, a butcher’s block that comes heaped with house-made sausages, pulled pork, chicken and the mother of all meaty treats — ribs. The ribs, slow-cooked at 110 degrees for 10-plus hours, are unbelievably succulent. An incredible barbecue sauce smothered over the top adds a layer of spicy sweetness to the smoked pork. I follow this with handfuls of perfectly salted French fries and chipotle coleslaw — one of two ‘fixins’ that come with the tasting board. This, ladies and gentlemen, is flavour country.
Located in the American Club, the venue has a distinctly American/country-western feel about it. Behind the bar, the walls are adorned with neon Budweiser signs and plasma TVs beaming in the latest sportscasts. The thatched cabana area is an arrangement of comfy American-style booths and long wooden benches ideal for larger groups. When we visit, a group of American expats sit at the bar chatting and crunching on buttermilk chicken wings served with blue-cheese sauce (VND65,000). Behind them, a Vietnamese family of six tuck into the restaurant’s Al DeMatteis Platter (VND1,225,000), which comes with “everything from the smoker” plus five fixins.
A Different Clientele
As I wash down the ribs with a mug of Carlsberg draught (VND45,000), Richie explains that the restaurant has been a hit with Hanoi’s downtown business crowd. “Unlike at the pub, which mostly attracts foreigners — tourists and expats — around half of the smokehouse’s clientele are Vietnamese.” I look around the restaurant and see tables of Vietnamese businessmen clinking mugs of Budweiser and feasting on half-racks of smoked pork ribs (VND300,000) and smoked beef brisket (VND275,000).
As I begin tearing into my “Trailer Trash Burger” (a burger combining the godly superpowers of deep-fried ‘mac n cheese’ and pulled pork; VND155,000), I get a chance to speak with founder and co-owner Keith Thibert, a Canadian. “How is it?” he asks, watching me hawk down chunks of deep-fried macaroni and cheese with a sheepish grin. “Pretty amazing.” He laughs.
Keith began his life long love affair with food in Vancouver where he dabbled in the local café scene before moving to Hue to become food and beverage manager at a hotel. Afterwards, he spent a year-and-a-half managing Jackson’s Steakhouse before going out on his own. Curious, I ask if there are plans to expand the Moose & Roo empire.
“The response to the Smokehouse has been incredible, and we’re thinking of adding a third down the track,” he hints as I plough a spoon into a deliciously light “Banoffee Pot” (VND125,000) dessert — an incredible concoction of biscuit crumble, banana, whipped cream, chocolate and vanilla ice cream. “But for now, we really want to focus on the pub and the smokehouse. But who knows, maybe…”
Whether there is a third instalment in the works or not, the Smokehouse is a fine addition to the Moose & Roo stable. But if there is, we’ll be first in line for a table. — David Mann
Moose & Roo Smokehouse is at The American Club, 19-21 Hai Ba Trung, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi