Smoked & Cracked
Smoked & Cracked is a recent venture from co-owners who paid their dues in the catering business and at restaurants like Rodney's Oyster House and The Church Restaurant in Stratford. Mike Kash and Ron Raymer originally envisioned the restaurant as a side business to their catering company of the same name, but it's quickly become their main focus.
The first thing you notice when you step inside Smoked & Cracked is the eclectic, mismatched, grad-student-apartment-meets-lobster-shack decor. A counter is salvaged from a neighbour going out of business, a table comes from home, and the requisite lobster trap was brought in by a customer. It's how Raymer and Kash want it, though -- friendly and unpretentious, and like the restaurant itself, continually evolving.
The apparent clutter also belies their close attention to detail. They chose their Mount Pleasant location, close to their uptown catering clients, after an exhaustive search. Their logo, of a lobster smoking, was found and painstakingly recoloured pixel by pixel. They also do all their (food) smoking in-house, with both a hot and a cold smoker, producing their own smoked magret duck breast which stars in the duck breast and Swiss cheese panini ($9.95).
While the duck may be good, the lobster is the real star of the show at Smoked & Cracked. It's one of the few places to do both a cold ($15.50) and hot ($17.50) lobster roll, and the pillowy soft rolls aptly showcase the rich, meaty chunks of lobster. What's more, the large pieces of lobster aren't hacked to pieces and dredged in mayo; instead the cold roll is lightly dressed in what could be termed a deconstructed mayonnaise (dijon, olive oil, egg yolks) that really lets the lobster shine through.
And if that isn't enough lobster for you it also comes in a lobster boil, freshly steamed and served cold (both Market Price) or piping hot in a lobster Mac & Cheese ($16.95). Just make sure your order comes with the yukon gold house-made kettle chips.
You would also be remiss not to try one of the chowder or bisques ($7.95 cup/$11.95 bowl). The Manhattan seafood chowder brims with lobster, scallops and shrimp, and the tomato and seafood broth is rich and meaty, with just enough heat to get your attention. If that's not your speed Mystic oysters ($16.50/6) are suitably fresh and tasty, and come with both a smokey house ketchup and a classic mignonette sauce.
Dessert, like pretty much everything else, is both made in-house and worthwhile, and the thick, flaky butter tarts ($3/$5) come in either regular or monstrously big. The filling is sweet without being sickly, and pecans give them an added crunch. They pair well with the more than adequate house coffee, "Second Crack" ($1.95/$2.50), which is cracked twice for Smoked & Cracked by Everyday Gourmet in the St. Lawrence Market.
The restaurant is also licensed and serves up brunch on the weekends, as well as booking private lobster boils. And thanks to their catering background they boast that they can have pretty much anything ready with 48 hours notice.
Smoked & Cracked doesn't take itself too seriously and is the better for it, pairing good food with a warm and inviting atmosphere. It's a winning formula, and with attention to detail, a continually evolving menu, and weekly specials, one that promises to continue.
Smoked and Cracked is open 11-8pm Tuesday to Thursday, 11-9pm Friday to Saturday and 11-3pm on Sunday.
Photographs by Miranda Whist. Follow/yell at Anders on Twitter.