I am an avid patron of Western food stalls in hawker centres. I’ve had my fair share of a variety of steaks, chops, fries and burgers, all of varying quality, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Smokin’ Joe.
Tucked away in the very back row of Yishun Park Hawker Centre, Smokin’ Joe is helmed by Chef Joseph Yeo, who opened the stall in 2017.
Smokin’ Joe stands out from other Western food stalls due to its usage of restaurant-quality premium meats. I was surprised to find that the menu included atas ingredients like Iberico pork, Wagyu beef and even foie gras!
True to its name, Smokin’ Joe cooks its food over an open-fire grill. I got to witness first hand as the Smokin’ Joe chefs placed thick cuts of meat on to the grill and allowed it to cook over a gigantic orange flame. The smell that wafted out of the stall as we waited for the dishes to be served was absolutely tantalising.
What I tried at Smokin’ Joe
We started off our meal with the New Zealand Lamb Rack (S$26 for two pieces), which came with two flame-grilled lamb chops, mashed potatoes and salad. You can also opt to get the three-piece variety, which costs S$38.
I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of lamb because of the slightly pungent, strong gamey taste that it usually has. However, Smokin’ Joe may just have changed my opinion on the protein with their take on the dish.
The lamb meat was incredibly tender and easy to cut through. It was juicy with a stunning medium-rare doneness, and to my delight, the meat did not have a strong gamey taste. It was aromatic and bursting with flavour, and thoroughly impressed both me and my dining companion.
The lamb chops did have quite a bit of fat on them, which had a pretty strong gamey taste in comparison to the meat. Those who love the rich flavours of lamb fat will likely enjoy this a lot.
The side of mashed potatoes that came with the New Zealand Lamb Rack was smooth, creamy, and well-complemented by the addition of slightly salty gravy.
The salad vegetables were fresh and crisp too. The New Zealand Lamb Rack was certainly a great start to our meal.
Next up, we had the Spain, Iberico Secreto Pork Steak (S$18), which came with a side of fries, salad and gravy.
Pork chops aren’t usually my go-to order at Western stalls because I’ve been let down by tough and overly chewy pork before. Once again, however, Smokin’ Joe impressed me with their pork steak.
The Spain, Iberico Secreto Pork Steak was very easy to cut through, and like the New Zealand Lamb Rack, the pork meat was incredibly tender and juicy. The surface of the pork steak was coated in a sweet glaze that gave it an additional shine.
The moment that I took a bite of the pork, I was utterly amazed. Where to begin? The pork was absolutely delicious The slightly charred surface made the exterior slightly crispy and gave it a smokey, roasted taste. The thin layer of sauce on the surface also made it taste like a very premium version of char siew.
I was not expecting much from this pork steak, but it blew me away and was my favourite dish of the day. After trying this, my only complaint would be that I will probably never be able to properly enjoy other Western food stalls’ pork dishes anymore.
I had expected the fries to taste like your average, run-of-the-mill pre-bought fries, but Smokin’ Joe managed to subvert my expectations once again. Each fry was crispy and well-seasoned with an aromatic aftertaste. No joke, these may be some of the best unflavoured fries I’ve ever had.
Next up, we had the most expensive dish of the day: the Signature Smokin’ Joe Steak AU Wagyu Ribeye 200g (S$38). Like the Spain, Iberico Secreto Pork Steak, this dish came served with fries, salad and gravy.
To no surprise, the Wagyu meat was soft and tender, just like the former dishes. With a gorgeous medium doneness, the steak was juicy and moist.
In each bite, I could savour the richness of the marbled fats mixed together with the smokey, slightly gamey flavours of the meat. This was one of the best steaks I’d ever had.
Dipping the Wagyu beef into the gravy sauce gave it an extra boost of flavour, adding a salty and mushroom soup-like aroma to the meat.
I can definitely see this steak being served in a fancy restaurant, what a delight to be able to have it conveniently in a hawker centre!
Finally, we had the Double Cheese Burger w/ Bacon & Egg (S$18), which came with two Wagyu beef patties, two slices of cheese, bacon, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and a side of fries.
Though S$18 for the burger initially seemed steep, I instantly understood the price after it was served. The pictures do not do justice to how massive this burger was, with its incredibly thick beef patties stacked on top of one another beautifully.
The fried egg was cooked perfectly, such that the yolk was still runny and easily broke when poked with a knife. What a visual aphrodisiac.
The beef patties were also tender and rich in flavour, much like the other meat dishes. The beef wasn’t as finely minced as most commercial beef patties, making it chunkier than most other varieties, which I personally really enjoyed.
Everything about this burger was amazing, from the generosity of the patties to the glorious fried egg and the subtle layers of mayonnaise that added an even richer umami taste. Not to mention how the burger also came with a side of Smokin’ Joe’s delicious fries, making this even more worth it.
I’ve had less impressive burgers from restaurants that had cost over S$20, so I would consider Smokin’ Joe’s Double Cheese Burger w/ Bacon & Egg to be worth its S$18 price tag. I will definitely order this again in the future!
To end off, we had one of Smokin’ Joe’s sides, the Homemade Onion Rings (S$4). While many Western stalls use pre-made onion rings, Smokin’ Joe’s onion rings are hand-breaded and fried to order.
The onion rings were ultra crunchy when served, with a beautiful golden brown hue. With a crispy exterior and soft interior, these onion rings did not disappoint. My only gripe would be that the actual amount of onion was too little in comparison to the generous amount of fried batter, which could make it a little jelak for some. Still, as a lover of all things fried and crunchy, these were completely up my alley.
I must say that Smokin’ Joe is one of the most surprising hawkers I have ever visited. Every single one of their dishes tasted like something straight out of a restaurant, and for a moment, I couldn’t believe that I was dining in a humble hawker centre in Yishun.
Although the prices are certainly on the higher end in comparison to other hawker stalls, the premium ingredients and sublime, restaurant-quality taste speaks for itself. With Joseph and his passionate and welcoming crew of chefs manning the stall, and with its incredible dish offerings, I’d consider Smokin’ Joe to be one of the gems in the Yishun food scene.
Expected damage: S$8 – S$40 per pax
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Price: $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
51 Yishun Avenue 11, Yishun Park Hawker Centre, #01-37, Singapore 768867
51 Yishun Avenue 11, Yishun Park Hawker Centre, #01-37, Singapore 768867