456 High Street
Preston, VIC 3072
Has anyone ever heard of the podcast Stuff You Should Know? I stumbled upon it about 5 years ago, and have been an avid listener since. Well anyway, recently they did an episode on A Lip-Smacking Look at Barbecue, and although I had been planning to go to Dexter for a long time already, that was the nudge I needed to finally get me there.
With that said though, Dexter is far from the usual American BBQ joint. In fact, their restaurant website actually specifically advertises themselves to be non-traditional. Certainly, the place is a far cry from the brooding, masculine spaces you often associate with a carnivorous meal. There were skylights and greenery aplenty, and was a perfect fit for an idyllic Sunday afternoon.
Although short, the menu was endlessly tempting. The succinct selection of snacks, buns, and meat plates are carefully curated to provide maximum food-envy. For the indecisive, they also offer a $52 Feed Me option, which frankly sounds like fun on a bun.
Despite being messy eating, I harbour a deep love for corn on the cob, and this Burnt Sriracha Corn ($8) was fantastic. Grilled until smoky, the juicy, sweet kernels were slathered with sriracha mayo, and smoky chilli powder. The combination of sweet, spicy, and creamy was a no-brainer, and it gave the humble corn a fiery Asian twist.
KFC? No! This is KFC ($9), aka Kentucky Fried Cauliflower! Honestly, the idea of coating cauliflower in a southern-spiced batter and deep-frying is absolute genius, as the crispy batter contrasted deliciously with the tender florets. The batter wasn’t overly-spiced either, which meant that you could really turn up the heat by slathering on the sriracha.
And of course, Dexter’s signature Hot Meat Donuts ($12, 3pcs).
As the name suggests, these fried nuggets of joy are filled not with jam or custard, but with a centre of pulled pork. It is seriously good stuff; the donut itself is fluffy and buttery-gold, its sweetness adding an extra layer to the spicy, savoury pulled pork. You have to try these at least once in your life.
The centrepiece of our meal is the Caramel Short Rib Meat Plate ($31), which was highly recommended by one of the Super-Foodies whom I work with. Aside from the meat, the plate also came with a selection of sides, including smooth, buttery mash, crisp slaw, house-made pickles, and grilled, marrow-rubbed slices of sourdough.
But the real hero of the dish is, of course, the meat. Smoked for 10 hours then sous-vide-ed, the heavily marbled beef is so tender that the knife just glides through. Each bite is succulent and buttery, the smokiness of the meat complemented by the sticky sweetness of the caramel-infused jus. This is honestly some of the best meat I’ve ever had the joy of eating.
It feels a little superfluous by this point, but I still tried to get some greens into the meal by ordering the Fennel and Apple Salad ($9). With that said however, this was a great salad. Each forkful was crisp and tangy, the slices of apple and fennel adding hints of herb and fruit, while the walnuts served to give the salad some heft.
Dessert time! I was pretty full, but also set on trying the Milk and Cookies ($12). The cookies are freshly baked; chewy in the middle with crunchy edges, and chocolate chips still gooey. And instead of a glass of milk, the cookies are served with a glass of icy, milk-flavoured ice cream. This is a whimsical take on the classic childhood favourite, and I defy anyone not to smile when they see it.
So as it turns out, Dexter did indeed live up to the hype. The food was generous, fun, and most importantly, delicious. The service wasn’t too shabby either, and the decor definitely leans towards stunning. My one and only complaint is not getting a chance to try the sandwiches – you can get pulled pork and brisket in The Big Dexter – but given that they are practically on my way home from work…
Rating: 15.5/20 – x marks the spot.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.