When trying out a restaurant, is it fair, or even wise, to order something you normally don’t like? The thought crossed my mind at Primitivo as I considered the tripe.

Tripe is the lining of a cow’s stomach. I don’t like it, not usually. But at this particular restaurant I felt I should give it a shake.

I’d dined here numerous times since it opened last spring, and by the new year, I was ready to roll the dice on just about anything the kitchen offered. That’s not to say every dish is a hit, but Primitivo’s approach is different and makes a diner’s assumptions worth re-evaluating.

Hence the tripe and, with the first bite, validation. It tasted meaty, soft but not fatty, tender though hardly delicate. Cut into strands, the tripe still had an exterior snap and stretch to it, but it wasn’t chewy. It arrived under a thick tomato sauce with chiles and bacon hunks cooked until they had the darkness and texture of brisket.

It takes an effort to make tripe taste good. At Primitivo it took something else to make it absolutely delicious.

This restaurant is not cutting edge or high-tech. It’s just the opposite. Primitivo is a dark-toned den in thrall to the older ideas of smoke, smolder, slow cooking and their transformative potential.

This plays out across a wide spectrum. There’s a hulking rib-eye (hopefully ordered to share), highly peppered, laced with rivulets of char-flavored fat and further larded with roasted marrow applied like butter. Then there’s a composed salad contrasting burly, bitter grilled kale with lighter-than air baby lettuce.

Primitivo opened in Central City in May. It’s the latest from Adolfo Garcia, who partnered here with Ron Copeland and Jared Ralls (the chef and a partner with Garcia in the excellent Argentine-style steakhouse La Boca). Primitivo’s chef is Nick Martin, who was chef at a Mano, the Italian restaurant Garcia once had in the Warehouse District.

At times Primitivo tastes Italian. Other dishes center it in the South, like the smoked pork butt with dumplings, which look daunting but have a light, fine texture against the salty, crust-marked pork.

But Primitivo isn’t about any particular cuisine. Rather, the centerpiece of the concept is the glowing hearth visible across the open kitchen, a brick and iron fortress that has grown progressively more blackened since it was first fired up.

It augurs an elemental but fickle and demanding cooking style, one that produces dishes that look straightforward but can unfurl a depth of flavors.

This works brilliantly on the smoked coulotte, a steak that shows its true colors only after a good long cooking. Martin slices it over a bed of pimento grits, revealing a range of smoke bands across the beef.

The approach also makes underloved Gulf mullet a marquee dish. Here it’s like some combination of salad, dip and build-your-own bruschetta. Bits of the smoked, strongly flavored fish are mixed with a creamy puree of field peas that nicely mellows and adds body to it. Pickled and fresh vegetables bring crunch, and cuts of bread, charred (of course), are stuck into it for slathering.

The smoked ceviche, however, brings only enough smoke to dull the fresh bounce and acid bite you want from ceviche, and the choucroute (another huge, shared entrée) suffered from overkill. In its native Alsace, choucroute is a heap of sauerkraut carrying various types of pork. At Primitivo it’s an onslaught of meat, the pickled cabbage reduced to a garnish amid all the bacon, debris and heavily spiced lamb sausage, and the balance of the classsic is broken.

Hearth cooking would seem a direct path to hearty meals, but Primitivo is not all heavy. A lunch dish of golden-seared drum, flaking into gleaming chunks in a smoked kuri squash broth, was among the brightest and most restorative dishes I had last summer.

Primitivo’s personality is also a little lighter than you might expect, given a theme described by the restaurant’s own marketing copy as “Open Hearth Urban Caveman Cooking.” For all that, the place doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the motif registers more as a guffaw than a grunt.

A life-sized print of Raquel Welch in a sexpot cavewoman pelt points the way to the ladies restroom, and a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man doll of “Ghostbusters” fame makes a cameo. He’s poised in the kitchen over the s’mores skewers, which are used to cook a gratifying and completely unadulterated version of the campfire dessert.

The dining room is purposefully spare, and it’s casual, with bare tables and banquettes that easily accommodate large parties. The bar, trimmed in the familiar collage of repurposed lumber, is long and roomy and centered on a bank of taps that, in addition to many beers, pour a few pre-mixed cocktails. The wine list is short, versatile though curiously missing Primitivo, the Italian red that seems highly compatible with this menu.

Primitivo’s location on O.C. Haley Boulevard is part of its story. This long woebegone main street of Central City is getting some new life, largely on the hospitality front.

It does not yet seem bustling. But Primitivo is adding to the mix, drawing CBD lunch outings during the day and filling its corner with glowing windows at night.

And if the cooking here can make a tripe hater reassess, just think of what else is possible.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.