|Pubbelly Communal Table|
Add this one to the long, long list of gushy reviews out there already. Pubbelly, an "Asian-inspired gastropub" by Andreas Schreiner, Sergio Navarro, and Jose Mendin -- novice restaurant owners when Pubbelly first opened in 2010, but already owners of a Miami mini empire less than two years later -- really is that good. The small plates menu is surprisingly self assured for a young restaurant. It takes some big risks and for the most part they pay off.
Pubbelly's signature dish of pork belly with kabocha, butterscotch miso and corn powder was quite wonderful, really a perfect rendition of this type of pork belly preparation. A thin, caramelized, sweet and salty crust married gorgeously with tender, tender, succulent meat, a pleasant (and not overly thick) layer of fat, and then another layer of meat. This might be the most tender pork belly I've ever had, including all manner of dongpo rou in China and David Chang creations in NYC. The sweet scent of butterscotch made perfect sense with the meat and schmears of kabocha on the plate.
I also fell head over heels in love with was the house smoked wild sturgeon with asparagus, fried yolk, dry miso and caviar dressing. The carpaccio thin slices of sturgeon were very nicely smoked and paired incredibly well with acidic, tender, marinated asparagus and a rich, fried egg yolk that looked like the product of culinary magic to me. The yolk had been lightly battered and then apparently deep fried in a way that left a perfectly crispy, non-oily crust encasing a golden, liquid core that oozed deliciously over everything when you cut into it. I didn't think the caviar dressing was really necessary after that yolky indulgence and the thick texture of the dressing somewhat overwhelmed the fish if you weren't careful to dab only a small amount. But the dressing did go nicely with the asparagus.
|House Smoked Sturgeon|
|House Smoked Sturgeon After Cutting Into the Egg Yolk|
The bay scallops bourguignon with shiso garlic butter, sea salt and baguette immediately captured all the senses, bubbling away merrily in its cast iron pan -- the kind with little indentations used to make takoyaki. (There was one scallop in each indentation.) Shiso leaves had been made into a garlicky pesto, which I thought was a rather brilliant treatment, and sweet, fresh scallops were cooked to a perfect, tender state of doneness. The entire dish was redolent with butter, which together with the fragrance of hot bread and the slight crunch of sea salt finishing the dish, was incredibly alluring. My only complaint was in the description: The tender texture of the bread more closely resembled Cuban bread than real French baguette.
|Bay Scallops Bourguignon with Baguette|
|Closeup of the Bay Scallops Bourguignon|
I only tried a bit of the filling from the duck and pumpkin dumplings with orange, almonds, cinnamon, soy brown butter, so I can't really comment on the dish as a whole. I did register that the pulled, cinnamon-scented duck filling was very tender and that it went nicely with the sweet, salty soy brown butter.
|Duck and Pumpkin Dumplings|
The pleasantly thin-skinned shortrib and corn dumplings with black truffle, corn soy, sorrel, Parmigiano had been pan fried and were served in a plate with a mustard sauce. The mustard component overwhelmed the truffles, but otherwise, the dish was also nicely balanced.
|Short Rib and Corn Dumplings|
Udon carbonara with green peas, confit pork belly, poached egg, parmesan, bacon and black pepper was an interesting and delicious take on a carbonara. Pork belly was tender, without losing all texture. Its chew actually slightly resembled the springiness of the udon. Bacon retained its crispness and did not become rubbery. The slivers of crisp snow peas (or sugar snap peas?) had a crunch that played to interesting effect with the meaty crisp of bacon. Piling excess on excess, the poached egg broke dramatically into the already rich, creamy broth/sauce.
There weren't many options for the vegetarian in my group. Even the delicious-sounding side of Brussels sprouts included bacon miso salt. One of the few meat-free plates on the menu was the burratina from DeSteffanos Creamy, CA with papaya, beansprouts, green apples, soy and Jeres vinegar. This was an interesting, almost desserty combination of creamy burratina with sweet, ripe papaya that closely resembled rojak. I liked certain elements of the dish, including the contrast of soft cheese and soft papaya with crispy, juicy sprouts and apples, but overall, the plate was a little too discombobulated for my personal tastes. (I also don't really love rojaks, for the record.) My vegetarian dining companion said she enjoyed it very much, though.
|Green Pea Toast|
Finally, dessert, which I was too full to partake in: tres leches cake served with organic, low-fat frozen yogurt. One dining companion (who is an accomplished baker) declared the cake one of the best versions of tres leches she'd ever had.
|Tres Leches Cake|
I am not terribly knowledgable about beer, but the restaurant does have an extensive beer list of sometimes obscure origin (i.e. the Lion Imperial from Sri Lanka). We ordered two 750 ml bottles of the Estrella Inedit and Delerium Tremens and a delicious spicy orange cocktail made with sake, chiles and yuzu.
Rather than a humdrum old breadbasket at the beginning of the meal, the restaurant brings out a bowl of excellent, slightly spicy olives:
|Wine / Beer / Cocktails List|
There's something a bit David Chang about this place with its occasional strokes of mad genius, it's obsession with pork belly and runny egg yolk. Not a bad Asian-inspired meal for a bunch of gringos. Not a bad meal at all.
1418 20th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Food Rating: A+