Who wouldn’t want to eat at place called Pubbelly?! Just say it aloud “Pub-belly, pub-belly”! I just love the sound of it – and the TASTE of it! The word evoked thoughts of a dimly lit, cozy place to grab a good beer and, of course, pork bellies. Combined with a cute little piggy face on the logo and a recommendation from a true food connoisseur, I knew it was gonna be a fun time.
A little off the beaten path, this gastropub sits on a dark Miami Beach street under a nameless neon red pig-face outline – a fairly “cutesy” logo for an eatery fashioned by 3 guys who appear to be in their 30s. At first glance, I thought the place was a skateboarder store, but the high top, picnic tables out front, without a seat empty, confirmed my suspicion that this is where I wanted to be.
Arriving a little after 7, there were a good number of open tables inside. We were greeted by an owner, picked out a seat and were ordering from the enticing menu within minutes.
I had previewed the menu online beforehand and knew I wanted to sample more dishes than would be possible, even with the tapas-style setup. I began with a recommendation from Chef/Partner Jose Mendin, who also took our order and continued to check on our table along with a server for the duration of the night. It was a nice touch and showed guests the ownes and chefs really care about service and the entire experience.
Asking the staff – including servers, hostesses and bussers – what they like to eat is a practice I’ve employed since waiting tables myself. If you spend your working hours in a place, you’re gonna eat the food; and whether your taste is the same as mine, you know which selections get the biggest raves and what goes nearly untouched. That’s just the info I want.
Jose’s suggestion of the Empanadillas was definitely something to rave about. Stuffed with creamy goat cheese and a touch of sun-dried tomatoes, these pastry pockets were pure baked heaven! The crust was light and crispy with just enough density to hold its shape.
Being in Florida, we had to order the stone crabs. They were good, but the sashimi dish that came next stole the show. The Japanese Amberjack was fresh and bright with lemongrass and garlic chips sitting on a pool of slightly spicy red pepper romesco. It was outstanding!
The food came out very quickly each time we ordered and just after it was plated. No holding dishes on the line under a heat lamp, but straight to the table piping hot. Managing Partner Andreas Schreiner worked the dining room refilling waters and talking with guests. Small but well situated, the exposed brick and butcher block tables and chairs gave the place a sense of authenticity. The Hubs loved the night’s music theme – pop rock from the 80s and 90s. And on the chalk board you could see later that week they’d be playing alternative one night and reggae another. Andreas told us their menu is a compilation of the local inspirations and the chefs’ individual heritage. Pork heavy and Asian inspired, you don’t have to look hard to find the Cuban influence and simple appreciation of fine ingredients.
I couldn’t pass up an item with the word “bourguignon” in the title, especially when I took a second
look and saw it was seafood. The Bay Scallop Bourguignon came in a round, cast iron escargot-cooker with individual compartments for each scallop. A coarsely blended bright green layer of goodness rested atop it all. On the side was a short baguette sticking out of a small paper bag, like it was fresh from the bakery….and oh , was it FRESH. Just the act of breaking the bread gave me high hopes for this dish. The warm baguette, crisp to the touch, easily gave way to expose the warm, soft and perfectly textured bread inside. And it tasted just as good as it sounded and felt. The bread was a little more dense than most baguettes and the crust thinner and crispier. It was true perfection in bread…just phenomenal!
The small scallops came piping hot out of the little iron cooker and meshed in my mouth with the garlic and herb topping which almost had a salsa texture. Then came the bonus round. Using the heavenly bread, we dipped every last bit of butter and garlic out of those cubbies. That is what a scallop appetizer should be!
Having a great appreciate for braised meat, but knowing the short rib plate might not make the cut with all competition, I eyed an option in the corner of the menu to have just a taste of short ribs on some toast. Great decision!! The two ciabatta slices were topped with a warm reduction of shortribs, shallots and garlic butter. The flavors were rich and intense with just a hint of wine. I scrapped all the meat onto one side of the toast in hopes of getting the most flavor with the minimum fullness factor. You know, that bread can fill you up and prevent you from enjoying other fine fare later in your meal.
Then it was time. The feature we’d all been waiting for….the Porkbelly with Butterscotch Miso and Soy Reduction had arrived. It was the prettiest little porkbelly I had had ever seen! Just about as cute as that piggyface on the logo. The bronze colored meat with the white fat sat tall and proud over a pillow of golden miso with the texture of smooth applesauce. The first bite was breathtaking! Tender, rich pork with a surprise of light sweetness alongside the depth of the reduction. The porkbelly soy jus was slightly tinted with a teriyaki flavor. This salty-sweet delight REALLY did melt in my mouth. I look forward to visiting again, if only for this dish.
We rounded out the night with a polenta dish, the truffle rice, pork belly scallion dumplings and the Duck a l’Orange. The dumplings are a must-have for any Asian food lover! And there’s no way I could forget to say how fun dessert was! I had the Brownie-n-Bacon, of course!! What else do you order at a place called Pubbelly!?! Soft serve ice cream, topped with brownies, chocolate sauce and brown sugar carmelized bacon – yummm!
I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Miami so I can check out the Pubbelly menu in another
season. Would definitely hope to have the Amberjack and those amazing scallops with baguette again….and of course the divine porkbelly!
Visit Pubbelly at http://pubbelly.com/