Pubbelly's neighborhood takeover officially begins this week, with the opening of their sushi offshoot right next door to its' predecessor. We told you all about local artist, Erni Vales, responsible for Pubbelly Sushi's Japanese anime-inspired murals, and gave you a few hints on the menu. But here's our first look at the most important element of any new restaurant, of course, the food.
The space is reminiscent of the original, exposed brick and giant chalkboards will tell you what you can and can't order that day. The format is the same too, tapas style small plates meant for sharing. And there are a few menu items that have even been transferred over after popular appearances on Pubbelly's previous menus, like the salmon rilletes ($17) or "rockshrimp tempura" ($15), which is really their "buffalo style sweetbreads" reincarnated in seafood form (replacing the pickled celery with pickled carrots; chunks of blue cheese and green nori flakes remain). They've only been open for a few days, but the place was packed by 7:30 p.m., with a half-hour wait for a table of four people.
This isn't really for sushi traditionalists, although there are renditions of spicy tuna and nigiri by the piece, most roll offerings have been belly-ed by the boys in back. The pork and clam roll ($12) could actually be called the belly roll, as chopped up clam bellys line the inside, and slabs of pork belly with kimchee coleslaw are balanced a bit like Saarinen tables on top. Their version of a yellowtail roll ($15), involves the scent of truffle yuzu, chunks of snow crab, and little crispy bits of tempura batter that seemed to have salty nori kind of baked inside.
We will say that the bill adds up fast because the portion sizes are small, and especially considering that a 300ML of sake (about 2-3 small glasses each, for two people, $24 - $42) costs just about the same price point as an entire bottle of wine ($32 - $48) that intoxicates more people for less money. Although we respect their desire to deliver unusual sakes, not sure a tavern of this type needs a $79 bottle of sake on the list, even if it is a stellar "Junmai Daiginjo." Maybe we just drink our sake down, really, really fast.
The "porkbelly & clams" roll has bbq'd belly, a creamy kimchee coleslaw and crispy clams. It's a big bite. You kind of have to open wide, like at the dentist, but
success ensures the tastiest version of this roll - you really have to
consume all the components at one time in order to get the most out of
The "rockshrimp tempura" is okay for two to share, but if there had been more eaters at the table, this would have been a one bite wonder. The "buffalo aioli" reminds us of a fancy homemade, significantly better version of Frank's hot sauce. We could have eaten a hundred more of these, but at $15 a pop, we decided to feel satisfied.
The "kimchee sausage" cooked on the robatta grill ($14) came directly on over from the kitchen at Pubbelly, Managing Partner Andreas Schreiner told us that it's not permanently on the menu, but they are thinking about adding it, depending on populace appeal. The dish is a fusion of German and Japanese, starting with a seriously juicy pork sausage made in-house (well, at the original Pubbelly...) and spicy mustard, along with apples and 'kraut.' There was a great mix of savory and sweet on this plate, completely worthy of a more long-term commitment.
The Wagyu beef carpaccio ($13) has extreme potential; the slow poached egg oozed appropriately over our roasted mushrooms swimming in soy jus. Sadly, our dining partner nabbed all the actual carpaccio in one fell swoop, not realizing that one bite worth was the only slice of meat under the egg. And since chop sticks do not serve as the proper utensils for eating liquid egg without a base, we had to leave all the best parts behind. Do not, repeat, do not order this without a side of bread. It's too tragic.
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For dessert we tried the classic mochi ($7), offered in green tea, passionfruit and red bean. This wasn't too sweet, which we really appreciated, but it was really hard to choose between this and the green tea crème brûlée. Maybe next time.