Restaurant Reviews

Drunken Dragon Fires Up Trendy Korean Barbecue in South Beach

The waiter says he can't leave the ripping-hot, onyx-colored stone bowl on the table. There's some kind of legal/insurance issue. Someone might get burned. He has to spoon its contents into serving bowls and take the hot pot away.

See also: Photos from Drunken Dragon in South Beach

But bibimbap -- a Korean comfort food -- is best left undisturbed for a few moments. The dish is like a distant relative of Miami's ubiquitous rice, beans, and chicken bowls, but with mint-green scallion loops, ruddy ribbons of nostril-flaring kimchee, and a golden pearl of an egg yolk crowning the dish. Its fatty, tender batons of oxtail are pressure-cooked into delicate, delicious oblivion with hot chilies and the licorice-like star anise. The sizzling bowl coaxes a snap-crackling symphony out of the rice as it pops and crisps.

After some persuasion, the waiter relents and lets it be.

South Beach's Drunken Dragon, which opened on Alton Road in mid-June, comes from the owners of the neighboring Foxhole Bar, with backing from some of the nightlife big shots behind Wall and LIV. As is customary on the island, hip developers have taken an exotic concept, incorporated some "authentic" details, and transformed it into something trendier and more expensive.

Here, next to Domino's Pizza in an unassuming strip mall, blacked-out windows and a signless entrance create a secret vibe -- part of the calculated allure. Beyond the door lies a wait stretching 30 minutes past your reservation. Use this time to squeeze between women in stiletto heels and gaudy gold tights and order floral-scented cocktails that are strained into ivory-hued skull mugs. The enticing list of sweet, tropical cocktails comes from Gui Jaroschy, a Broken Shaker bartender and one of the city's most respected tiki masters. The tart $14 Voodoo Lady deftly blends tequila with lime, grapefruit, and pineapple juices; cinnamon syrup; and the jasmine-vanilla essence of Southeast Asia's ylang-ylang tree, served in a grinning teal tiki tumbler topped with a magenta orchid.