The much awaited Pubbelly opened its doors to a hungry Miami public Tuesday night with a bang. After a couple months of shameless self promotion via Twitter and Facebook, we couldn't help but wonder, "Is this all hype or do the Pubbelly Boyz (as they are known) actually have a leg to stand on?"
Short Order popped in to check out what the buzz has been about and, truth be told, the Pubbelly Boyz have two, four, six and then some more legs to stand on. It is not everyday, you come across restaurant folks that can handle two hundred guests in a forty seat dining room, much less on opening night. Service was friendly and courteous and food arrived in a timely manner; which is far more than anyone could expect on day one of service.
There are a few disclaimers you should be aware of prior to going to Pubbelly:
First, this place only has forty seats, including the bar, so it is tight. If you don't like waiting or rubbing elbows with strangers, come early; they don't take reservations and they had a two hour wait by 8:30 p.m.
Secondly, they don't have their alcohol license yet, so BYOB; there's a liquor store next door if necessary.
Lastly, the pork-laden menu is not for the faint. If you suffer from any physical or psychological conditions that require diets, have bouts of body dismorphia, experience food phobias or have ridiculous special requests, please note...this place is not for you. Dish after swine filled dish, it is clear these guys, ie. Chefs Jose and Sergio, put a lot of thought into their menu. Even though they are open and disposed to doing so, the dishes are not meant to be pulled apart, tweaked or made into light versions.
Dinner started with the confit pork belly and duck rillettes ($9) served with a blueberry onion marmalade and a sampler of cured meats. Certainly a tasty start, it set the tone for the rest of the dinner. The crusty, crackly, warm bread was just the right vehicle for the moist, anise scented potted terrine of shredded pork belly and duck meat. The accompanying blueberry onion marmalade, although tasty on its own, over powered delicate flavors of the rillette. If you're a salt buff, be sure to ask for some; they serve Maldon sea salt. A small sprinkling of the large, crystalline sea salt elevated the rillettes and added a touch of crunch.
A plate of serrano jam, speck and Kentucky cured ham ($23) arrived with the same super crusty, baguette. Although cured ham is always tasty, this selection would have benefitted from thinner slicing. It's always nice when you can actually see through your ham. Next time, save the tummy space and try something else.
We moved onto the stuffed dates with chorizo ($8) and the pork belly and scallion dumplings ($8). The golf ball sized, chorizo stuffed dates arrived wrapped in bacon, resting in a pool of spicy tomato sauce and topped with a small dollop of goat cheese. Although not personally a favorite item, certain members around the table couldn't help but light up with the first bite of the snack; they definitely believed it was a triumphant combination of sweet, salty, savory and spicy.
The pork belly and scallion gyoza were pretty spectacular. Although Pubbelly doesn't tout home made gyoza skins, the braised pork belly filling shines. The purses are served with a tart, gingery, miso-y sauce that cuts right through the filling's richness and the pea shoots freshen each bite.
The last savory dishes were the pineapple and kimchi fried rice ($11) and puertorrican monfongo ($6). The rice arrived in a traditional, Korean dolsot, a hot stone bowl, with a soft, poached egg and speckled with bits of chicharron. Even though the rice was very tasty, the table unanimously agreed the chicharron bits could have been more like chunks, lending the dish some texture and crunch to the mix.
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The one item totally dedicated to the Pubbelly Boyz Puerto Rican heritage is the their mofongo, a traditional dish from the island made of mashed, fried green plantains spiked with mojo, chicken stock and (you got it) pork cracklins. In one word, the mofongo was glorious. Instead of chicken consomme, they've substituted it for dashi and have mixed in nice-sized chunks of crisp pork belly. Only thing...this table did contain three native puerto ricans, so this commentare might be slightly biased, but never-the-less, it was delish. Rumor has it that one of the members at this table went back again last night at 1:30 a.m. for another mofonogo fix.
Desserts might have been Pubbelly's Achilles heel. They have five or six different soft serve preparations ($5) -- a vanilla yogurt base served with a myriad of toppings. The flavor combinations are well thought out and individual recipes are expertly executed, but the soft serve itself doesn't hold up to the flavors of Chef Sergio's efforts. We ordered the passion fruit and coffee one as well as the brownie, toffee and caramelized bacon. The passion fruit came with a shot of espresso meant for diners to pour over the yogurt. We ended up pouring half on the passion and half on the brownie. To our surprise, espresso, caramelized bacon and chocolate made the home run combo.
After two hours of porking out, we rolled out of Pubbelly happy as pigs rolling around in the mud. Congratulations to Pubbelly and an incredible start! We look forward to seeing you guys grow and wish you great success.
*This dinner was a complimentary dinner. Our check would have been $74, plus tax and tip, not including beverage (we brought our own.)