Pubbelly – Miami Beach, FL
With a name like Pubbelly, it must come as a surprise to many of our readers that this sanctuary of sumptuous snacks has taken so long to appear on this storied space. Well allow me remedy that. Pubbelly touts itself as “the first Asian inspired gastropub in Miami”. I’m not here to say who came first, I’m here to report on great food, which I found many times over at this little outpost on Miami Beach. The three young guys running this outfit are all chefs and hospitality pros in their own right, and have joined forces to create a truly food-centric eatery. That may sound strange, “aren’t all restaurants food-centric?” you may ask. Well yes and no. They may serve food, but the other half of the equation is the passion. Just like how you can hear the passion in a great song, when you are presented with a beautiful plate of quivering pork belly, with its golden crown and pearly outer garments, you can tell whoever created it is just as excited about cooking it as you are about eating it…well almost.
Luckily for me, the trio of Pubbelly and I have similar leanings when it comes to food. On the menu you’ll find, all manners of cured meats, various pork products (the words belly, bacon and short-rib occur many times throughout), a whole section devoted to dumplings, noodles, a raw bar, and everything in between. The atmosphere is casual and the staff are well versed in the menu, which will stay with you for the duration of the meal as you’ll likely be ordering in waves as certain items catch your eye.
I arrived a tad late to the gathering, just in time to catch a couple bites of the pastrami & sauerkraut dumplings. I’m usually not such a push over, but this dish gained my loyalty immediately. First of all, I would have probably never ordered it on my own as I’m known to hate sauerkraut and caraway. As I’ve stated countless times before though, everything is delicious when it’s done right, and these dumplings were no exception, tangy, salty, the perfect start. The duck and pumpkin option was another winner, with a very autumn sounding sauce of orange, almond, cinnamon and soy brown butter. The only issue I found was having to fight the temptation to order another plate instead of branching out. Happily though, cooler heads prevailed and we continued.
A charcuterie plate was summoned, a long mound of Mangelitsa ham lay opposite slices of toast slathered with goat butter and truffles. Delicious, but not to be outdone by its brothers cooked a bit more vigorously. A pair of plates arrived featuring one of our favorites here at Eat a Duck, pork belly! The first was pork belly with kabocha (a type of Asian winter squash), butterscotch miso and corn powder. It was nearly solid fat (not a bad thing in my book) with a slim layer of flesh at the bottom. It came sliced like a loaf of bread and literally disintegrated in your mouth. The second was cochinillo with sour apple purée, roasted brussels sprouts, cinnamon and soy. This was a crisper more solid take, but no less tasty. A nuclear colored apple purée added a sour note and the subtle presence of soy brought your palate back to Asia.
Back on the raw side of things, was a short rib tartare with apples, quail egg, green mustard, tobanjan (a spicy paste made from fermented broad beans) and pine nuts. This was a truly beautiful dish. I requested more goat butter truffle toast as a vehicle, that was one of my better decisions. But it wasn’t all pork all the time, not that there’s anything wrong with that. We were on Miami Beach, so we ventured into the sea with bay scallops bourguignon in shiso garlic butter and sea salt with a crusty baguette on the side. I imagine the chefs creating this dish to appease a close friend or relative who was squeamish about snails and finding it was not bad on its own. Escargots are one of my favorite dishes, but the sweet, tender flesh of a scallop was a wonderful substitution on the classic recipe.
Of course dessert followed. After all the dinner party included my dad and sister, two people who have been partners with me at some of my most memorable meals. After consulting our waitress, we arrived upon the chocolate brownie sundae and butterscotch crème brûlée. Both were gone in moments and were as luxurious as they look. For a chocolate fiend like myself, the brownie hit all the right buttons, though the crème brûlée had it beat in refinement and balance of flavor. It was by no means a blow out on either side.
It proved to be another successful meal. The food at Pubbelly is impressive to say the least. As you know, we here at Eat a Duck strive to write only about those establishments doing something truly special, and I believe the trio at Pubbelly are doing just that. So if that’s not enough motivation to visit, just peruse the menu yourself.