ENJOY THE SPICE OF LIFE AT A MIAMI SPICE TOP CONTENDER: PUBBELLY

Written by: Melissa Kahan (@melik921)

In case you haven’t ventured to Miami between August 1 and September 30, Miami Spice is an annual restaurant promotion to offer a prix-fixe menu at some of Miami’s best eateries for a fraction of the price. Over 200 restaurants are showcasing their best this year for either $23 for lunch and/or $39 for dinner, so the options are plentiful, but if you are an adventurous eater like myself and go for the small portion and large variety menus, Asian-inspired gastropub Pubbelly needs to be on your list for dinner this month. Here’s why:

Family-style dining

When handed the menu at a restaurant you intend to dine in, it is safe to say the assumption that what you are ordering is what you are eating is justified, and your dining companions may order whatever they choose, as well. However, Pubbelly embraces the family arguments we love to hate: Each of the nine plates that are to be selected have to be a communal effort, as in everyone agrees on the same nine dishes and based on the number of dining patrons, that is the portion it is sized for. But let me reiterate that everyone at the table has to agree on the exact same items to order. It is actually quite an experience, especially considering the dietary restrictions that would make this an adventurous eaters-only venue.

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Variety

While this is not a veggie-lover’s dream menu, the 23 options among four sections of the Miami Spice menu at Pubbelly is, I venture to say, one of the more extensive menu lists available for the promotional event. While this absolutely makes the decision-making process harder with a large group of people (or even just a very opinionated few), the fact that there are so many selections to choose from makes the fact that each is curated with taste and aesthetics in mind that much more impressive. Not to mention that the nine selections chosen varied from a couple bite arrangements to full on, meal-sized portions.

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Highlights by Section

Small Plates (choose 3 of 8):

  • Dates avec Chorizo: Smoky-sweet food combinations can pan out pretty well, and the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates were no exception. The touch of goat cream dotted atop and the spicy tomato sauce almost resembling a creamy marinara were the little, cohesive extras that set this “small plate” apart.
  • Shortrib Tartare: This took some convincing among my dining companions who had a serious mental block about the idea of raw meat and egg yolk in a finished dish, but even the skeptics put it toward the top of their list.
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There was quite a bit of flavor variations going on, from the green mustard smeared across the plate to the hint of apple and pine nut powder mixed in to the meat, but a large dollop of the tartare mixture atop goat butter truffle toast was a flavor imprint I could have held on to all night.

Bao (choose 2 of 6):

  • Shortrib: Hands down, the Shortrib bao bun stole the show. The mild green curry sauce, which was a bit more refreshing than a typically heavier curry would be, and the contrast of the zesty papaya salad against the rich shortrib was the simplest and best choice of the night. Granted, I did not get to try the decadent-sounding Lechon Asado suckling pig bao bun with mojo aioli and chicharron due to part of our party avoiding pork, but that would be a winner, too.

Dim Sum (choose 3 of 4):

  • Shortrib Gyozas: I realize at this point shortrib has taken top slot, but at least this is a clear indicator of what the restaurant excels at highlighting. Unlike the bao’s shortrib with a thicker slab of shortrib meat, the gyozas had a more ground patty texture, but the shortrib quality shone through with a little assistance from black truffle and grana padona. Again, the no-pork evening probably hindered the experience a bit, as the Pork Belly Dumplings were highly recommended, but the gyozas did not disappoint. Save yourself from the Duck Confit Raviolis, though, as the pumpkin “foam,” which gives the impression of a light dusting of pumpkin flavor, was more akin to a generously-applied pumpkin puree that did not do the duck justice at all.
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Photo by: @Pubbellyboys

Noodles and Rice (choose 1 of 5):

  • Since this only allowed for the option of one large-sized, entrée-style dish for the table, I feel I may have missed out with this one, as there is little room for error with only having one selection. I heard nothing but rave reviews over the Uni Pasta, complete with harissa butter and horseradish, but alas less adventurous eaters felt more confident in the Seabeans and Clams dish, and honestly the tuna flakes and yuzu soy butter left something to be desired.

Dessert:

  • Venezuelan Coffee Dessert: Why dessert cannot be a meal’s main course is a mystery to me, but I was extremely thankful that dessert did not appear to be an afterthought at Pubbelly like I have experienced countless times prior. While not on the menu, the (three) dessert options of the night all sounded amazing. This was the quickest decision my party of three made all night, and it was the right one: A sizeable scoop of goma (sesame)ice cream with a caramel drizzle rested atop a piping hot coffee-infused “cake” of sorts with some type of cookie crushed generously. Each layer paired perfectly for not only a rich, yet cohesive flavor complement, but for an extremely pleasing textural contrast, from the crunch of the chocolate cookie and hazelnuts to the soft, hot coffee-infused “cake” that cut sharply with the ice cold sesame soft serve.
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Disclaimer:

Perhaps it was our particular server for the night or this may just be the dining style, but the server was at our table literally every few minutes to plate our food, watch as we took first bites, and offer one too many suggestions. I know he was trying to be helpful and excel at service, but there comes a point where you want to enjoy the experience and company you are with instead of feel like you can’t finish that last bite without the plate being snatched from under you.  The one item he pushed hardest for was the Brussel Sprouts as an extra accompaniment, and I will say they did not disappoint.

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Photo By: @Pubbellyboys

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