Miami Spice is finally back. And, that means a lot of good eating. For those of you that don’t know, Miami Spice is a 2-month long promotion in which participating restaurants in Miami will offer a fixed price, 3-course menu. The meals are $23 for lunch, or $39 for dinner. This can spell a significant savings from the usual price of the meal, assuming you choose your restaurants wisely.
My first stop on this year’s “Journey Through Miami Spice” was Pubbelly in South Beach. Pubbelly boasts itself as the first Asian-inspired Gastropub in Miami. This, along with its stellar reviews, was enough to spark my interest.
As of right now, Pubbelly does not take reservations. So, we decided to arrive close to opening time (6:00pm). Their Miami Spice menu turned out to be $33 per person, a sweeter price point than the $39 that we were expecting. We did not anticipate, however, that their Miami Spice menu was “family style” small plates. So, the entire table had to agree on what to order for each course. I was ready to flip coins, rock-paper-scissors, or cage match it up to come to a decision, but we decided surprisingly quickly. So, come with friends that have similar tastes – or, that are easily bullied into submission – and this will only be a minor annoyance.
Your table picks 3 starters, 2 kinds of dumplings, 2 entrees, and 1 vegetable. Our first selection was the hamachi crudo.
Sashimi-style whitefish was served in a pool of romesco sauce and topped with what appeared to be roma tomatoes and chopped nuts. The fish was incredibly fresh, and the romesco sauce was a bold rich contrast.
Next, we received our dates stuffed with sausage and mofongo. The mofongo was not part of the Miami Spice menu, but we were on board with trying it, anyway.
Holy wow! Now, I don’t care for dates or figs. Not at all. I agreed to the dates as a compromise, since my companions agreed to order the mofongo. These dates could easily changed my mind about how I feel about dates. They were filled with a flavorful Spanish-style chorizo, and wrapped in smokey bacon. There were enough savory flavors to detract from the sticky sweetness of the date.
The mofongo was also a winner. Traditional mofongo is served with a chicken consomme. That was replaced by a shoyu broth. The Asian broth brought in undertones of ginger and soy, which somehow added incredible dimension to the mofongo. It wasn’t too dry, either.
Our last starter was the fried snapper salad. We all agreed that this was the weakest dish of them. The snapper was a little too “fishy.” Soaking it in the salad vinagrette that had collected at the bottom of the serving dish helped.
Our dumplings came next. We picked the short rib dumplings and the duck dumplings.
The duck dumplings were filled with duck and pumpkin, and cooked with almonds, orange, and cinnamon. Overall, they tasted like Thanksgiving to me. I wasn’t a fan. The short rib and corn dumplings, on the other hand, were excellent. The yellow sauce, which I believe was made of corn and cheese, had a great tang.
For the entree, we selected the pork meatballs and the pork belly.
I was a little bit worried when the meatballs came out with a garnish of bean sprouts. My fears were dispelled, however, after my first bite. The meatballs were incredibly tender, and not too heavy.
The pork belly was presented to our table as “Heaven on a Plate.” It was on a bed of pureed squash, and had butterscotch miso. The flavors worked incredibly well together, but I could not get past the gelatinous texture of the actual pork belly. One bite was enough for me.
The meal comes with dessert, but you won’t know what you’re getting until they actually bring it to the table. From the sound of it, the dessert offering changes at the whim of the chef.
Our first offering was a bread pudding. I wasn’t excited at this news, since I don’t like bread pudding. This was, however, unlike any bread pudding I’ve ever had. It was more like a soft, warm custard. It went great with the cold vanilla sorbet (made in-house) on top. The only thing that ruined the experience was when I bit into a raisin.
The next dessert was called a Chunky Monkey. This one was a chocolate custard topped with sliced bananas, caramel sauce, vanilla sorbet, and what I believe to be chocolate-covered crisped rice (think Buncha Crunch). My two companions, who are ordinarily averse to banana, devoured this happily. These were some of the best desserts that I have had at a Miami Spice outing.
This was a great start to my 2014 foray into Miami Spice. The adventure begins on a good note. I would certainly come back.
For more information on Pubbelly, please visit their web site at http://www.pubbelly.com/