1418 20th St
Miami Beach, FL 33139
By Talmage Thornhill
Mmmm… I’ll be dreaming about those pork belly dumplings for weeks!
You must go into this place knowing they use very bold flavors. Some things work beautifully, where some would benefit from a little tweaking. Note although the prices are low on each item, you should expect to spend about $75 per person if you want to order freely and have a drink with the meal. The beverage list follows the creative vibe of the food menu, which may be good for some but was a little frustrating for us as we just wanted a simple beer we knew we would enjoy. I did like very much the Siesta Malbec as a match with the food.
The service was great. We were greeted by one of the owners, who was a bit stressed but gave us his undivided attention and personal recommendations as he seated us after a brief wait. Our server(s) were attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable. The venue itself is decidedly trendy but not in an obnoxious way. The communal table in the middle makes for a friendly, neighborhood feel that is quite lovely.
What they do right, they do perfectly. Pork belly (with butterscotch & pumpkin), dumplings, home made olives, stuffed mussels (and I don’t like mussels) all were phenomenal. Pork belly is their specialty, so I recommend focusing mainly on the dishes that include it. It truly is the best I’ve ever had: perfectly cooked with a pin point accurate balance of fat and meat. The duck dumplings were good, but I have to reiterate how amazing the pork belly dumplings were. The combination of flavors and textures blew my mind. I can’t remember the last time I tasted something so memorable, unique and perfectly delicious.
Some stuff missed the mark for me. The “country ham” was not prepared properly (traditionally). Country Ham was a staple in my southern home growing up, and it’s served warm and thickly cut. Pubbelly served it cold and sliced thin, like lunch meat. It was ok, but should be called something else because anyone who knows what Country Ham is will expect a different product.
I didn’t care for the Short rib Carpaccio. The sauce was made with boquerones, which are like anchovies, so there was an overwhelmingly fishy taste to the dish. I tried to isolate the actual meat to get a feel for its flavor, but the other ingredients lingered and still overpowered the taste. Salt & Pepper Squid was good; the meat was tasty and well cooked but the breading was lacking a certain crunch I was hoping for. We also tried the dates with chorizo, which were tasty, but not a must-have (more chorizo, perhaps?). I was disappointed in the brownie with bacon. Soft serve vanilla ice cream with small pieces of brownie on top and a miniscule crumble of bacon does not an intriguing dish make. I couldn’t taste the bacon at all, even when I isolated it. The pieces were too small and the flavor of the bacon itself was simply weak.
Bottom Line: I shall return to Pubbelly an educated orderer. I’ll take fellow pig product aficionados with me and celebrate in all that is pork belly.