Review: International Smoke, Miami, Florida

When Michelin Star chef Michael Mina collaborated with New York Times bestselling author/entrepreneur Ayesha Curry, they wanted to create an exceptional restaurant experience. The result of that idea became International Smoke, a restaurant that would take you and your tastebuds on a trip around the world.

Their love of international flavors drove the idea that barbecue tastes differently from country to country. And, that each culture brings its own flavors to the art of cooking over a fire. After looking at the diverse menu, patrons will pick and choose what countries they want to visit right from their seats in their chic, Miami restaurant; no passport required.

Location: International Smoke is located at 19565 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami, Florida. (website here.)

Menu: From the appetizers to the desserts, you will discover international flavors, dishes, and barbecue techniques that represent world cuisine. The starters list takes off with Ayesha Curry’s American cornbread infused with jalapeños and topped with red curry butter, with stops in China for “instant” bacon Bao Buns, to the Middle East for Michael Mina’s “Mama Mina’s” falafel.

The trip continues in the entrees section. Mexican Street Chicken is glazed with achiote and chile, while the Mediterranean Sea Bass represents Greek influences with lemon potatoes and caper-olive vinaigrette.

If you prefer to stay in the states, order a plate of barbecue ribs. The half-rack of Saint Louis cut pork ribs are dressed in American style barbecue sauce. Or, you can try them with Asian flavors – Korean sesame-gochujang, or golden garlic sweet & sour. Pro tip: get the sampler with all three varieties, you won’t be disappointed and you won’t leave hungry.

Thoughts: As you walk into the industrial and austere dining room you realize the sleek furnishings are the perfect foil for the complex flavors that await at International Smoke. Behind my red leather and black steel banquette is a neon sign that reads, “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire.”

That is the entire experience in a nutshell. Whether you smoke food or use fire to impart flavors, the experience (while similar) tastes different all around the world. Using spices and sauces from around the globe, menu items take the diner on an international tour. Even the crafted cocktails reflect that concept. Choosing from the cheeky list titled “Boozie & Boughie” I wasn’t sure what to order. I chose a Spanish sangria finished with fruit to start my experience and my husband, a local microbrew from Florida.

The menu reads like a marvelous journey. A lover of Asian flavors, I chose to try an appetizer called ” Wagyu Shaking Beef.” The dish consists of tender steak bites sauteed tableside and finished in a sweet and spicy sauce. The platter alongside invites you to make your own rolls with crisp bibb lettuce cups, pickled daikon, carrots, jalapeños, and frizzled onions. I scooped up some beef and rolled my lettuce cup around all the fixings. The crunch of the veggies and the crispy onions was so satisfying. The incredible flavors of soy, vinegar, onions, and the heat of the peppers were addictive and delicious.

My husband went for the signature cornbread topped with red curry butter; a recipe that hails from Ayesha Curry’s own kitchen. Curry’s cornbread recipe is moist and buttery. Two large corn muffins appeared on a plate dripping with savory red Thai curry butter. The pop of the infused jalapeños was a great foil to the sweet and savory red curry topped muffins. We shared both and enjoyed each plate equally. A terrific start.

We returned to the menu to order dinner and went straight to the rib sampler. It was hard to resist. Three different types of St. Louis style pork ribs: American barbecue, Korean gochujang, and Chinese sweet and sour all piled on a Staub cast iron griddle and brought to your table on a wooden trivet.

Best of all, the presentation was just as impressive as the entree. The ribs came in sets of five, filling the rectangular pan. The first row was rubbed with dry spices and then finished off with a wet, smokey barbecue sauce.

Next, the second set had Korean flavors including gochujang, a savory, sweet, spicy, fermented condiment made from chili powder, glutinous rice, and soybeans. The Korean ribs were slathered in a sticky sauce that I thoroughly enjoyed. They were just as delectable as the American set.

Lastly, the final five were garlicky, sweet, and sour. That version offered the same yum factor as the other two. The entire platter of ribs was so tender, that the pork fell off the bones. We were also given sides of traditional coleslaw and barbecued sweet potatoes. While the sides were very good, we only nibbled those. We had eaten our fill and did not have room to enjoy them.

Finally, we asked our server to wrap the few ribs that were left behind and added another to-go portion of the cornbread. As we paid the check and finished our cocktails, we wondered where the doggie bag was. Our server explained that they hold the takeaway packages for you until you are finished. When you are ready to leave, you just have to ask and your bag appears. He called it a take-home valet. Yet another reason to make a stop at International Smoke for flavorful food, presented beautifully. And, that same flair applies to your leftovers.

Price Range: Appetizers range from $6 for the cornbread to $19 for the Shaking Beef lettuce cups. Entrees are all around $20 unless you get the ribs sampler with all three varieties which is $48. Sweet finishes are $6.

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