The Restaurant Project: Pubbelly (April)

April 10, 2011 § 9 Comments

I have this reaction that I have difficulty controlling.

It happens when I watch Beyonce in the ‘Single Ladies’ video.
It happens sometimes when I watch a particularly competitive horse race, like when Rags to Riches beat Curlin in the 2007 Belmont.
It happens during New Pornographers concerts.

What happens is, I get completely choked up — watching someone or something do what they love, what they were obviously born to do, and what they are most gifted at, well, it makes me feel so happy for them, and so proud of them, I just get overcome with emotion.

It happened to me on Friday night at Pubbelly.

Now, let me back up for a bit. We knew that April’s spot for the Restaurant Project would be in Miami, timed to our annual pilgrimage. The plan was that the restaurant would be Hakkasan, in the Fontainebleau, but then we accidentally got a little too tipsy over pre-dinner drinks and ended up forgetting about our reservation. (Sorry about that, Open Table!) The next night Scott suggested we try something different, a little off the beaten path, a little more residential. He’d been reading about this place on Yelp that was getting great reviews, called Pubbelly, and I was a little hesitant, but then he mentioned pork belly, and said “On me” and, for future reference, that’s about all it takes to convince me.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I will mention it again: I do not know a whole lot about cooking, or how to cook. I do know a lot about eating, and the experience of eating, and what makes it great and what doesn’t. The guys who are running Pubbelly — it is owned and operated by three young entrepreneurs who have a wealth of experience in hospitality — know a lot about cooking, and they also know a lot intrinsically about the experience of eating. It’s obvious that they’ve thought about how to make the entire experience enjoyable — from the service, to the food, to the music (play Robbie Williams in a non-ironic way and I’ll love you forever), all the way down to the plates and the water. They’ve thought it all through from start to finish, and nailed it. That’s why we went on Thursday night … and then again on Friday night.

And I’ll admit it — the main reason:

Brussels sprouts.
Cooked in miso. With bacon.
(If you have never heard me talk about Brussels sprouts, I am surprised. I talk about them A LOT. I throw tantrums in Trader Joes when they are sold out. I worship at the altar of Mark Bittman’s ‘How to Cook Everything,’ page 270: Braised and Glazed Brussels sprouts. I make that at least once a week. I will remember Pubbelly’s version for the rest of my life. Not exaggerating; I had a total Gail Simmons “Pepperoni sauce” reaction to these Brussels sprouts.)

Now, over the course of two nights, we also ordered:

— The McBelly … porkbelly, kimchee BBQ, pickles, shaved onions. I didn’t get a chance to try this; Scott ate it all, it was apparently that good.

— Pork Belly … butterscotch, broccoli rabe, kabocha, corn powder. Better pork belly than Volt.

— Buffalo Sweetbreads … pickled celery, blue cheese, ao nor. Something wrong, but something so right.

— Stone Crabs … All Scott; I cannot eat animals out of their dead bodies. Pass.

— Manchego … which comes with the most amazing side of salty-but-sweet guava marmalade.

— Duck & Pumpkin Dumpling … orange, almonds, soy brown butter. This was the weakest dish for me, I think because my lack of dexterity with chopsticks made it difficult to get the right mixture of pumpkin and orange into each bite.

— And, obviously, Brussels sprouts. Twice, and almost three times, but they had run out late on Friday night.

Simply put: Amazing food.

Now, back to my reaction.

On Friday night, we had paid the bill. I’d had two glasses of wine. We’d made fast friends with one of the owners, an adorable pocket-sized, bearded version of Ben Affleck. Scott had run to use the restroom, and I was watching the owner interact with customers, and watching the staff interact with each other, and watching the customers chewing and smiling, and the whole place started to hum.

People were happy.
It was perfect.
The perfect place, the perfect moment, perfectly run by people doing what they were born to do. How could I not get choked up?

March = Volt
February = Kushi
January = Let’s not talk about it.

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