Sushi fans who scoff at cream cheese in their rolls should stop reading now. Pubbelly Sushi, the second outpost of the funky Pubbelly empire in South Beach’s Sunset Harbor neighborhood, is not for purists. I’m up for anything, from horse meatballs in Puglia to fried scorpions in Beijing, but if anyone had told me I’d be ordering — and enjoying — burrata cheese with raw fish, I’d surely have rolled my eyes. At Pubbelly Sushi, with its fusion of Mediterranean, Caribbean and Japanese elements, anything is possible. And surprise, surprise: Lots of its combinations jump onto the palate like fireworks, though some do land with a thud.
Diners can mull over the menu while nibbling plump Kalamata olives subtly Asianized with spices, fresh ginger and sesame oil. The brief daily menu can be confusing, but the black-clad staff seems genuinely informed and engaged. Chef Jose Mendin earned his chops at such notable spots as Nobu in Miami and London, El Chaflan in Spain and Mosaico Miami and as Sushi Samba’s executive chef, and sushi chef Yuki Ieto knows his way around the raw stuff. They bring in pristine seafare from Hawaii, China, Japan, Scotland, Spain and Malta, among other spots, and serve it simply sliced into sashimi or gently layered over rice, but their untraditional dishes are worth sampling, too. There are two kinds of rolls here, buttery potato buns that sandwich the likes of fried clams and cole slaw (quite delicious) and Japanese-style rolls with American twists.
Ambience: Much like the original Pubbelly a few doors east, the space is low-key and cool, with brick walls, concrete floors, oversized blackboard menus, flattering overhead lighting, butcher-block tables and hip soundtracks that make you want to hang out for hours. And a good-looking young crowd does.
- Burrata draped with a lozenge of beet-red tuna; a bracing bath of vinegar; tiny, crisp ringlets of shaved pearl onion; and tangy triangles of heirloom tomato
- BLT -a uniquely delicious, crispy, salty and creamy blend of fried soft-shell crab and fresh blue-crab tartar sauce
- Richly smoky pork belly with a crunchy fried-clam coating and funky, fiery kimchi
- Hearty and pristine hamachi from the robatta grill – fist-size hunks of tender white fish on the bone and tender branches of bracingly bitter broccoli rabe
- A lengthy list of international beers including La Fin du Monde, a high-alcohol Belgian-style golden ale served icy cold in a chilled pilsner glass
- Sake cocktails like spicy pineapple with jalapeño and a super-fresh berry and basil
- Crunchy, creamy banana rolls fried in a thin, phyllo-like dough with a weirdly wonderful topping of raspberry-basil gelatin, a smear of dulce de leche and a strangely watery chocolate sauce
What Didn’t Work
- Murky French onion miso soup
- Grisly short ribs
- Rock shrimp tempura drowning in blue cheese dressing
- A no-reservation policy and a jam of waiting customers on the sidewalk and in the crowded entry