According to their website, Pubbelly is an “Asian-inspired gastropub.” I’m usually not a huge fan of Asian fusion but after a meal here I can see why Jose Mendin is a James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef, South 2013.
The restaurant itself isn’t very big and has a casual pub feel to it. Most of the seating is communal with a few four-tops scattered throughout the space. They don’t take reservations so I wouldn’t recommend coming with a lot of people during peak hours.
Pubbelly has an extensive menu of Asian-inspired small dishes meant for sharing. Their menu is centred around pork so if you’re not a pork eater, you’ll be missing out!
I started off with one of their cocktails, the Pubberry – strawberries, calpico and sparkling rose ($9). A refreshing drink to start off the meal!
To begin, we had the Dates avec Chorizo – with goat cream and bacon ($9). It came with three bite-sized dates wrapped with succulent pieces of bacon. A little bit of sweetness and a little bit of saltiness. Make sure you get a good bit of the tomato sauce in each bite too! A classic dish prepared perfectly.
Up next was their signature McBelly – with kimchee, BBQ and pickles ($6 each). One bite and I could see why this is their signature dish. It was essentially a bao with a bun instead. Sweet, melt-in-your mouth pork belly sandwiched between a soft buttery bun with a little bit of kimchi and pickles for some crunch.
After the Mcbelly, the Shortrib Tartare – apples, quail egg, green mustard, tobanjan and pinenuts ($14) arrived. It was a pretty heavy and saucy tartare, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The meat had a nice amount of kick to it which was balanced out by the coolness of the apples. It was a solid tartare but I preferred the one at the Federal.
The tartare comes with two slices of goat butter toast which is worth mentioning. The toast tasted incredible on its own. If you don’t order the tartare, the toast can be ordered as a side for a few bucks.
The menu has several dumpling variations including duck & pumpkin and pastrami & sauerkraut. We decided to go with the classic Pork Belly & Scallion Dumplings – su-shoyu, schichimi and onion marmalade ($10)…as if we hadn’t ordered enough pork for the evening.
The skin was nice – not too thick or thin and the dumplings were well fried. I just wish they weren’t sitting in such a big pool of the slightly tangy sauce. Overall, the dumplings were fine but were easily the least memorable item of the evening. I’ve had better dumplings elsewhere at a fraction of the cost.
You know I like to order some greens with my meal and I’m sure it’s no surprise we ordered the Brussels Sprouts – bacon miso and sea salt ($7). I hated Brussels sprouts growing up as a kid but have really grown to love them in recent years. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they are always paired with bacon these days… Anyway, this dish didn’t disappoint!
Okay, back to the meat, the BBQ Pork Wings – smoked teriyaki, pickled grapes slaw and bacon ($15). Mike really loved the pig wing at The Federal but liked the ones at Pubbelly even more and I have to agree. The meat was tender and the sauce had a nice sweet smokiness to it. Oh and it didn’t hurt that they were topped with bacon!
The last dish we had was the Kimchee Fried Rice – with pork belly and pineapple ($18). You can upgrade the rice with the addition of seafood and aioli which will cost you $26. The rice was served in a hot stone bowl like a bibimbap with a poached egg on top which our server proceeded to mix into the rice.
This was another dish that wowed me. The rice was packed full of flavour and I loved the bits of pork belly sprinkled within it. The portion is pretty large so we had plenty of leftovers. It even tasted great the next day! My only complaint was that it lacked spice – it needed a bit more of a kick to it.
Overall, we had a great experience at Pubbelly. Great casual atmosphere, awesome servers and food that far exceeded my expectations!
At a glance:
• An “Asian-inspired gastropub”
• Tapas-style dishes meant for sharing; menu is pork-centred
• Must orders: McBelly, dates avec chorizo, kimchee fried rice
• Not a huge restaurant; doesn’t take reservations
• Closed on Mondays
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4.5 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars