Culture. Style. Taste.

 

Culture. Style. Taste.

Chef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry Are Fire | International Smoke Restaurant Opens

March 1, 2019

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Chef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry at International Smoke Photo Courtesy of World Red Eye

Never underestimate the power of tailgating. Barbecuing favorite foods together makes people so happy it just might result in them partnering to open restaurants in a few select locations in the country.

At least, that’s how it turned out for award-winning chef Michael Mina (Bourbon Steak, STRIPSTEAK) and lifestyle expert and cookbook author Ayesha Curry. The two met while Curry was conducting business with Williams Sonoma at a Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco. “One thing that I do when I meet somebody of his caliber is that I make sure to ask questions and try and take something away from the moment,” Curry, who was interested then in opening her own restaurant, says. “Come to find out a lot of the reasons we love food were very similar, and all related back to family. So there was an instant connection.”

Curry also asked Mina if she could cook with him at his famous Super Bowl tailgate should her (and her husband Steph Curry’s) favorite NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, make it that far. “I kind of [gave] him an ultimatum… And he was like, ‘Sure,’ probably thinking that they weren’t going to go. [But] they ended up going; we cooked together; and we haven’t stopped cooking since.”

The origin story behind their new restaurant, International Smoke, which recently debuted its third location at Aventura Mall, informs its “global grilling” concept. The restaurant is built on the idea that many cultures around the world use fire, a direct method of cooking, and smoke, an indirect one, to create their dishes, albeit with different ingredients, materials, and cooking vessels. The partners draw on their own heritages – Mina is Egyptian while Curry is what she calls “a mishmash” of Polish, Jamaican, and African ­­– as well as insights from their travels and the backgrounds of those who work with them.

Photo Courtesy of World Red Eye

Photo Courtesy of World Red Eye

“Every day in every restaurant there’s family meal twice a day.” Mina explains. “And family meal, [everyone from] the prep guys to the cooks will make it… And a lot of times it’s grilling because they’re cooking for a lot of people.” In some cases, a family meal has inspired an actual menu item that “begins in simple format,” Mina explains, and then is refined and developed in Mina’s San Francisco test kitchen. Most memorably, this occurred with a Pakistani employee’s great-grandmother’s fish recipe.

That test kitchen is also where International Smoke first premiered as a pop-up in 2017. Mina says it’s the third concept to have debuted there, and it’s been followed by six or seven others since. But in terms of popularity, he notes that it “crushed everything,” immediately selling out two months in advance via a ticketing system. At that time, the pair knew they had a hit on their hands, and started preparing for several brick-and-mortar locations that could play across the country. And while the Houston site wound up opening next because of logistics, the Magic City was where they first planned to expand.

“We definitely knew we wanted to come to Miami because of the diversity, and this concept is all about diversity,” Mina says. The partners chose Aventura Mall for several reasons. Mina loved the location at the front of the new outdoor wing next to the landmark Aventura Slide Tower, which Curry has already promised to ride. They were able to build out the kitchen with a giant Josper oven and a smoker with rotating racks that Mina says “is the bomb.” The entire restaurant, in fact, is designed to their specifications.

Mina’s loyal Bourbon Steak customers and Curry’s fans are already flooding the bar stools and indoor-outdoor tabletops, enjoying everything from Curry’s addictive cornbread with Thai red curry butter to charcoal grilled shellfish platters with miso butter to the St. Louis cut smoked pork ribs, done with three different dry rubs (American barbecue, al pastor, and sesame-gochujang). For those looking for more Asian flare, Curry recommends the tom kha soup with blue crab and the smoked Korean short ribs, which she says are so tender because the bones are left in. And if you still have room, Mina proclaims that “you can’t go wrong” with the key lime pie.

Indeed, no matter what you choose, with two such talented and invested partners at the helm, it would be hard to take a misstep at International Smoke. Click here to make reservations or call (786) 254-0422.

Photo Courtesy of World Red Eye

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