Ayesha Curry is on the fast-track to food empress.
On November 13, Curry, who’s married to the Golden State Warrior’s Steph Curry, opened a barbecue joint called International Smoke in San Francisco. Launched in partnership with Chef Michael Mina, the restaurant is the crown jewel of Curry’s brand, which includes a cookbook, a meal-kit delivery service, and a cooking show on the Food Network.
Reservations are booked through February, though the restaurant will stay open late for Warriors players. (Steph and the team came by for a bite after a game on opening night.)
International Smoke, which calls itself a globally-inspired grill, made headlines ahead of the debut for its choice of location. The grill resides in the ground level of the Millennium Tower, a 58-story skyscraper that is sinking and leaning with no fix in sight. Fortunately for Curry, the building has been deemed safe to occupy and is not considered at risk of falling.
We had the chance to dine at International Smoke. Here’s what it was like.
The restaurant celebrates different approaches to open-flame cooking, grilling, and smoking a variety of meats. The menu features dishes from around the world.
Curry, who is part Chinese, Jamaican, African American, and Polish, said when she took a close look at her heritage, she realised every culture has its own form of barbecue.
'It revolves around the fire, grilling, and bringing families together,' Curry said.
Curry and Mina met after she dined at one of his restaurants. They quickly bonded over their love of cooking. They were also, for a time, neighbours at the Millennium Tower.
Home to more than 400 multimillion-dollar condos, the tower has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches since it was completed in 2008. A city inspection found it is safe to occupy.
Steph and Ayesha Curry only lived at the Millennium Tower for a short time before moving back to Oakland. 'We're not city people,' Steph told blog Sports on Earth in 2013.
'Besides, on the weekends, everything around here is closed anyway. You can't get a bite to eat in this part of town,' he added.
Mina said he's not worried about the fate of the Millennium Tower, which is still sinking. 'I live here, and I'm tired of hearing about it,' Mina told Business Insider. 'Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. It's time to move on and make something great here.'
Curry personally picked out the space -- a former restaurant helmed by Mina -- for their new collaboration. The pair revamped it with urban industrial finishes and mood lighting.
Reservations for the main dining area are booked through February, but the bar area is always available for walk-ins.
The far end of the restaurant is actually a public space -- a required amenity of buildings of this size in the neighbourhood. We saw diners eating in this less crowded area as well.
One of the first dishes I tried was the duck wings made with jerk spice, 'green seasoning,' and a sticky mango purée. The meat fell off the bone, and I licked my fingers clean.
The burrata came on a bed of brussels sprouts, shaved apple, squash, and pecans. The dish arrived in a glass dome pumped full of smoke, which gave the cheese a smouldering flavour.
A trio of smoked pork ribs emerged as an early contender for my favourite dish. The dish offered three distinct flavours: American barbecue, Cuban 'mojo,' and Japanese miso.
The theatrics continued into the wagyu beef course. A server set down a blazing hot skillet and cooked the small cuts of beef in front of us. We made tacos from lettuce wraps.
Another front-runner was the Argentine rib eye steak, drizzled with chimichurri sauce and served with squash. The beef was tender and brightly flavored with cilantro and parsley.
Just when I thought I had eaten enough meat, the Vietnamese barbecue pork chop, with its seductive grill marks, landed in front of me. Delicious juice escaped in every bite.
Guests who save room for dessert should try the mango shave ice, which was especially fun to eat with its combination of mochi, tapioca pearls, and mango slices.
In a memo provided by the public relations crew at International Smoke, I was asked not to call International Smoke a 'barbecue' restaurant. I thought the request was ridiculous.
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