Earlier this month Pubbelly Sushi turned one year old in South Beach's Sunset Harbor neighborhood. The second child of what is now a family of four (the others are Pubbelly, Barceloneta, and Macchialina, with one or two in the oven), Pubbelly Sushi has brought a new sushi concept to Miami and has been welcomed warmly. Eater Miami sat down with Pubbelly founding partners Andreas Schreiner and Jose Mendín (third founding partner Sergio Navarro couldn't make it) along with sushi chef Yuki Ieto to see how their first year has been, and what might be on the horizon for this team that is dominating the South Beach culinary scene right now.
What inspiration brought about Pubbelly Sushi?
Jose: I met Yuki in Vegas when I went over to cook for Sushi Samba. We've both worked in sushi for a while, both of us at Nobu and Sushi Samba. Yuki wanted to come to Miami, and it worked perfectly.
Yuki: Yeah, it just happened. We just really wanted a place where people feel comfortable to hang out, with a pub feel. Not the typical sushi bar where California rolls sell the most. I probably sell one California roll a week. Our version is the New England Style Rolls, but they're in a sandwich. It's different and a lot more fun. No one wants to keep eating California rolls- got to think outside the box.
J: We wanted to do a fun, neighborhood sushi restaurant. Affordable and different. My friend Ernie [Vales] is a graffiti artist and did all our artwork; he has a gallery in Wynwood, EVLWorld.
How did the opening go?
Y: It was pretty busy. Pubbelly has a good following, so when we opened, it just kinda blew up.
J: It was probably the easiest restaurant opening I've ever done. We know what people like and have been doing this a while. We know what works for the palette here. Bringing in fresh fish is key, and that was very important to us.
What were the challenges when you wanted to open Pubbelly Sushi?
Y: Me getting here. I had a lot of offers to open places in London and other places. But this was an offer to start something from scratch. Fresh and fun. That's what got my attention. I flew down to check it out, they had me signing leases, and it was ready to go.
J: Since the time we had talks about it, the opening was three months later.
A year later, what has changed at the restaurant?
J: The menu has pretty much stayed the same. It works, so we don't want to mess with it. It's a little lighter than the Pubbelly menu but works really well for Miami.
Y: We have regular customers that are addicted to some items.
J: When people find out I'm one of the chefs here, they go crazy, saying "Oh I love that yellowtail roll!" Also, Pharrell comes here like 3 times a week. Fat Joe and the Terror Squad...
Y: And that guy from Burn Notice.
What are the challenges with balancing the four restaurants?
J: Work wise, it's simple because each restaurant has their own managing team with their partners. We aren't doing everything. We basically believe in them, invested in them, developed the concepts, but at the end of the day, they're the ones managing the restaurant. One of the biggest challenges for a chef is how to open their own restaurant. So between the three of us, we have it covered. Sergio is our chef designer, I do the food concepts, and Andreas manages front of house. Here, Yuki does the sushi bar. I'm always at Pubbelly or here helping with new robata items.
What is your focus at the restaurant right now?
Y: Opening up another one (laughs).
J: Opening a lot of them! I believe this concept will work anywhere. Because every town in the U.S. can have a neighborhood sushi bar. It's easy and different. People don't see it as that complicated. The menu is straight-forward.
When can we expect Barceloneta's South Miami location to open?
Andreas: I think they want to open mid-to-late December.
What's been your biggest success at the restaurant this past year?
J: Our clientele is about 80 percent locals, so winning them over like that is a big success for me. Having locals that come three to four times a week.
Y: Good answer (laughs). It's nice to have the option to bounce around between the brands for the customers, keeping it different.
A: Agreed. The amazing amount of repeat customers that we get on a daily basis. The neighborhood has always took us in, but since [Pubbelly] Sushi, the explosion has been huge. With Flywheel and Green Monkey nearby, Pubbelly Sushi provided a lighter option. We have people that come every day and pick stuff up or eat sushi at the bar. And now with our power lunch, it's great if you're in the neighborhood. No bigger kudos a restaurant owner can get than people coming back.
When you're not at Pubbelly restaurants, where are you eating out?
J: My favorite restaurant in Miami is db Bistro Moderne. I also like The Standard for relaxing and hanging out on my day off. My son loves Harry's Pizzeria.
A: One of my favorites as well is db [Bistro Moderne]. I like to have lunch at Mandolin.
Y: I like to go for Korean barbecue at Gabose all the way up north in like Ft. Lauderdale.I'm pretty picky about food. My wife is the head sommelier at Zuma, so we eat there sometimes too. That was my biggest issue about Miami when I moved here- finding good food.
Other than Barceloneta's second location in South Miami, any other plans for the future?
A: Let's just say the Pubbelly boys are expanding their region in Sunset Harbor with a new concept geared towards locals and probably will be one of the most anticipated restaurants of the year. We're aiming to open mid-January 2013. Something big and meaty is cooking...