Though currently shrouded in Millennium Tower scaffolding, International Smoke was easily found by the guests who packed the place on a recent Sunday night. No visible signage? No problem. Diners had no trouble making their way to the Ayesha Curry/Michael Mina global food mecca. And though its celebrity proprietor was not in-house this current evening, one of her husband’s newest work associates was spotted, notably head and shoulders above the crowd, making his way to one of the restaurant’s burgundy velvet booths.
Rumor has it that this was the Golden State Warriors celebration spot post championship parade, a rumor emphasized by the looped television parade coverage playing this night above the backlit bar. Delicious food and crafted cocktails aside, you just never know who you might spy at this popular financial district restaurant, and that’s half the fun.
International Smoke’s offerings appeal to every palate, with enough choices – and enough star power – to encourage repeat visits.
But the other half is the real reason to make a reservation. International Smoke’s globe-spanning menu offers something for everyone. Curry’s craveable cuisine includes smoked and grilled dishes that reflect the diversity of her own heritage. While perhaps best known for its fall-off-the-bone ribs, International Smoke is so much more than a barbecue joint; it’s a culinary journey around the world featuring American, Asian, and Caribbean flavors. And the best way to embark on the journey is to partake in the chef’s family-style FUEGO tasting menu ($85/pp).
The experience begins with an item for which regulars specifically visit – Ayesha’s Freshly Baked Cornbread topped with Thai red curry butter. This confection-like starter is accompanied by a taste of creamy Thai Coconut Soup. Small plates follow: Truffle Caesar with sweet onion crema, parmesan, and garlic streusel, Crispy Imperial Beef Rolls, and a video-worthy presentation of Peking Smoked Pork Belly Bao Buns that gives credence to the International Smoke moniker. Served within a smoke-filled vitrine, the tender bao, stuffed with crispy pork rind, are infused and enhanced by the added smokey flavor.
Next, the American BBQ Ribs, for which the restaurant has become well-known. Splurge for the Signature Rib Trio supplement ($8) and sample the two other distinct flavors: Mexican Chipotle and Korean Gochujang. Signature Entrees follow: An as-delicious-as-it-is picturesque Wood-Fired Roasted Salmon with Korean chili glaze and long beans, ‘Sinaloan’ Style Mary’s Chicken with avocado and sweet potato, Fried Rice with scrambled eggs, peas, garlic butter and sesame, and an offered addition ($24) of tender Grilled Filet Mignon with creamed spinach.
Top all of this deliciousness off with a slice of Devil’s Food Dark Chocolate Cake with whipped Nutella, candied cocoa nibs, and golden hazelnuts. If you’ve selected the optional FUEGO beverage pairings, this sweet ending includes a Boozy Java Martini with vodka, Mina blend espresso, and Oreo bits. (Additional pairings include a Peryassol Cuvee des Commandeurs 2020 Rose, a Trumer Pils Brewery pilsner, and a Burgess 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon.)
FUEGO tasting menu or a la carte, International Smoke’s offerings appeal to every palate, with enough choices – and enough star power – to encourage repeat visits.
301 Mission (between Fremont and Beale), San Francisco
Photos courtesy of International Smoke