It has been, and will continue to be, a busy year for Ayesha Curry and her brand. She has been appearing on various Food Network shows, and has planned releases for a cookbook in September and a cooking show in the fall. All while collaborating with chef Michael Mina on International Smoke, a pop-up restaurant at The Mina Test Kitchen in San Francisco, which is what I believe is a step toward Ayesha opening her own restaurant later down the road.
After weeks of battling to get a reservation, I was thrilled when it finally happened. When I say battle, I mean battled. At International Smoke, there's no walk-ins or waiting in line. Rather, you make an online reservation and pre-pay for your meal. Every single slot was booked when I first checked a couple of weeks after the announcement. The rest of us hopefuls had to be the quickest one to check out as soon as you get notified about any open spots from cancellations. For tips on how to secure your reservation to one of the hottest dining spots in the city right now, keep reading!
For the Standard meal (more on that later), it costs approximately $100 for two people, not including any supplemental options and/or drinks. For this price, I was pleased with the quality and amount of food. Although I went in fairly hungry, I was already starting to get full during the second course and came home with leftovers. And of course, it's worth checking out given that it's the first time the public really gets a chance to try Ayesha's food.
As a bonus, you may see Ayesha at The Mina Test Kitchen if the stars align, as she's there when her schedule allows. Sadly, it just wasn't my night, but that's OK.
Now onto the food!
SNACKS FOR ALL: To start, we get a Jar of Pickles -- chef's selection of garden vegetables and soy pickles. Soon after, we get the Spicy Corn Nuts with ancho chili and lime, aka corn nuts like I've never had before. Yum!
COURSE ONE: The Thai-Style Barbecue Shrimp Chili, which had a young coconut red curry base topped with toasted peanuts, smelled delicious when it came to the table next to us. When it was our turn, oh my! It somewhat reminded me of Tom Kha soup, but thicker, less sour, and had more in it (it is a chili, after all). This was one of my favorites of the night. This course also came with jalapeño corn bread on the side.
COURSE TWO: Up next was the International Pork Ribs with the flavors of Al Pastor paired with jicama-green apple slaw, St. Louis paired with chili-spiced watermelon, and Korean paired with cucumber kimchi. My favorite out of the three was sweet taste of St. Louis. When the ribs came to the other table next to us, who arrived later than we did, they had pineapple salsa smeared on top of the Al Pastor ribs. Unfortunately, this was missed in our dish -- would've loved to try with the salsa!
COURSE THREE: Binchö-Tan Grilled Lobster for Two on Singapore street noodles with black pepper glaze was supplemental, and costs $17.00 per person. We opted out of this, and partly glad we did because there was no way would've finished it given that we were already getting full with the ribs. On the other hand, we had some post-regret when the table next to us ordered it and realized we could've definitely save the rest as leftovers.
COURSE FOUR: When you make a reservation, you have the option of choosing the Standard meal or the Deluxe Meal. With the Standard, we were able to choose three out the four meats for the Royal Barbecue Platter. We chose Pollo a la Brasa, Slow-Cooked Char Siu Pork Shoulder and Sobel Bros. Pastrami, and skipped the Spicy Merguez Sausage. Our favorite here was the Pollo a la Brasa.
This course also came with Moroccan Street Corn, which had chermoula and halloumi. I love corn, so this was right up my alley!
As another supplemental option for $8.00 per order, we had the Tokyo Hash Browns with soy caramel, spicy kewpie, scallions, and toasted nori.
COURSE FIVE: While we waited for dessert to arrive, we had shots of Cherry-Lime Slush as a refresher -- very refreshing and good.
And finally, the dessert was Pudding Cake & Ice Cream, which had lemongrass-vanilla cupcake, tenbrink peaches, buttermilk pudding, berries -- the perfect ending to this meal.
Was it worth it? Yes. Should you try to get a reservation while you still can? Yes!
For the best chances of getting a reservation, here are my tips:
- Download Resy, the app/service the restaurant uses for reservations.
- Pre-fill your credit card number in your Resy profile.
- Set up to get notifications for all dinner slots between Wednesdays and Saturdays (there is no International Smoke service on Sundays) and turn on your notifications.
- Act FAST as soon as you get the notification. As you're pondering about whether that specific date or time works for you, there is a 99.9% chance that someone already booked it. There has been numerous times where I swiped as soon as I saw it, and POOF! It was already gone. I've also seen it where I'm looking to check out and the app tells me there's 20+ people viewing the reservation at the same time.
- Get the reservation while you can, and if there's a better time slot that opens up later, you can always get a full refund as long as you cancel before 24 hours to your reservation. I was fortunate enough to go from a 10:00pm time slot, which is the latest I believe, to a 7:45pm slot, a much more desirable time to eat dinner. ;) Of course, confirm your new reservation before canceling your old one.
International Smoke is happening throughout the rest of the month, with a few dates in August. Good luck!