International Smoke is hoping to spice up the dining scene in North County San Diego, taking up the hot corner in Carmel Valley’s One Paseo.
The new eatery draws its inspiration from a variety of global influences on live fire cooking. More than just basic barbeque, Smoke specializes in diverse spices and international flavors in its woodfired steak, ribs, seafood and vegetables.
International Smoke is a culinary collaboration between world-renowned chef and restaurateur Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, the best-selling cookbook author, television host and executive producer of “Family Food Fight” on ABC.
Mina started cooking at a young age, learning in the kitchen of his Middle-Eastern household. By 15 he had his first job in a restaurant and went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Mina opened his first restaurant, Aqua, in 1991 in San Francisco, followed up with a second Aqua at the Las Vegas Bellagio—both became namesake Michael Mina restaurants.
In 2002, Mina partnered with tennis great Andre Agassi to form MINA Group, a San Francisco-based restaurant management company specializing in creating and operating upscale, innovative restaurant concepts. He now has 45 restaurants around the United States and one in Dubai, “It’s been a great run,” Mina said.
International Smoke is a fairly new concept for the group, born when Mina met Curry while they were both working with Williams Sonoma.
“We hit it off right away. I think we both have a lot of the same thoughts around food and hospitality, it’s been really fun working with her,” said Mina. “I’m older and have been around for awhile, she’s younger and has a lot of energy to put into it.”
Together the pair shaped the idea for International Smoke over the course of four years, hoping to re-create the feeling reminiscent of a backyard barbecue, experiencing a variety of different flavors and cultures with family and friends.
The first International Smoke launched in 2016 as a six-month pop-up experience in the Mina Test Kitchen in San Francisco –it has since grown to add locations in Miami, Houston and now Carmel Valley.
“San Diego is somewhere I had been looking at for a long time, I really like the area and the product is amazing,” Mina said of the access to the best local ingredients to infuse into the menu. He also knew the clientele would be here as he has entertained many San Diegans in his restaurants over the years. “We knew that this was a good fit for our clientele and for us.”
Since opening on July 19, Mina said the restaurant has been heating up.
“It’s been like gangbusters, we’ve been really busy, which is good,” Mina said. “I couldn’t be happier. I love the space, I love the people.”
At One Paseo, the culinary program is led by Chef Ryan Orlando, a San Diego native who most recently served as the chef de cuisine at Carlsbad’s Campfire.
The menu includes starters such as pork belly bacon bao buns and Ayesha’s Fresh Baked Cornbread, served with Thai red curry butter.
Elaborate and upscale dishes include Korean short ribs that are smoked for 14 hours and served with sticky rice and kimchi, whole-roasted cauliflower, cedar-smoked salmon and the wood roasted shellfish, a pick of Pacific oysters, Gulf shrimp, Alaskan King Crab, Maine lobster or a combination of the four.
The St. Louis cut pork ribs are highlighted on the menu: Smoke chefs collaborated with San Francisco’s Le Sanctuaire to create three distinct spice blends for the ribs and they come coated in the diner’s choice of international sauce including American barbecue, Vietnamese lemongrass and Korean sesame-gochujang.
The bar menu includes punch bowls and “Boozie and Boughie” cocktails, such as the Blowing Smoke which features CBD oil. Happy Hour will run Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. with $5 featured cocktails and food specials like the kampachi sashimi served with crispy onions, serrano chillis and yuzu ponzu.
International Smoke also recently kicked off its brunch menu with dishes like the savory five-spice chicken and waffles and the sweet lemon ricotta pancakes paired with bottomless rosé, bloody Mary’s, sangria and mimosas. Brunch will be served Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For reservations or more details, visit internationalsmoke.com