Forget the clubs, PBStation is the downtown spot worth staying up for
Downtown Miami is getting serious about staying awake at night, it seems, and we’re not talking about Club Space.
The Langford Hotel, a 1925 boutique-hotel gem on Southwest First Street, has been lovingly restored, and its first floor is largely given over to PB Station, the latest salvo from the sharpshooters in the Pubbelly empire.
The boys — Jose Mendin, Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro — burst onto the scene in Miami Beach six years ago, bringing a new coolness to Brussels sprouts, dates and other shareable bar food. They’ve expanded to Pubbelly Sushi on the Beach and in the Dominican Republic, with another one to come in Brickell. They also partner with Sunset Harbour neighbor Barceloneta.
PB Station looks like a retro railroad depot, with big clocks, high ceilings, white subway tiles and prominent U.S. city names emblazoned on the walls as if they were upcoming stops. The 85-seat space bustles nightly, the cacophony of boisterous business chatter threatening to drown out your server. But it’s a fun place to eat, with a more sophisticated approach to food than the original Pubbelly. The sharing philosophy and sense of humor are still there, but you can follow up your bacon-wrapped dates or taquitos with a pricey steak or steamed fish.
Pubbelly mastermind Mendin developed the menu with executive chef Guillermo Concha, who cooked at the group’s now-shuttered PB Steak on the Beach. It starts with a section called Seafood Charcuterie, from which we selected Octopus Pepperoni (octopus has tentacles all over the menu). Alternating slices of fresh octopus and chorizo are lined up on the plate, and if you eat them together, you get a real Spanish-Portuguese pork-and-seafood experience, enlivened by smoked tomato and a drizzle of chili oil with crispy potato adding texture.
Next is the Raw Bar. It features oysters of the day with an apple mignonette, and also a Wagyu beef tartare slider. (We did say raw bar.) The little burger features hopelessly rich and tender beef, a sharp-flavored herb mustard with parsley, pleasantly aggressive green onion and cilantro, with a Parmesan truffle cream standing in for a burger’s typical melted cheese. Yellowtail ceviche taquitos are as bright and fresh as the slider is rich and dense, the tiny taco’s fish marinated to order in ginger, soy and miso, with jalapeno and shaved radish adding spice and crunch.
Mendin and Concha pay homage to several classics. Their Caesar salad is variations on a theme of celery: celery leaves, shaved raw celery and celery root in the salad; roasted celery root is a component of the dressing. It’s a big shareable serving, lots of freshness and flavor; the salty counterpoint of pickled anchovy left us wanting more.