Snuffed out

Celebrity-backed Houston barbecue restaurant flames out in CityCentre

Celebrity-backed Houston barbecue restaurant flames out in CityCentre

Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina
Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina partnered to create International Smoke.  Photo courtesy of International Smoke

A celebrity-backed restaurant in CityCentre has served its last rib trio. International Smoke, a restaurant that united celebrity chef Michael Mina and lifestyle guru Ayesha Curry, has closed.

Mina Group, the California-based hospitality empire that opened the restaurant in July 2018, provided the following statement in response to CultureMap's request for comment about the closure:

International Smoke Houston will be closing its doors, effective immediately.  We are grateful to all of our staff and guests for all of their support in the time that we’ve been open.  We look forward to welcoming our guests at one of our other International Smoke restaurant locations in in San Francisco, Del Mar (just north of San Diego, CA), and Aventura (just north of Miami, FL), as well as the newest addition in Las Vegas, slated to open before the end of the year.

International Smoke seemed to have a lot of potential when it opened last year. Its celebrity founders created a menu that offered a global perspective on live fire cooking: blending everything from Curry's cornbread with Thai red curry butter to pork belly bao buns and a Korean-style smoked beef short rib. Veteran chef E.J. Miller (Riel, SaltAir Seafood Kitchen) gave the restaurant local credibility. 

 

 

Despite the best efforts of Rockets fans to slam the establishment with one star reviews before it opened (Curry's husband, NBA all-star Steph Curry, plays for rivals the Golden State Warriors), the restaurant earned some local praise, including a CultureMap Tastemaker Award nomination for Best New Restaurant a spot on Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook's 2019 list of the city's top 100 restaurants.

Although it did manifest some signs of success, International Smoke doesn't appear to have connected with the broader dining public. Billed as a global barbecue restaurant, the establishment made the decision not to serve anything that resembled Texas barbecue. Chef Miller once referred to it as "the b word." For Texans, "barbecue" refers to such a specific style of cooking that its omission seems to have been to International Smoke's detriment. 

The space's future is unknown at this time, but it could get snapped up quickly. CityCentre management provided CultureMap with a statement that reads in part: "Opportunities around our central plaza – especially those with patio dining – are at a premium. We’re regularly fielding inquiries from restaurateurs who would love to have a home on the green, and you can expect to see a new concept that complements the current line-up of dining and beverage offerings there very soon."

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