Each year, Miami is gifted with an improved highway system, another two thousand-floor condominium and sometimes even a statue of a Pegasus killing a dragon. Building these things seem to take a really long time in this city. Sometimes it takes so long that businesses in the line of fire are forced to shut down due to lack of foot-traffic (RIP Umami Burger.)
So when I heard that Drunken Dragon had opened up smack-dab in the middle of construction hell on Alton Road and 14th, I knew I had to check it out now before it was too late. After walking down several blocks full of gravel and rubble, I arrived at a desolate strip mall with a tiny Subway restaurant and not much else.
It’s pretty unusual to come across a restaurant in Miami with the balls to be this discreet.
From the hostess table, you can hear the sizzling of meats in the back and the violent clinking of ice in a shaker by the bar. People seated near the front all turn around in unison to see the latest blonde bombshell walk inside. You’re instantly taken aback by the surprise Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe effect. From muggy weather and tetanus-filled construction straight into a Heineken commercial.
Drunken Dragon seems to be on the first wave of the rising Korean BBQ trend in Miami, with the only other way of getting your BBQ on requiring a nostalgic drive to the desolate Mall of the Americas.
Their 50+ item menu includes the Bahn Mi Cuban Presse, Twice Fried Fried Chicken, Tuna Tataki Pizza and Kimchi Carbonara which all bring back a sense of familiarity, like a fat, distant daydream in a moment of inebriated hunger.
The drink menu is another adventure. Suntory’s purchase of Maker’s Mark means more Suntory for everyone! The bar is stocked with a nice selection, including the Yamazaki 18 Year. Add to that a fun collection of cocktails, like their Singapore Sling, and you’ve got a solid South Beach bar to hang at.
The food at Drunken Dragon is out-of-control good. With some hesitation in “wasting time” with edamame, we opted not to order their salt and black pepper version of it. Either the server didn’t hear me, or he knew he had to intervene, because a big steaming bowl of edamame appeared at our table anyway. And it was the best I’ve ever had.
The lobster rolls came next in the form of four small crisp brioche breads topped with lobster, sriracha aioli and roe. The brioche nearly melted in my mouth, which instantly trigged my eyes to seal shut. I reached the pinnacle of food consumption, this blog’s namesake, that earth-shattering feeling where all time stops while you chew your food in slow motion.
After a short refractory period, we continued on with the stone pot rice. Oxtail, mixed veggies, egg, kimchi and kochujan are all cooked in a big stone pot at your table, making about four bowls worth of rice you simply cannot stop eating. I mean, add oxtail to anything, and it’ll keep me going forever.
Although we didn’t sit at the do-it-yourself barbecue tables, we ordered the octopus and short rib from the BBQ menu anyway. Their octopus tastes like pork fat and that’s amazing.
Each dish we’d had were such wins, that it took some effort to hold back from ordering more. Instead, we jumped the ledge into dessert. And something we never do is order dessert, much less two desserts.
Dessert #1: Tokyo Soft-Serve Ice Cream: Mochi, black tea syrup, sesame brittles and Pocky.
Dessert #2: Lou’s Mess: Meringue, berries stew and green tea stuffed into a jar.
It’s no question why Drunken Dragon is such a hit despite its difficult location (for now) and discreet exterior. It all starts to make sense when you find out that it’s owned by some of the same folks over at Foxhole, another hole in the wall with a surprise interior that sits right behind Drunken Dragon. These guys happen to be really good at getting into nasty little crevices of our city to create some serious magic inside their walls, construction be damned.
The very next day, I wrangled six drunken friends after the Germany-Argentina World Cup game and convinced them to trek the endless gravel into the magical wardrobe. I watched their eyes light up in surprise when they walked in. I watched them close their eyes when they ate the lobster rolls. And we basically ordered the entire menu. Life is good in the Drunken Dragon.
1424 Alton Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33139