Chefs Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry have opened International Smoke locations in Houston, Florida, San Francisco, and now in Del Mar, where the menu has some distinctly local touches.

“One thing we were most excited about when coming to San Diego is the opportunity to play with the amazing produce and products sourced from this Southern California region,” explained Chef Mina. “We find it extremely important to work with our Executive Chef to utilize the great products in the area for each location–for San Diego, that’s Specialty Produce, Chino Farms, Catalina Offshore Seafood, Flannery Meats, and more.”

Drawing on the recurring concept of live fire cooking, which can be found across countless cultures and cuisines, the restaurant showcases woodfired dishes and smoke-infused cocktails. The flavors are bold and comfort food dominates the menu, which is overseen by Executive Chef Ryan Orlando.

For the full International Smoke experience, the twelve-dish Fuego tasting menu is well worth committing to. It’s an incredible value at $68 per person (it must be ordered by the entire table). The tasting experience starts with four appetizers, including Ayesha’s fresh baked cornbread with Thai red curry butter, already a cult favorite.

Most memorable from my visit was the moist and flavorful falafel (Chef Mina’s mother’s recipe), served atop creamy hummus.

Photo: Courtesy of Author
Photo: Courtesy of Author

A light and fresh kampachi sashimi is topped with crispy onions and jalapenos and served with a yuzu ponzu, while shaking beef is prepared tableside; the steak sizzling to medium rare in a cast iron pot. Use the meat to build-your-own lettuce wraps with gem lettuce, pickled daikon and carrots, and the black peppernuoc cham sauce.

Next up are four entrees and two sides (oh yes, in this tasting menu you get to taste it all).

The Morro Bay Black Cod is buttery and delicious, cooked in a wood-fired josper oven and served with garlic fried rice, scallions, bok choy, and a Chinese black bean sauce.

An ethically raised Mary’s Chicken is grilled Sinaloan style, keeping in the moisture while offering a crisp skin, served with achiote, chillies, sweet potatoes, and Stehly Farms avocado.

The Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs offer a classic comfort food dish with a choice of American Barbecue, Vietnamese Lemongrass, or Korean Sesame-Gochujang sauce.

The most decadent of them all is the King Crab Fried Rice, served with sweet peas, trumpet mushrooms, and a Schaner Family Farms scrambled egg. Sake and mirin adds sweetness while a whole lot of butter gives richness.

Accompanying the entrees are two sides: Wood-fired Broccolini and Jalapeno Creamed Corn that fulfill the vegetable requirement without taking attention away from the entrees.

For dessert, local bakery Sugar and Scribe makes a zesty Key Lime Pie with a gingersnap graham crust, while a soft serve machine in the back churns out spun-to-order soft serve vanilla topped with salted caramel and valrhona chocolate sauce.

For those who prefer to order a la carte, I recommend starting with the flavorful crab and thai coconut soup topped with sweet peas, tofu, and peanuts, which can be ordered with cornbread on the side.

The shellfish platter is great for sharing, and features raw and cooked oysters, shrimp, lobster, and artfully prepared crab that requires no work to get at the meat.

As a main course, the best vegetarian option is a Stehly Farms avocado served with marinated jicama, garlic crumble and Calabrian chili hot sauce, while the more carnivorous can choose from four different steak options as well as a smoked Korean bone-in short rib.  

International Smoke

3387 Del Mar Heights Road, Del Mar

About the Contributor
Michelle Stansbury
Michelle Stansbury is a food enthusiast and the founder of Eat, Drink, Be SD, sharing the best restaurants, bars, and happenings in San Diego. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.