Spotlight on: The Gang Miami
Fusion, as we all know, is a dirty word in the food world. Like a teal Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket, fusion was all the rage in the 90s. After that decade? Not so much. Those fusion restaurants of yesteryear prided themselves on coating a piece of ahi tuna in sesame seeds, throwing it over some lettuce, drizzling it with a cloying hoisin sauce, and charging $15-20 for it. Look – no one will deny that fusion earned its bad reputation, but it’s not always a bad thing.
Think the merger of different cuisines is misguided? Then you must be spacing on the Vietnamese bahn mi which takes various pig parts and pickled daikon radish and stuffs it into a crusty French baguette. Or, how about popular Thai curries such as kaeng kari kai (yellow curry) and Massaman curry? Those dishes borrow influences from India, Malaysia, and Persian territories. Wynwood restaurant The Gang mashes different Asian cuisines together in a non-traditional way, but one can argue that the merger of different culinary backgrounds is adhering to the Asian tradition.
The Gang’s cocktail menu borrows flavors from all over the world to form an eclectic lineup of drinks. The Jalisco is a tart and spicy blend of passion fruit, tequila, and chili peppers or jalapeños, depending on which is fresher at the local market. The passion fruit is puckeringly sour and the spice level can be mouthwatering, depending on how you request it. One might peg this to be a Thai-inspired drink, but the cocktail appears to be named after Mexico’s “Jalisco New Generation Cartel.” Fair enough. Wherever it comes from, it’s a delicious introduction to this Wynwood hot spot and it is one of three featured cocktails available to Hooch subscribers.
Also on the Hooch list is the Lychee Martini, which includes vodka, ginger, and the namesake Sapindaceae. The lychee base makes this a little sweeter than most martinis, but it’s not at all out of place. The Gang’s resident bartender, Janelquis, is also happy to make adjustments where requested.
Speaking of sweet, the Berry Mojito rounds out the Hooch featured drink list and it’s a strong choice. The mojito is one of Miami’s mother cocktails and this is one of the city’s most creative interpretations. The drink takes the requisite fresh mint leaves, lime, and sugar and muddles it with fresh berries. Like the Jalisco’s pepper selection, the berries you get will depend on what looks good in the market. On our most recent trip, the mojito was anchored by strawberries and raspberries.
Diners looking to continue their tour of Asia can start their meal with either the tom yum soup (rechristened here as “Hangover 2”) or “Vermise Chicken Soup,” a clear broth riff on classic Burmese dish Ohn no khao swè with homemade egg noodles, chicken, and mushrooms. Following the first course, if you’re feeling Indian, there’s palak paneer. If you’re craving Chinese, there’s the Hunan chicken. If it’s simple Americanized Japanese fare you’re after, there’s even teriyaki salmon. There are a myriad of options here, but, to The Gang’s credit, the menu is still manageable in size, which means the kitchen isn’t stretched too thin as they incorporate six or seven different cuisines.
You may run into a short wait here on a Friday or Saturday night, but that will allow you to grab a seat at the bar, which is built on top of six washing machines. When the hostess seats you, your party may end up at a table that is lined by plastic chairs on one side and a couch on the other. There’s nothing typical about the drinks, food, or decor here and that’s quite alright with us. In time, The Gang might help to give “fusion” the PR makeover it so badly needs.
About The Author: Zach Links is a freelance writer specializing in both food and sports His work has been featured by a number of outlets, including Eater, ESPN, and CBS Sports. Zach is the editor and lead writer of Pro Football Rumors and also serves as a senior writer for sister sites MLB Trade Rumors and Hoops Rumors. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.