Accomplished lifestyle expert, soup disruptor, and grilled meat aficionado Ayesha Curry is reportedly expanding her burgeoning food empire with a full-service, brick-and-mortar version of her global barbecue concept International Smoke. According to an email obtained by the San Francisco Business Times, Michael Mina will shutter his eight-year-old, Burgundy-inspired SoMa spot RN74 later this year to make room for Curry’s celebration of grilled and smoked meats.
International Smoke originally launched as a pop-up collaboration with Mina’s Test Kitchen in the Marina last year, offering a $45 four-course, family-style meal showcasing basically any kind of barbecue imaginable, from St. Louis-style ribs and Korean BBQ to char siu, pastrami and Merguez sausages. The pop-up attracted a celebrity clientele and inspired a one-off event at the Michael Mina Tailgate in Santa Clara. The concept will also find its way into Mina’s forthcoming food halls called The Street, opening this spring in Honolulu and next year in Los Angeles.
RN74, meanwhile, debuted in 2009 as a way to showcase former Mina Group sommelier Rajat Parr’s extensive knowledge of Burgundy wines. Although Parr has since left the group to focus on his own winemaking endeavors, the 75-seat restaurant famously opened with an 81-page wine list. (It’s now down to a more manageable 60 pages.) The restaurant was a critical darling under opening chef Jason Berthold (Monsieur Benjamin), but lost its way a bit before Mina imported Chef Adam Sobel from his Washington D.C. Bourbon Steak in 2013. Under Sobel, the restaurant soared back to three and a half Bauer stars before Sobel left to head up Mina’s Test Kitchen. More recently, however, the Weekly’s Pete Kane criticized the restaurant’s exorbitant prices and menu items like a $100 caviar donut that appeared under chef Michael Lee Rafidi. There’s also a sister restaurant in Seattle that shares the name and concept, but it’s currently unclear whether the Pacific Northwest will also be getting a taste of International Smoke.
It would be impossible to ignore the 58-story elephant in the room: RN74 currently occupies some awkward real estate inside the sinking Millennium Tower at Mission and Fremont Streets, which has been the subject of local controversy ever since the high rise was discovered to be sinking into landfill and leaning two inches to the northwest last year.
With a more casual concept and the Curry family’s star power, Mina is hoping to “reinvigorate the building with new energy and excitement,” the chef wrote in the email, which was sent to Millennium homeowners. "Ayesha and I have worked on this project for quite some time and are excited to share a lighter side of barbecue, featuring global flavors and cooking techniques with signature Mina Group hospitality that you've come to know.” The Mina Group declined to comment or confirm; stay tuned for more.