On a recent trip to Miami, I read that Chef Norman Van Aken - described by Charlie Trotter as "...the Walt Whitman of American cuisine" - is not only known for celebrating Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and America flavors, he is the only Floridian to have been inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Beverage and Food in America. And he had a restaurant that was somewhat on my way to the airport - so I had to make a pit stop before returning to LA.
TUYO: FINE FUSION ATOP MIAMI CULINARY INSTITUTE
After two lovely amuse bouches of house cured ham with pickled radish toast, and smoked flounder croqueta, I was excited to try the Brazilian Creamy Cracked Conch Chowder with Saffron, Coconut, Orange and Star Anise ($14)- such an original and delicious combination of ingredients, that to me seemed to combine Latin, Spanish and Southeast Asian influences! The presentation was beautiful as well, with bright, sunny colors befitting the state, laying in wait for the saffron coconut chowder to be poured over it at the table. I've never tasted anything like it before and fell in love with it right away.
Hope to be able to come back next time I have occasion to be in Miami so I can check out the rest of the menu!
NORMAN'S: FINE DINING FIND IN ORLANDO
Bartender Tim was so good to me - hearing my exasperation with the foie ban back home, he plus-ed up my foie experience at Norman's with a complimentary glass of Sauternes!!!!
All in all, both locations were stellar in terms of innovative food and outstanding service. Would definitely recommend either restaurant to those visiting Miami/Orlando - and I will definitely like to go back next time I'm in town!
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Rooftop of Miami Culinary Institute
Miami Dade College
415 N.E. Second Ave., Downtown Miami, FL 33132
Norman's at the Ritz Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, Fl 32837