Pure and Demure

Food talks, good food shouts, and great food whispers

A couple of the appetizers seemed capable of disappointing even those who don't fit the meat-and-potatoPamela AndersonTucker Carlson mold. Smoked trout roe that crowned a pair of pink Key West shrimp was lip-smacking good, but the crustaceans were unexpectedly bland, and the roe's backup — hazelnut dust and a minute smear of avocado purée — contributed no discernible taste. And though a tiny square of tomato terrine melded well with tender slices of smoked chicken breast and a smudge of charred eggplant, it was the sort of food that excites the head more than the heart.

The rest of the cuisine had no such problems. A main course of softly poached spiny lobster came cradled around a single, plump, perfectly delectable nugget of creamy, pan-browned sweetbread, the plate pooled in velvety corn sauce. On the side was a roasted tomato — Japanese variety, grown in Ohio, fire-engine red, practically seedless, and as swelled with true tomato taste as any such fruit my wife and I have ever sampled outside Macedonia (which we have long touted, to great skepticism, as growing the best in the world). Another entrée — veal brisket — sated via soft slices of meat matched with maple-sweetened turnip greens and fresh cranberry beans cooked in Parmesan water (with some gratings of the organic cheese on top). This is amazing stuff, and as comforting as modern gastronomy gets.

As is the style these days, guests are privy to choosing among a set five-course dinner ($60), a chef's tasting menu ($95), or à la carte items. All options offer a cheese course, an ever-changing rotation of three artisan selections ($5 each or $15 for the trio). I especially enjoyed Ewe's Blue, a sheep's milk from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in upstate New York; and a firm Holly Springs goat's milk cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia, which came plated with strawberry-red slices of dinosaur egg plum from California. Brana, incidentally, has spent time working with top cheese makers in Sonoma Valley and holds a unique distinction among local chefs: Sweet Grass Dairy named a new batch of goat's milk blue cheese Brana's Blue.

JOE ROCCO

Location Info

Map

Norman's

21 Almeria Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33134

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Details

Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5:30 to 10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.
276 Alhambra Cir, Coral Gables; 305-444-4595

If this were a French restaurant, our dessert might be termed huckleberry fin, for we completed our meal with a dish of distinctively dense vanilla ice cream drizzled with syrup prepared from that alluringly astringent berry. A different ice cream, Jamaican mint, was so infused with pure spearmint flavor it tasted as if churned in an herb garden — prompting me to ask the waiter if it was made on the premises. He assured me everything is made on the premises. This includes the predinner breads — dark wheat, whole-grain, and rye — which come accompanied by sweet Vermont butter creamed with cow's milk cheese from the dairylands of Georgia.

Chef Brana makes quick stops around the room to see how guests are enjoying their meals. So do the manager and waiters — all staff members as amiable as they are professional. Service is exceptional. In fact the Branas seem intent on ensuring that every aspect of the dining experience is sublime, and they succeed to an admirable degree.

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