BEST RESTAURANT IN CORAL GABLES - 2004
Norman's - CLOSED
Readers' Choice: Norman's and Houston's
Norman Van Aken's eponymous restaurant has topped this category for so many years you almost wish he'd screw up just once and give someone else a shot at the gold. This past year it actually seemed possible, what with Van Aken expanding to Orlando and California, as well as opening Mundo closer to home at the Village of Merrick Park. That's spreading yourself pretty thin. At the same time, some exceptional new restaurants opened in the Gables. But Norman's still rules. Van Aken (who apparently needs no sleep) remained firmly in control of his flagship kitchen, retaining favorite old dishes while introducing several astonishing new creations. Long-time customers would become homicidal if his classic citrus/saffron-spiked creamy conch chowder disappeared from the menu. But a new, nut-rich Brazilian seafood xinxin (heaven for lobster lovers) is equally divine. Among new entrées is an irresistible, multicultural escolar a la Veracruziana, with oyster mushrooms, Creole mustard gnocchi, and a sabayon sauce flavored with Mexico's exotic huitlacoche. Maybe next year we'll introduce our own new creation: Best Restaurant in Coral Gables Other Than Norman's.