Best Restaurant in South Beach - 2008
Ever since Norman Van Aken copped our award for Best Restaurant in Coral Gables for 10 years straight, there has been an aversion to repeating winners in the same category. It's so lazy. So boring. So predictable. But when an establishment is as singularly rewarding as Sardinia, there really isn't much choice in the matter. Few restaurants re-create the ambiance and cuisine of another country as authentically, and none has chosen a more gastronomically interesting nation. Peerless antipasti platters are assembled from each diner's choice of imported meats, cheeses, roasted vegetables, and other tasty tidbits such as Castelvetrano olives tossed with wild fennel flowers. The Sardinian wines are unique, the Italian wines extensive. Whole octopus, rib eye steaks, and suckling pigs get smokily roasted in a roaring wood-fired oven, branzino crusted in sea salt, lamb and rabbit braised into stew (entrées run $26 to $38). Pastas, almost all under $20, include distinctive cuts such as paccheri and malloreddus, and hearty garnishings such as wild boar sausage and rabbit ragout. Ambiance and service, too, are a notch above the rest, and the hours are easy to remember: noon to midnight seven days a week. Could Norman's record be in jeopardy?