The Shops at Merrick Park received a tasty addition with the opening of 320 Gastrolounge, a Latin-Asian fusion eatery with late-night live music programming.
The restaurant, tucked inside Coral Gables' outdoor shopping center, describes itself as "from Miami, for Miami," a concept this burgeoning culinary landscape has long needed, according to chef Juan Aguero, who prefers to go by chef John Joseph.
"We are redefining typical Miami cuisine, which has been considered solely 'Latin' but is really a lot more complex than that," he says.
"Miami is changing all around us. While we still have a large Latin community, we also have people here from all over the world, and it’s this diversity that inspires me to create dynamic and globally inspired dishes."
Helmed by Joseph, a Peruvian native and a veteran of the former eatery Piripi (where 320 Gastrolounge is now located), the restaurant blends flavorful plates and a lively atmosphere. It's more than just a place to grab a bite, Joseph explains.
"It’s about a total dining experience," he says. "We offer live music Friday and Saturday nights, giving local musicians the opportunity to connect with our community."
Joseph's menu is a translation of his Peruvian roots coupled with his American experiences, growing up in New York and living for the past seven years in Miami.
Menu items include savory plates such as skirt steak croquettes served with a creamy black-olive aioli ($10); vaca frita buns ($13), three sticky buns, stuffed with shredded beef, sriracha, pickled cucumbers, and charred scallions; and a rice bowl ($31) packed with grilled prawns, mussels, cilantro sauce, dark beer, and rocoto pepper.
"Many of our items are unique to 320," he says. "We offer dishes that meld Miami favorites with current culinary trends, which expand the culture and create a new taste experience."
Joseph's favorites, he says, are a tie between the Pulpo 320 ($16) — a Spanish octopus dish — and the ramen fricassee ($15).
"Seafood is tricky to pull off, but nothing is as difficult to get right as octopus. The meat can be slimy and toughens up if it’s not prepared right," he says.
"The ramen fricassee is made from a homemade chicken stock and miso base that’s reduced for five hours," he adds. "Then it's rendered with garlic and ginger, lending the dish a singular taste melding Asian and Latin influences. And honestly, who doesn’t love ramen?"
The restaurant also boasts a full-service bar and cocktail program, led by Thomas Merolla. Many of the eatery's libations feature a farm-fresh quirk, such as the Merrick’s Way, which blends shiso-infused kappa pisco with watermelon, a touch of yuzu, egg whites, and house bitters.
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There's happy hour too, Monday through Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., when select items are $7 each.
The restaurant will celebrate its grand opening tomorrow, September 16, with a photo booth, live music by Tony Succar, and giveways. In addition, guests can enjoy six signature food items and six cocktails for $7 each until 8 p.m.
320 Gastrolounge is open Monday and Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Wednesday through Saturday from 11: 30 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.