About two minutes into speaking with Julia Ning, it becomes abundantly clear that her passion in life is feeding people. The Massachusetts-born Ning is no stranger to the restaurant business -- her family emigrated from China in the 1920s and set up shop with an eatery in Harvard Square.
Ning is the chef behind 5 Station Table and Bar, slated to open on Sunset Drive in August. "It's definitely a chef-driven concept," said Ning, who has worked almost every major restaurant scene in the nation. Her resumé includes Michelin-rated restaurants in Chicago, D.C., and New York. In Miami, she was the chef de cuisine at Khong River House and sous-chef at Area 31 in the Epic Hotel.
Station 5 will be her first solo project. What can you expect when it opens next month? The feel-good atmosphere of a neighborhood restaurant and worldly cuisine at a reasonable price.
"I wanted to come to Miami because the food landscape is much more open-minded than that of New York or Chicago," Ning said. "Everything has already been done there. It's much harder to experiment in a place like that."
The Station 5 concept was inspired by the five women who imbued Ning with a warm sense of hospitality and love for cooking. Two of those women were Ning's grandmothers -- one French and one Chinese.
The restaurant will be an intimate space complete with a bar and high-top tables, as well as a chef's table in the back VIP area, which features a refurbished antique table and sofa.
"I want this to be a place where people can drop in and feel like it's a second living room, whether they want to come in for just a small bite or a huge meal," Ning said.
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Florida craft beers and popular national craft beers will be available on tap, in addition to the wine and cocktails that will be served at the bar. Snacks such as duck pâté and General Tso's tacos will also be available for munching at the bar .
The menu is based on American classics, with flavors inspired by Chinese and French influences, according to Ning. "Calling yourself an American restaurant means you can focus on what moves you, because so much of American food is actually foreign."