As Lee Klein reported earlier today, chef Norman Van Aken's new restaurant, Norman's 180, will open in Coral Gables tonight. It's a homecoming of sorts for Van Aken, whose return to the neighborhood has been highly anticipated. And he's very happy to be back.
Short Order got a peek of the restaurant and sampled some of its food last night at a media preview. The space is large but welcoming and warm, with a large bar and a large open kitchen. Behind the bar, a column with quotes from the chef and the likes of Frida Kahlo, Martin Luther King Jr., and Oscar Hijuelos kept us entertained for a good while.
The food we sampled was good, and it was good to see the farmers who are supplying the restaurant with some of its ingredients present at the event. We couldn't quite sample everything, but there were pizzas, cheeses, charcuterie, mini Cuban sandwiches, Vietnamese bánh mì, a paella buffet, fried chicken, and roast pork loin with Redland chutney. We particularly liked the arepa with black bean mash, corn salsa, and crema; the duck meatballs; and the guava and cream cheese bread pudding, which the bartender described as a pastelito in bread-pudding form. We say it was better than a pastelito.
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Here are some pictures.