SAWA at The Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables is a restaurant, lounge, and hookah bar in a vast, open-air shopping and entertainment complex off LeJeune and US1. The mall is an impressive testament to what a whole lot of hard hats and money can do. Never been? Drive through the middle like it's Lion Country Safari and enjoy the wildlife.
On to the food.
The menu features a Mediter-Asian Miami-American blend of mezzas, rolls, tapas, kebabs, pastas, salads, seafoods, meats, desserts, and drinks. Don't forget the hookahs. Chef Jouvens Jean, an FIU Hospitality Management graduate with Exec Chef chops at the W South Beach and Conrad Miami, says, "The whole med sushi thing throws people off a bit. The owner is Lebanese so he gave me an idea of what he wanted on the menu. I tailored that to what I know, and what I think is good, and that's how we came up with it. We try to mix it up a lot. It's really like 3 or 4 menus. Everybody working here has been through the grind. I brought Vince here from Morimoto. We make everything taste good."
We were in the kitchen for a couple of hours on a busy Friday night three weeks into the restaurant's opening. The pace was frenetic, actions swift, words sharp, but with humor cutting down the stress of a highly charged atmosphere.
Out in the front of the house servers punched orders into computers. Tickets printed out in the kitchen where the expediter arranged them in the order they'd be called, fired, and sent out according to wait time and accounting for the time it took to cook each order for a table.
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The menu involves a variety of grains, dips, and sauces to go along with breads and skewered meats and seafoods.
The Asian inspired dishes seems to go along with it just fine.
Sawa Restaurant & Lounge
360 San Lorenzo Ave. Suite 1500, Coral Gables
Thanks to Chef Jouvens Jean, Vince "The Machine," Suprapto Bonari, Guy Sargent, and all the kitchen and restaurant staff.