Seems this fella named Norman Van Aken is debuting a restaurant in Coral Gables tonight. It'll be called Norman's 180. Lord knows Coral Gables can use a boost. Too bad Van Aken didn't try this a decade ago, when the neighborhood was one of the best around for dining. Would have been easier. Those were the good old days, but then the big-name anchor restaurant of the hood was gone -- the name slips my mind -- and Coral Gables has never been the same. Who knows? Maybe this Norman guy can influence things around here and turn CG into a destination once again.
Rumor has it that Norman is painfully shy. No known photos exist of the chef, which is why we have resorted to an artist's sketch based upon descriptions of those who claim to have seen him. The pre-opening promo says his son Justin will work as co-chef with Phillip Bryant, so we've gotta guess the elder Van Aken is no spring chicken.
Speaking of spring chickens, the Van Akens seem to have composed a
rather smart menu for a couple of rookies. It actually reads better
than the menus of many a seasoned chef. A nice mix of small plates,
global foods, intriguing culinary combinations: pizzas, ceviche,
salads, soups, cheeses, charcuterie, Key West yellowtail snapper -- impressive, although it might be noted that one or two items
appear as though they might have been lifted from one of those old
Mango Gang chefs. At least Norm is stealing from the best!
This sounds good: duck meatballs with carrot parsnip mash, Marsala-mustard reduction, and Ruth's relish (Norman is just getting started in
the biz, but once he gets his feet wet, I'm sure he'll come up with
relishes of his own). Another: Vietnamese poboy baguette with pâté,
pork belly, and pickled paw paw slaw. Make sure not to order that one
when your mouth is full.
Not to toot our own horn, but Short Order is quite in tune with the
local dining scene, and we predict this restaurant will become the
talk of the town. Furthermore, we are confident Mr. Van Aken
will soon join the ranks of Miami's most notable chefs.
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Westin Colonnade Hotel
180 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables