I’m no stranger to following famous chefs having wintered in Miami for what seems like ions. One in particular I always remember being described as legendary and a trailblazer was none other than Chef Norman Van Aken. I have enjoyed his restaurants over the years. He helped put Florida on the culinary map and has been a multiple James Beard award honoree as well. He’s known as the founding father of New World cuisine and was one of the first to coin the term “fusion food”. You could find him combining Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavours at his restaurants.
He has returned to Florida to unavail a brand new restaurant called, Three, at 50 NW 24th Street in the Wynwood Arcade. His restaurant is not only stunning, and sophisticated, but under his Chef de Cuisine Miguel Massens, guests can experience dishes infused with the same innovative flavours. Chef Miguel has his own wonderful pedigree working for the likes of Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller.
Three refers to three components – the restaurant, the only rooftop lounge in Wynwood, called No. 3 Social, and a cooking school, run by Norman’s son, Justin. They will also bring guest chefs in to teach.
Another feature is the savvy service. The staff was trained for three months under the guidance of GM Brian Diaz, and it shows. They have a team of polite and knowledgeable servers, with impeccable hospitality skills and table manners, such as our server Pablo. Sadly, this level of attention to proper etiquette and expert service is not commonplace in Miami.
The beautiful, contemporary space seats about 100 inside, and another 100 on the sexy rooftop, where you can enjoy the skyline while sipping artesian cocktails and tapas, like bao buns, shrimp po boys, sandwiches, paletas, etc; while listening to music from a DJ or a sound system. There is even dancing on some evenings, the Manager Carlos tells me.
The restaurant is 5,500 square feet, with blues and greens, velvet tufted banquets and gold accents. It has a very comfortable, relaxed elegance. There is also a chef’s counter with ten seats facing the kitchen where foodies can witness the action in the kitchen, exchange comments and ask questions about their personalized menu.
The restaurant only offers tasting menus, and you can select from three, four or seven-course meals. The three course is $60, the four course is $75, and the seven-course is $125.
Our meal began with a wonderful whole wheat bread made with maple syrup and came with fresh butter, also with maple syrup. Good thing I only got one roll or I would have spoiled my dinner. After receiving our amuse bouche, we had the hamachi tiradito, with aji Amarillo, leche de tigre, sweet potato, benne seed oil and cilantro. The grilled hearts of palm and chayote squash salad is garnished with peppery greens and a sesame hot mustard. The squash blossom tempura is filled with stracciatella, brown butter honey, and curried pumpkin seeds. And our final appetizer was a spice rubbed Key West pink shrimp with a sweet corn ragout, pickled tomatillos, and tiny popcorn called puffed sorghum. Each dish has a modern twist to it and packed an exhilarating flavour punch.
Our mains were a light grouper, served with the charred banana leaf it was cooked in, in a kaffir lime red curry, with warm Vietnamese gem lettuce salad. The diver scallop and squid a la plancha, with chorizo, and beluga lentils was a fabulous dish, but I honestly could not taste or see any scallops. The painted bird, a perfectly cooked roasted duck, with Anson Mills grits, awesome moonshine chutney in a pomegranate jus, is also worthy of praise. There is an additional international, artisanal cheese course if you can find the room.
For dessert, we opted for the guava semifreddo with fromage blanc ice cream and an almond dacquoise. I preferred the arroz con leche, a Charleston gold rice pudding with lime peel.
The beverage and wine program complements the menu, with its own sommelier curated list.
They are hoping to become the first restaurant in Miami to receive a Michelin Star. They just may just get what they wish for, in this new, chic restaurant.
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