Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cobaya Norman Van Aken at Three

Cobaya #74 went down a few months ago and yes this post is embarrassingly overdue.  Partly because I've had some unfortunate personal issues that have thwarted my ability to write about my love and enjoyment of food.  But in all sincerity, I really wasn't up to the challenge of writing about a local legend.   

       Image result for norman van aken three

Yes, it took us 74 underground and experimental dinners in Miami and just over 9 years to get the "founding father of new world cuisine" into the Cobaya kitchen.  

Cobaya dinners just happen.  A call or email  from a chef.  A random text from a PR rep and bam! A fantastic dinner is on the horizon.  Truth be told, Norman has been on the top of our list since we started this fun little experiment.  Timing is always key and we just never made it happen while he was running Tuyo with his long- time right-hand man, chef Jeffrey Brana and a rising star chef, Michael Beltran who entered the Cobaya Kitchen earlier this year.  But when he opened Three in Wynwood, we knew the time had come.  And it was truly an honor to have him cook for us.

I know when you ask local food fans about Norman the first words out of their mouths are usually legend and godfather of Miami cuisine.  But I think more importantly he was a pioneer, a chef with vision and a mentor to countless chefs.  Many of which have gone on to achieve success and fame on their own.  Most, if not all would probably give Norman credit, praise and thanks for guiding them through his exhausting kitchens and onto a culinary path of success.  

I actually started to write my recap of the delicious dinner the next day.  Writer's block set in.  How can my amateur writing do proper justice for someone so important to the Miami food scene?  He's not only witnessed its birth and growth but has continued to live it and still impressively remains at the forefront of this evolving and amazing food scene.  

As a result, I decided to reach out to chefs who could better explain his influence on not only the community as a whole but to them as well.  

What impact has Norman had on the local food scene?

Chef Michael Beltran, Ariete:

"Norman was doing this before everyone else was. Ask Teena's Pride who her first customers were and I bet she would say Norman was one of the first ones. He paved the way for chefs like myself to express ourself the way we do. That is quite the impact because if you look around the culinary scene in Miami is booming and a lot of that has to do with NVA." 

How has he influenced you personally as a chef?

Chef Beltran:

"I owe a whole lot to Norman, on a personal level when he offered me a job the second time I was in a really tough spot in my life and that job in a lot of ways saved my career. 

As a chef when it comes to food he helped me out of my shell. He challenged me to do more. He pushed me to another level, from how to cook to the books I read. He was a big influence in my life. These are just some of the reasons I am very thankful that he not only is a mentor but a friend."

Chef Nina Compton, Compare Lapin & Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans:

"Chef Norman inspired me so much. He opened my eyes, using humble ingredients that I had grown up with in the Caribbean and elevating them on the plate. On top of that, he is a genuinely caring man."

For Cobaya, Norman and his talented team at Three delivered a creative and delicious meal from start to finish.  Yes, Chef Brana was in the house as was his current chef de cuisine Juan Garrido along with Pastry Chef, Mame Sow.  Service was top notch and the wine pairing was thoughtful and enjoyable.  

If you haven't been to Three in Wynwood, I highly recommend paying them a visit.  Go sit at the kitchen counter where you have a front row seat to watch and interact with the hardworking and talented chefs. 

On a side note, Norman runs a cooking school adjacent to the restaurant called In The Kitchen with Norman which I am looking forward to visiting.  

As always, huge thanks to the Guinea Pig Nation for your continued interest, patience and support.  See you soon!

Chilled Lobster "Vuelve a la Vida", mezcal, avocado, jicama salad
Segura Viudas, Brut Rosé Cava, Spain

Barbeque'd Green Asparagus, smoked benne seed, summer lettuces, preserved citrus
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece

Wood-Grilled Foie Gras Shawarma, pineapple al pastor, shishito kosho yogurt
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand

Yellowedge Grouper Cooked in Seaweed, miso baked turnips, meyer lemon bonito butter
Granbazan Rias Baixas Albariño, Spain

Slow-Roasted Heritage Chicken: Hainanese Chicken Rice

Super Chicken Arepa, grilled corn butter, guasacaca
Brooks Willamette Winery Pinot Noir, Oregon

Tree of Life, baobab mousse, hibiscus curd, yogurt cake, honey-lavender cream
La Spinetta Moscato, Italy

The Guanaja, devil's food cake, guanaja cremeux, milk espuma, roasted white chocolate ice cream (missed the shot)
Morellino di Scansano, Sangiovese, Italy

50 NW 24th St
Miami, FL 33127

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

PIG 9 Pork is Good 11/4/18

PIG 9 Pork is Good
Sunday, November 4, 2018 from 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM

P.I.G. (Pork Is Good), now in its 9th year, is the creation of Jeremiah Bullfrog.

SPECIAL MUSICAL GUESTS: DJ le Spam, Lumin, Cosmo Baker, and a special live performance by
Marc Rebillet

Come find out why this is called the #1 party in Miami of the year!

PIG 9 Chef Line up
Steve Santana - Taquiza
James Strine - Buccan WPB
Jake Rojas - Tallulah’s Taquiera Providence RI
Brian Mullins - Ms Cheezious
Josh Gripper - The Dutch MB
Roel Alcudia - Mandolin
Clark Bowen - Boulud Sud Miami
Tim Lipman - Culinary Cafe & The Parched Pig WPB
Jeremiah Bullfrog - Square Pie City
Babe Froman - Babe’s Meat Counter
Jose Mendin - Pubbelly
Karla Hoyos- Bazaar
Scott Linquist - Coyo Taco
Alex Meyer & Luciana Giangrandi - La Pollita
Danny Ramirez - The Westchester
Valerie Chang - Itamae
Alexander Powell - Market at the EDITION
Alberto Cabrera - Marabu
Niven Patel - Ghee
Andrew Zarzosa - Yuzu
Cake - Cake Thai
Tom Bils + Joshua Gonzalez - Mama’s Boys
Cleophus “Chef Ophus” Hethington - Ębí Chop Bar
Sanguich de Miami - Daniel Figueredo and Rosa Romero
Alissa Frice - Frice Cream
Chase Rodriquez - Sabal coffee
Featured Mixologist: David Cedeno- mini bar at Urbanica

Tickets range from $54 to $93 and can be purchased HERE

Little Haiti Cultural Center
212 Northeast 59th Terrace
Miami, FL 33137

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Sunday Supper - Korean BBQ at Three Wynwood 9/9/18

50 NW 24th Street,
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 748-4540

Monday - Closed

Tuesday & Wednesday                               Dinner 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm

Thursday                                                      Dinner 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm      

Friday                                                           Dinner 5:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Saturday                                                      Dinner 5:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Sunday                                                        Brunch 11:30 am - 3:30 pm

HAPPY HOUR Tues - Sat 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Game of Somms II at Bourbon Steak 8/29/18

Yes!!!  Game of Somms is back!  I attended the last battle between Bourbon Steak and Stripsteak  and it was a fantastic dinner thanks to Chef Gabe Fenton and his talented crew.  But the pairings were fantastic too and it was a real fun and friendly battle. 

This will be a really fun night for wine lovers plus one of the best chefs in town.  Oh and some of the best somms around pouring their best stuff.  

See you there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

First Date - Obra Kitchen Table (Miami)

I'm sure my hard core followers are familiar with Chef Carlos Garcia and were equally as excited to welcome him to Miami.  But the rest of my Miami followers may not be familiar with him.  Well now you are and now you should head over to Obra Kitchen Table and enjoy his interesting and well executed menu.

It was refreshing to hear that Chef Garcia was opening a new restaurant in Miami.  Miami is a town of copy cats.  We can support one great food hall but we will soon have ten. One new ice cream spot opens and suddenly there are twelve.  We went through runs on Italian restaurants, burger and pizza joints and steakhouses too.  On the optimistic side, I suppose the more the merrier.  I just hope they are all good and we can support them.  Back to Obra.  I could be wrong but I believe this is Miami's only high end Venezuelan restaurant.  At least it is the only one with a recognizable name on the world stage.

Chef Garcia is from Venezuela but trained at the prestigious Spanish spots El Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz before returning home.  In 2007 he opened Alto in Caracas, which was ranked as one of the best in Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants.

I usually order more food in one visit than most do in three.  I was also joined by my fellow food loving friend soflafoodie so we easily knocked off several dishes from the regular menu along with the special menu which consists of several dishes and changes weekly.

On my visit the specials menu featured truffle cole slaw; roasted prawns, seafood bollito, sweet plantain reduction; pork shank, criollo sauce, carrot, brown butter puree; short rib and avocado brioche; cacio e pepe clams and gorgonzola ravioli with roasted sweetbreads.  Yes, I could have ordered the entire specials menu but there were a lot of great dishes on the regular menu too.

I need to go back soon for the bone marrow and traditional chickpea stew;  black rice, mussels and mushrooms; yuca and bacon mille-feuille, sautéed foie gras; roasted rice sweetbread etc. etc.

Bottom line, the menu is interesting and the food is flavorful. The open kitchen surrounded by 25 or so seats is inviting and an enjoyable way to watch the chefs in action and interact with them. The food may be on the aggressive side to some but it's certainly not pretentious. These are dishes that you will crave and it's a welcoming spot that you will want to visit regularly.

This is not a one and done spot.  I look forward to many more "dates."  I suspect this will end up being a very popular spot and one of the better restaurants overall in town.

Hiramasa Tiradito, pineapple rum leche de tigre, sofrito paste, crispy kale.

Sea Urchin, fried egg and french fries.

Octopus Bucatini Carbonara.

Foie gras, snow peas, pineapple chile ancho vinaigrette.

Cacio e pepe clams.

Sirloin "a caballo", a/k/a steak and eggs.

305 846 9363
1331 Brickell Bay Drive, 
Miami, FL, 33131

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Marumi Sushi - Plantation

I was just reviewing my post index and realized that I never posted this one from last summer.  Anyway, this is easily one of the best izakayas restaurants in Broward County and one of my favorite spots. And don't be fooled by the name, Marumi Sushi.  Yes, the sushi is outstanding but the real gems are found inside the large izakaya style menu along with the dynamite daily specials board.   

Think Yakko-San but better.  Why? because they take the sushi here seriously and it is on par with some of the better spots around town plus the daily Specials Board is always extensive and full of fantastic plates.  

Oh and the executive chef and co-owner, Teruhiko Iwasaki was responsible for a lot of the great food that came out of the Yakko-San kitchen at it's original location on Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach.  If you were a fan of that Yakko you will love Marumi.  Iwasaki partnered up with chef Tetsu Hayakawa and opened Marumi in 2007.  

If you are a food lover on the adventurous side I would highly recommend paying them a visit.  It's on the casual side with a loud and fun vibe. 

I've had too many great dishes to list them all but some of my favorites are below.  

Omakase Sushi


Big Oyster

Wagyu Tataki

Angel Hair Pasta with Uni and Ikura

BBQ Salmon Collar


Stir Fried Pork Belly

Beef Tongue Miso Soup

Fried Grouper Head

Madai Head

Octopus Wasabi (Okay this one may not be for everyone because of the texture)

Marumi Sushi

8271 W Sunrise Blvd
Plantation, FL 33322

(954) 318-4455

Open Hours:
Mon-Sun 5:30 pm – 1:30 am

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Cobaya Smillie at Upland Miami

I was excited when I heard Upland was coming to town.  I had never been to the original in New York City but I am a fan of restaurateur Stephen Starr and his restaurants.  I had also heard great things about Chef Justin Smillie.  On a side note, Upland is named after the town in California where he was he was born.  

Chef Smillie spent his early career working in the respected kitchens of Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Mercer Kitchen, Danny Meyer's Gramercy Tavern and Jonathan Waxman's Washington Park and  Barbuto where he spent six years.  Subsequent to that, he opened The Standard in NYC and then moved on to Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, which earned three stars from The New York Times. 

Are you not excited by that résumé too?

At Upland Chef Smillie has created a menu inspired by California cuisine yet incorporates his experience at Il Buco with some outstanding pastas.  

As excited as I was to have Upland in town, I was even more excited to get Chef Smillie in the Cobaya Miami kitchen.  For the record, we don't actually have a kitchen.  The dinner was at Upland but it was a special meal for the Guinea Pigs!

And Chef Smillie and his team delivered a delicious meal packed with great flavors in every course while staying true to the Upland theme.  He even nailed the salad. One of the best I've had. I must admit that I would have loved seeing and eating one of his excellent pastas.  Next time! The wine pairings from Beverage Manager, Jennifer Schmitt were equally as good.  Service was top notch as usual from a Stephen Starr spot.  

Upland is one of the best restaurants in South Beach Miami.  It's hard to find a better combination of food, vibe and scene in town.  It's exactly what South Beach was lacking.  It's one of those spots that is perfect for groups, dates, tourists and even families.  And that's not easy to achieve.  

If you haven't been Go.  If you've been you know what I mean and should get back in there again soon.  I know I will.

Cobaya menu and photos below.


spinach, asparagus, fava, artichoke, crispy mushroom, cotija

Lanson Brut Rosé NV.


crispy coconut soft shell crab, hemp + soft herbs

Adams & Haart, Goldtropfchen, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany 2016.


hot smoked tuna cheek, spicy mango

Chateau d'Epiré, Savennieres, Loire Valley, France 2014.


salt marsh lamb BBQ, sweet potatoes, sprouted lentils + green sauce

K Vintners Guido Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, Washington 2013


strawberries, vanilla ice cream, granola
La Chapelle de Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, France 2012

Thank you to Chef Smillie, his CDC Francis Derby and the entire kitchen crew for a fantastic and fun meal. And thanks to the entire service crew too. 

Huge props to the Guniea Pig Nation for your continued interest, support and loyalty.  Stay Tuned for some special dinners coming soon!  

49 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139


MON-THU: 4pm-11pm
FRI: 4pm-12am
SAT: 11:30am-12am
SUN: 11:30am-11pm

Monday, May 14, 2018

Michael Beltran at Bourbon Steak 5/23/18 & Brad Kilgore 6/13/18


local eats

MAY 23

7PM | $200

local eats

7PM | $200

local eats


7PM | $200


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Duck Duck Goose Trois a Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog Event 5/27/18

He's back!!!! and he invited his talented friends again!  Chef Jeremiah knows how to cook and he knows how to throw a party.  Always one of the best events of the year.  

Duck Duck Goose is a culinary festival by Chef Jeremiah featuring Miami's top chefs each of which will be tasked with preparing locally raised and pastured fowl. 

This is the sister festival to P.I.G (Pork is Good) now in it's ninth year. 

DDG is an all-inclusive food and cocktail celebration of everything winged and delicious, with lots of live fire cooking over embers.

Tickets are $58 or $93 which includes a cocktail tasting.  You can but them HERE

Lineup Below

Katsuya Fukushima, Daikaya DC
Diego Oka, La Mar Miami
James Strine, Grato WPB
Will Crandall, Michael Mina’s Strip Steak 
Niven Patel, Ghee
Jeremiah Bullfrog, Square Pie City
Brian Mullins, Ms Cheezious
Roel Alcudia, Mandolin
Andrew Zarzosa, Yuzu
Babe Froman, Fine Sausages
Santiago Gomez, Cantina Viente
Alexander Powell, market at EDITION
Alex Mayer + Luciana Giangrandi, La Pollita
Fernando Chang, Itamae
David Coupe + Josue Pena, Faena Miami Beach
Karla Hoyos, Bazaar by Jose Andres Miami Beach
Jason Morale, Pastry Bazaar by Jose Andres Miami Beach 

Featured Mixologist: Dave Simmons and the Anderson crew

Duck Provided by Florida Fresh Meats (sustainable and pasture raised)
Foie and Duck Provided by La Belle Farms (hormone free)
Eco Friendly plates provided by F.O.H