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Special Occassion Meal in Coral Gables....Want the best of the best. Where would you go?

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Dh and I just had dinner at the Palms Steakhouse on Friday night. It was a serious disappointment. Stale bread, mediocre service (server was proud to tell us he used to work at Chili's which explained a lot!), tasteless sides and nothing to write home about desserts. I will say the steaks were good, but not the best I've ever had.

We've eaten at Christy's and Francesco's recently also and aren't in a big hurry to go back. They were good, don't get me wrong, but we want to try something new. I heard Romeo's was good, but then I read some reviews from diners on Zagats that were less than glowing. If money was a non-issue where would you eat in CG? Please tell me about the menu and what items you recommend.

TIA!
Chris

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  1. I have friends who swear by Romeo's but haven't been. Christy's seems to be in decline. My Gables favorites, sort of in decending order, at least as they occur to me:

    Ortanique - great Nuevo Caribbean food. Ceviches, islands-style bouillabaise, and the pork chop are my favorites, but there is much that's good. Not a very hoity-toity place though if that's what you're looking for.
    http://www.cindyhutsoncuisine.com (website not currently active, apparently

    )

    Pascal's on Ponce - serious French food in a small, intimate, quiet spot. Menu changes, but if there's a duck it's bound to be good. On the lunch menu there's a burger supplemented with short rib meat that is a very decadent pleasure.
    http://www.pascalmiami.com

    Cacao - really interesting place that does high-brow food drawing influences from all over Latin America.
    http://www.cacaorestaurant.com

    Brana - former chef from Norman's (which for a long time would have been my first pick but has seen too much turnover of late), just opened a few months ago. I went only a day or two after it opened and the dishes were a bit hit-and-miss, but from what I hear they've really picked it up. My favorite dish when I was there was a pork belly with peanuts and a pedro ximenez reduction, but I think that's off the menu now.
    http://www.restaurantbrana.com

    Chispa - another Neuvo Latino place, this one a little more in the vein of Cuban and Spanish tapas, rather than the pan-Latin American approach of Cacao. I especially like the little cazuelitas and anything with some lechon in it. Place can get overwhelmingly loud.
    http://www.chisparestaurant.com

    Norman's - I don't think this place particularly gets Norman Van Aken's undivided attention that much anymore, but the last time I went (which was before Jeffrey Brana left, I should say) it was still awfully good. There are some dishes here that are classics - the conch chowder, the "down island" french toast (with foie gras, brioche french toast and an orangey caramel).
    http://www.normans.com

    I also have friends who love Graziano's (Argentine) but haven't been there either.

    1. Agree with Frod's suggestions. Restaurant Brana is one of those places where you shouldn't prepare to be wowed, but you'll talk about it for a while after. Nothing is over-the-top or outrageous, but chef Brana's focus on local ingredients is unfortunately rare in this area.

      There's also the restaurant at the Biltmore (1200 I believe it's called). I haven't been, but it may be worth a shot. Another restaurant that was great before fire gutted it was Carmen.

      1. My wife and I have been to Ortanique several times and it's a real favorite. We had dinner once at Romeo's and thought the food and experience were excellent. It's a long drive from Boca but we plan to go again.

        It seem like Frodnesor has CG covered.

        1. Although I haven't been for a few years - Cafe Abbracci is quite elegant and the food is very good (or - at least - it used to be). Robyn

          1. I had a lovely meal in late September at the Biltmore. We ate in the 1200 Courtyard and had very good service, excellent wine and beautifully prepared food. Nothing daring but I have grown tired of this food style promulgated to death by the Food Network and the "celebrity" chef.

            I had dinner in the bar there as well and it was excellent as well. You could have drinks by their pool which is enormous, dramatic and beautiful, then go into dinner.