On Fridays from 6 to 8 PM, Craig Petrella can be found on Norman’s patio, roasting a pig in a box and stirring paella. No need for alarm. Norman pays him to be there.
Petrella has been Chef de Cuisine at the Sunset Strip outpost of Norman van Aken’s legendary Miami restaurant since its 2003 inception. Petrella previously served as Sous Chef under van Aken, Floribbean cuisine’s founder, in Miami. [If you want to get technical, the original Norman’s is actually in Coral Gables, a ritzy section of Broward County just south of downtown Miami.]
Every Friday night, Norman’s offers diners roast pig and/or paella for $19 per person. Since I’m an adventurous glutton, I ordered both dishes.
Norman’s serves the meal family-style on China, which is normally reserved for more up-market dishes like Hawaiian sea bass pad Thai and braised beef short ribs with acorn squash flan and pineapple confit.
Accompaniments consisted of mashed sweet potatoes blended with plantains that tasted slightly sweet and absolutely tremendous; and similarly outstanding cole slaw that mixes simple julienned cabbage with cucumber, sour cream, and apple cider vinaigrette, slightly tangy and original. They even served tiny semolina rolls with butter and sea salt. The deliciousness was all-encompassing.
Given the high-quality ingredients, and sheer quantity of food, this is easily one of L.A’s best restaurant deals. Chef Petrella can set up a Caja China on my patio anytime. As long as he includes those sweet potatoes.