Orno: An American Cuisine Experience  

On the Culinary Edge

Chef Niven Patel has already left his indelible mark in Coral Gables with Mamey, his Caribbean-Asian fusion restaurant in the Thesis Hotel. Now his culinary imagination has been let loose right next door, where his latest creation Orno takes the New American palette to new heights. 

New American? In a city saturated with Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Argentine, Thai, Steakhouse, and French cooking, about the only thing that says American cuisine are national chains like Hillstone’s, Doc B’s, or Seasons 52. Chef Patel’s new restaurant adds another dimension to the genre. “New American [cuisine] is all about diversity, which is kind of how America is,” he says. “I have traveled a lot and worked in all these different places, and I don’t want too many parameters.” 

What that translates to is a wildly inventive menu studded with what Patel likes to call “flavor bombs,” ingenious combinations of simple ingredients that explode into new taste sensations. 

American Cuisine,  Chef Patel’s new restaurant
Chef niven patel using simple ingredients to create “flavor bombs.”

Take the Australian lamb chops. They are dry rubbed with a coriander and cumin spice mix, then grilled with a drizzle of date molasses. They are then served with a surfacing of fresh mint and cilantro pesto, for a stunning “flavor bomb” result. Or the whole grilled Branzino, which is first brined for six hours then refrigerated overnight to crisp the skin. It’s then grilled and dressed with a fennel sofrito that’s been cooked down with onion and garlic. “We spend a lot of time during the day building layers of flavor,” says Patel. “Then, when it’s showtime, we execute.” 

American Cuisine Experience at Orno
Australian Lamb Chops
American Cuisine Experience at Orno
Whole Grilled Branzino

Orno is also the Italian word for oven, and one of the paramount elements of the cooking here is the use of wood, both for grilling and for an oven similar to what pizza makers use – a dome shaped kiln with an opening in front. Patel uses this for all sorts
of dishes, from pizza to his vidalia onion “gratin,” stuffed with a gruyere/potato/horseradish mix then wood-baked till caramelized. The wood-fired grill, meanwhile, is used for meats and for veggies such as his wood-roasted summer squash, cooked with north African chiles, coriander, cumin, toasted hazelnuts and garlic. 

American Cuisine Experience at Orno
Vidalia Onion “Gratin”
American Cuisine Experience at Orno
Wood-Roasted Summer Squash

What Patel obsesses over, besides his flavor combinations, is farm to table sourcing, using as much local produce as possible. Whether intentional or not, this gives dishes a kind of earthiness,in the best sense of that word. His chanterelle mushroom pizza, using shrooms that are now in season, is oven-baked with a taleggio fondue, shallots, and thyme for a deep, woodsy taste. And taking the earthy flavors to the cave man extreme, Patel also offers an amazing roasted bone marrow, served “in bone” after the marrow (Wagyu of course) is cooked down with a red wine/shallot/honey “marmalade” and combined with herbs, tiny orange segments and a hint of lemon juice. Primitive and sophisticated at the same time. 

Orno Chanterelle mushroom pizza
Chanterelle Mushroom Pizza cooked in the wood burning oven
Orno Roasted Bone Marrow
Roasted Bone Marrow

Besides Patel’s dedication to uber fresh produce (don’t miss the “vadouvan” cauliflower or grilled farm beans) he is also a master in preparing pork, beef, and chicken dishes, often married to a fruit
or root to bring out the flavor, like his pork presa laced with sweet peppers, or his flat iron steak served on a sundried tomato tapenade. What you realize when eating at Orno is that this is Chef Patel’s food laboratory, where the acclaimed cook (named one of America’s “Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine Magazine) can let his culinary imagination run wild. 

You can watch Patel operate in the open kitchen, which anchors one end of the large space where most of the tables at Orno lie under an array of trapezoidal chandeliers with old Thomas Edison style light bulbs. The other end of the room is anchored by the marble-topped bar. Or you can eat in an alcove called “the library” if you would like a mood that is less frenetic than the main hall. For both there is a perfect soundtrack, just loud enough, of curated blues and classic rock. It is a spectacular space, with great attention to detail – an appropriate setting for a war chest of flavor bombs that will awaken even the most jaded taste buds.