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Culinary (and NBA) Zen at Zuma; 3 1/2 Stars For Norman's 180

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Braving the crowds that "pack Zuma's Zen-like environs to make it crackle with energy," Lee Klein takes on the London import at the Epic Hotel and is impressed. Very impressed. Chef Rainer Becker and his team "operates like LeBron's Miami Heat will--each worker seeming to know instinctively what others are doing and thus what each needs to do to keep the flow constant. It is very NBA Zen." But Klein does have one bone to pick: "After each dish was removed from the table, various team members asked us how things were; waiters recommend three to four items per diner, so you can imagine how many inquiries we received."

The food seemed to make up for that bone, ranging from "tasty" cod dumplings and a "flawless" medley of seafood and vegetable tempura to "extremely tasty" rib eye steak and "exceptional desserts." Bottom line: "Zuma can total up to a pricey proposition, but it doesn't reach Nobu-esque proportions . . . On one occasion, when two of us selected six plates plus one dessert between us, it ended up costing the same as a two-course meal for a couple at a traditional high-end establishment — but it's much more fun." [MNT]

Victoria Pesce Elliott gives Norman's 180 three and a half stars, saying "the globally inspired menu might seem all over the place . . . but local ingredients and bold flavors bring it all together." Among her must trys: duck meatballs--"these alone are worth a visit"; pozole verde, "as welcome as a just-spun towel after a long bath"; "impossibly good fried chicken platter," and paella--"another triumph." VPE says that although "prices may strike some as high for casual food . . .they're fair when you consider the quality of ingredients is miles higher than at money-printing chain outlets nearby." There are some wrinkles to iron out, though: "an exhaust system that leaves guests seated near the open kitchen smelling as if they're working in it," and the "servers' scurrying place and distracted demeanor." [Miami Herald]

Zuma Japanese Restaurant

270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami, FL 33131

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