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Norman’s Friday Paella & Pork—-Review

tarabell | Oct 22, 200506:29 PM

Called Norman’s about 10 days before for reservations for Friday dinner. But they tell us all the seats for their these dinners are already booked up through mid-November. So we made plans somewhere else and then of course Norman’s calls us back yesterday afternoon saying yes they can fit us in. So I figured well if we don’t go now, we’ll probably never go as we wouldn’t want to sit on the patio in November. The patio and bar area is the only place they do the special. Besides it had sounded like a fun place for my birthday weekend, being on the Strip right across from Mel’s Diner which isn’t our usual scene.

So the two of us are seated right away a bit after 7pm and shown to a great table on the patio. They said we could also sit inside but at the bar. But where was everyone we wondered...the patio was more than half empty. In fact it was only 60-70% full by the time we left at 8:30. So we never could figure out why they said they were “all booked up”.

We were served our drinks and two kinds of small rolls. One looked like a brown ping pong ball tasting intensely of rye and the other was a white sourdough type, nicely crispy and chewy at the same time. Service was basic and leisurely, but friendly.

We could order either the roast pork or the paella, or a combo of the two. Since the curmudgeon and I have this plate-envy thing going, neither of us was going to risk having the other get something better. So of course we ordered the combo. They bring us one serving dish of paella and one of roast pork, family style. The paella seemed rather skimpy but was generously topped with mussels, clams and calamari. The roast pork was a nice portion of nice tender white meat and some largish pieces of the cracklings. On the side were big scoops of sweet potato salad and coleslaw, included.

I am not a paella expert. I do love it and wish I had more experience eating it but it usually requires a bit of a wait and I’m too impatient. I found this paella maybe a bit bland, with no saffron I could detect and I thought the seafood was what made the dish. The rice was short-grain and was barely done, so it had a kind of risotto-ness about it. The menu had said something about the chef being inspired by a recent visit to Spain, so maybe this is exactly how it’s done there--I don’t know. My final judgment is, it was pretty good, but I probably wouldn’t come back specially for it.

The roast pork was quite delicious. I tasted a little citrus and garlic all through the meat, so it had something of the flavor of Versailles’ Cuban roast pork but 10-20 times better in quality. I nibbled on the cracklings which were wonderful and crispy. You’d have to be quite a chicharron lover to finish off what they give you though.

The coleslaw and sweet potato salad were very good side dishes. Each had somewhat non-traditional ingredients but they worked well together. My only annoyance was that our food cooled off too quickly being outside on a fall evening. Plenty of space heaters kept us comfortable, though. The other thing about the patio on Friday evenings is that though normally you’d want a good people-watching table by the street, there’s not much going on then—-just the rush hour traffic. So a table towards the rear is the better choice that night. And, you get to see the show of serving food from this huge paella pan and the giant roaster with the pig.

The bill was $19 per head for food only before tax or tip which I think it was quite worth it. The other entrees on the menu were at least as or more expensive, so this is certainly the best value Norman’s has going here. But geez, to make reservations so far in advance for it?

The grand birthday weekend restaurant tour continues...

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