This ‘Mango Gang’ chef helped elevate Miami cuisine. Here’s what’s cooking at his new Wynwood restaurant

Three, the new restaurant by Norman Van Aken, is among the restaurants participating in Miami Spice 2018.Tracey Borrow (Open I Studios)

Celebrity chef Norman Van Aken has returned to Miami (and he’s chosen Wynwood!) to open Three, a multi-faceted space that includes a fine dining restaurant, a rooftop bar and a soon-to-be-opened cooking school.

Known as the founding father of New World Cuisine, Van Aken has partnered with hospitality veterans Susan Buckley and Candace Walsh to oversee operations. The young new chef de cuisine touching every dish is Miami’s Miguel Massens, whose background includes the groundbreaking Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry and Spain’s Arzak, consistently named among the best restaurants in the world.

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The space

The dining room of Three in Wynwood.

A handsome dining room outfitted in blue velvet chairs, a mosaic tile bar, a 10-seat chef’s counter and a striking Frida Kahlo portrait by the artist Ashley Longshore.

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You'll come here with

Someone looking for a refined dining experience.

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Stay tuned for

The cooking school will feature Van Aken and his wide net of culinary contacts, who drop by for cooking demonstrations, seminars and tastings.

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Be prepared to eat

Grilled hears of palm and chayote salad at Three.

Van Aken’s elevated Floridian cuisine — the culinary guidepost from which the chef hangs a variety of ethnic influences, from Caribbean to Latin to Asian. But since Van Aken is a student of world cuisine, constantly being inspired by his travels and interactions, we get Senegalese-inspired snapper (no doubt inspired by his pastry chef Mame Sow who is Senegalese) and a Vietnamese-style grouper.

Three is also one of a handful of South Florida restaurants to offer only a fixed price menu: a three-course menu ($60) with an option for dessert and cheese at an additional cost, and a four-course menu ($75) also with dessert and cheese at an additional cost.

Dinner starts with homemade bread accompanied by Vermont butter studded with spices and maple syrup.

Tiradito at Three.

Then it’s on to bites of wahoo tiradito in an aji amarillo sauce or a Thai garden salad with a tamarind-peanut dressing. Tempura squash blossoms are accompanied by brown butter honey and the cracked conch chowder is a Van Aken specialty with a heady broth made with saffron, coconut milk and oranges.

Larger mains include a wood-grilled beef striploin, squid a la plancha, a grouper in charred banana leaf with kaffir lime red curry and roasted duck with Anson Mills grits.

The Pain de Singe at Three.

Pastry chef Sow (The Cecil, New York) brings her Senegalese background to desserts such as the Pain de Singe, an olive oil cake made with cream from the baobob fruit, served with honey labneh ice cream.

The chocolate mousse comes with a cashew-coconut praline while the chocolate custard is topped with plantain ice cream.

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Bottom line

Florida chef Norman Van Aken has planted his flag in Wynwood with an ambitious new project.

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50 NW 24th St Ste 101, Miami