Photo credit: Katie June Burton

The RundownMiami

Everything You Need to Know about Orno, Niven Patel’s Latest, In Coral Gables

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Coral Gables  

Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know the most? In our series The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about Resy restaurants — our newly opened, old, and soon-to-be-favorites spots.

Located in the Thesis Hotel in Coral Gables, Orno is chef Niven Patel’s homage to wood-fired cooking. The new concept is Patel’s second outpost at the Thesis, also home to Mamey and its island-inspired cuisine. Patel is also well-known for Ghee Indian Kitchen, where the menu provides a contemporary spin on his Indian heritage.

While these might sound like starkly different concepts, a farm-to-table ethos is at the heart of all three. And for Patel, that’s not a buzzword, but a culinary philosophy that he truly embodies (probably better than any other chef in Miami). Not surprisingly, the menu spotlights vegetables grown on Patel’s own farm, Rancho Patel, although options abound for meat-lovers too — including a don’t-miss secret burger.

Here’s everything you need to know about Chef Patel’s latest venue, and how it’s pushing forward the Coral Gables dining scene.

1. You’ll be dining on produce sourced from the chef’s own farm.

At Rancho Patel, his own two-acre farm in Homestead, the chef grows over 35 varieties of fruits and vegetables to supply his restaurants. That long list includes produce like jackfruit, white guava, mamey, starfruit, purple okra, romano beans, carrots and tomatoes — many of which are key ingredients at Orno. Currently on the menu, the Stracciatella features Patel’s homegrown heirloom tomatoes, along with arugula pesto and pine nuts.

“There is so much that goes into growing your own food. A lot of people take it for granted,” he says. “I had a cook on my line a few years ago only use half of a tomato and he threw the rest away. He had no idea what goes into growing it! So we focused on growing it ourselves. It’s something that has really shaped our menus and brings so much to the table.”

Photo credit: Katie June Burton
Photo credit: Katie June Burton

2. Orno is all about wood-fired cooking.

Orno is named for its central wood-burning oven (“horno” is the word for oven in Spanish). In addition to churning out wood-fired pizzas, the oven is also responsible for standout dishes like the vidalia onion gratin — fire-roasted onion bulbs generously stuffed with Gruyere cheese and potatoes. At any given moment, it seems like there are enough onion bulbs being fired up to feed the whole restaurant. It’s one of those dishes that guests already come in knowing to order (and so should you).

In the open kitchen, there’s a decorative-but-functional wall of wooden logs, which the culinary team pulls from whenever they need to feed the fire. Right by its side is the grill, firing up whole grilled branzino, picanha steaks, Niman Ranch pork chops, and even veggies.

“There’s something very special about the smoky and rich taste that the wood fire brings to a dish as it’s being cooked. It’s so versatile,” Patel says. “From pizza to meats and even vegetables, it adds depth.”

Photo credit: Katie June Burton
Photo credit: Katie June Burton

3. The decisions begin when you book your table.

Orno is the type of restaurant where you can choose your own adventure. And it begins as soon as you open up Resy and decide where to book your table: The Library, dining room, or chef’s counter.

Let’s start with the main dining room, where guests can enjoy the action of the open kitchen on one side and the bar on the other. Orno was designed like a culinary showroom with a display of farm fresh produce, wood-fired tile work, and greenery in suspended planters. The moss-green and earthy tones of the interior were inspired by Chef Patel’s farm.

Next is The Library — a 20-seat private dining room that on occasion hosts private events like tasting dinners, but on most nights provides a quieter setting for guests. It’s an intimate hideaway where diners are surrounded by warm yellow bookshelves housing a library of classic books. Designed to complement these book-lined walls, Orno’s signature cocktail menu was inspired by famous literary figures (take, for instance, the “Love…Pedro” Old Fashioned with mole bitters and a dark chocolate-dipped orange slice inspired by Laura Esquivel’s 1989 novel “Like Water for Chocolate”).

But if you can snag a seat at the coveted chef’s counter, you’re in for something truly special — watching James Beard-nominated chef Patel and his culinary team work their wood-fired magic right in front of you. From your front-row seat, you can feel the warmth of the grill as the chefs feed the fire with more wood, ask the culinary experts for guidance on what to order, and if you’re lucky, maybe even score a complimentary sample of something you didn’t.

“On any given day, we could be making dough for pasta or pizza or deboning a whole grouper. We have fun with it behind the counter as we try to interact with diners who are seated there,” Patel says. “Sometimes I’ll open a jar of preserved vegetables from my farm and pass it to those who are seated at the chef’s table — it’s the best seat in the house!”

There are only four seats at the chef’s counter, making it a harder Resy to get during peak hours, so if you’re dining on a weekend, plan in advance.

Photo credit: Katie June Burton

4. Yes, you can make a full meal out of those veggies (or order pasta as an app).

Orno’s menu changes frequently based on seasonal availability. While large plates like Australian lamb chops and oven-roasted black grouper are meant to be traditional entrees, you can easily enjoy a satisfying dinner out of Orno’s standout veggie appetizers and side dishes alone. Try the nutty charred sunchokes with golden raisins, or the vadouvan cauliflower with green apple and aromatic curry spices that could just as easily fit on the menu at Patel’s Ghee Indian Kitchen.

“What excites me is to see people try a vegetable or herb that they’ve never eaten before and love it. For example, we recently added sunchokes to our menu and they’re quickly becoming a fan favorite,” Patel says. “I also love changing people’s minds. We’ve had people share that they dislike okra, but really enjoyed it at Orno. It makes me feel good to see our hard work in the garden pay off.”

If you’re curious to try one of Orno’s pizzas or pastas and need an excuse to add them on to your order, know that these are small enough to be a shareable appetizer or a personal-sized entree that won’t feel overwhelming. Of note, the beef cheek pappardelle is made with wagyu beef cheeks slow-braised to build deep, savory flavor, and it’s worth every bite.

Photo credit: Katie June Burton
Photo credit: Katie June Burton

5. But don’t forget about the secret Orno Burger.

At a restaurant of this caliber, ordering a burger might be an afterthought. But don’t let it be. You won’t find it spelled out on the menu, but the secret Orno Burger is only available at the bar during a weekday happy hour called Wine O’Clock (Tuesday-Sunday from 5:30-6:30 p.m.). So come early before your reservation, and come hungry.

Along with half-priced wine, you can order the sumptuous Orno Burger made with two wagyu beef patties, aged cheddar, farm grilled pickles and Dijonnaise on a housemade milk bun. Only 10 are sold each night, so order quickly. “We definitely hype up the vegetables at Orno, so it’s almost unexpected to come in for a burger. We are always hoping to surprise our diners with unexpected menu items,” Patel says.