South Station

Julia Ning opens Station 5 in South Miami

Miami's sunny multicultural mosaic is as American as it gets.

Massachusetts-born chef Julia Ning (former chef de cuisine at Khong River House and sous chef at Area 31) pulls from a mosaic of her own at her new restaurant, Station 5 Table & Bar: It's a tribute to the five women (her "nannies") who taught her about food and culture. The resulting menu is a mashup of their ethnicities: Chinese, French, Sardinian, Southeast Asian and Cuban.

The quaint restaurant is snuggled between the boutiques, furniture stores and taverns that make up the livelier stretch of tranquil South Maimi's main street. "I picked South Miami because it reminds me of neighborhoods in D.C.," she explains.

When we visited, Ning suggested we begin our meal with a choice from the three avocado guacamoles served with crispy taro chips; her favorite was studded with smoked shrimp with cilantro and jalapeño ($14). We followed her lead and had to agree.

As for other starters, we were more impressed by the duck and foie sherried rillette served with Zak the Baker's toasted rye ($12) than the ground chicken–and-rice stuffed caramelized dates with a side of sweet and spicy jerk jam ($13). We also enjoyed creamy polenta with Paradise Farm mushrooms and Loblolly cheese ($12) and salmon crudo ($12) with ginger, yuzu and crispy rice, which added a nice crunch to the buttery fish.

Instead of ending our meal with one of the main entrees, meant to be shared, our eye was caught by an unusual ingredient in the braised short rib tacos ($11): sprinkled Cheetos. They gave the juicy, tender meat a delightful crunch.

The food at Station 5 is exceptional, but they don't forget to have a little fun.