If you're the kind of person who enjoys the scents wafting inside posh hotel lobbies, then you'll love what Ava MediterrAegean (Website
) has in store when it opens in the old Luma space on Park Avenue early next year.
A "multisensory experience" is what's being promised — everything from special ingredients, to Olya Volkova's lush design
(take a look at the slick renderings on this page), to, yes, signature scents that'll dazzle the olfactories.
Members-only cocktail bar
Ava MediterrAegean's secluded underground bar, called "The Lounge," will be situated in Luma's old cellar/private dining space
, and have its own unique aroma, moody atmo (yes, there will be a DJ), cocktail program (with bottle service, of course) and private dining areas.
It'll be accessible through a secret entrance, though details on the members-only
bar are still being hammered out.
But taste will undoubtedly be Ava's primary sensorial draw with Top Chef
Season 3 winner Hung Huynh taking charge of the kitchen as executive chef. After snagging the TV title back in 2007, the talented, Vietnamese-born alum of Per Se and Guy Savoy spent four years with the EMM Restaurant Group before a well-publicized split
. Hung bounced around after that and even did a stint at Morimoto Asia
as chef de cuisine.
In 2019, he opened Asian-fusion restaurant Warrior in L.A.
but Huynh confirmed he is no longer associated with the West Hollywood hotspot.
When asked what makes his involvement with the MILA Group (the folks behind Ava and Mila MediterrAsian in Miami) different, Hung is quick to respond.
"They're dynamic and they're young and I love that,” he says. "They're willing to push the envelope, and not just from the culinary side."
"We are taking a holistically creative approach," says Marine Galy, MILA Group's co-founder. "Our focus on the details, be it from the culinary side, the restaurant's design, or the transportive mood we're trying to instill has been very carefully curated. It will differentiate Ava from other restaurants in its class and we want to be the best in class."
MILA Group's culinary team includes corporate chef Daniel Garner (former executive chef at Nobu Beijing and Zuma New York/Miami) and R&D corporate chef Erick Melendez (former head chef at Zuma Las Vegas). Along with Hung, the chefs want to place the focus on quality ingredients.
In fact, it took the trio a month to find the right tomato, but in addition to acquiring the finest local produce, the trio have forged relationships with local farms to supply poultry, lamb and seafood. They'll also procure specialty citrus from family-run outfit Bhumi Growers
in New Jersey (yes, New Jersey).
They've supplied high-end restaurants in New York City including Michelin-starred Masa and Gabriel Kreuther
Executive chef Hung Huynh
When the Michelin Guide and its foray into Florida enters the conversation, Hung remains pragmatic.
"Of course, recognition from Michelin or the James Beard Foundation would be nice, but our focus in the kitchen is going to be on creativity and providing our customers with a superior experience."
So how does a chef known for his innovative pan-Asian fare shift focus to develop a menu of pan-Med cuisine
"Cooking is just like music," Hung says. "The tunes may be different, but the notes are the same."
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