I made a special trip to Coral Gables to try a highly anticipated restaurant that just opened, Ad Lib, at 2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd. In the place of the old Swine restaurant locale, Ad Lib features an all-star culinary team.
We pulled up to a smart, modern, two-story building with picture windows, a long narrow dining room space, with wooden floors and tables. At the back of the restaurant is a communal table, looking directly at a large window into a clean, modern kitchen, buzzing with activity. The dining room seats about 70 people on its two floors. Soft lighting, whites and blues, and grey velvet, brass and gold accents throughout gave a sophisticated setting.
The top-shelf team behind the project consists of James Beard award finalist and executive pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith, who returned from a stint on the west coast; executive chef/partner Jamie DeRosa, who had worked with Wolfgang Puck and Geoffrey Zakarian; and Sam Ross, director of cocktails, from New York’s Attaboy. Chef de cuisine is Riccardo Torres, and director of service is Cristiano Azevedo, and the sommelier is Daniel Toral. Together, these talented people have put together an exciting, modern, and elevated dining experience.
With the exception of one moody server, everyone was friendly, professional and knowledgeable. Every time someone got up from the table, our napkins were refolded. They seemed to anticipate everything and timed our meal perfectly.
The menu is modern American, with a thoughtful approach to responsibly sourced meats, local produce and wild caught fish and seafood. The selections all sounded enticing and it was hard to choose. I wanted to try everything! The unlikely food combinations of ingredients really showcased the chefs’ talents and creations. Like the baby heirloom carrots on spring pea hummus, with Sicilian pistachios, and young greens, dressed with a Calabrian chili vinaigrette, elevating the simple carrot to another level. Or, the zucchini blossoms, deconstructed, adorned with housemade ricotta, sumac and delicious candied kumquats that rippled across my taste buds, further enhancing this dish. The white sunchokes with burrata cheese, Florida grapefruit, fennel jam and Macoun apples was another artfully presented plate. The hamachi crudo looked like an abstract painting. The presentations were all unique and the flavours were multidimensional. We noticed that the restaurant accommodated plant-based/vegans as well.
Moving on to the larger dishes, we thought the dry-aged duck with Carolina crispy rice, sour cherries, black garlic, and sorrel was a standout preparation. The crispy skin branzino, with organic baby shiitakes, littleneck clams, olives and Vidalia onions was also palate pleasing. The one pasta offering, a spaccatelli, with sorrel pesto, pignoles, black garlic and preserved lemon, had such a fresh medley of flavours. The flat iron steak, with heirloom carrots and eggplant in a black sesame bérnaise, was perfectly cooked over charcoal. Everything else on the menu looks so appealing as well.
How can it get any better, you ask? Have Hedy Goldsmith make your desserts. She offers three desserts, plus a daily selection of petit fours which consisted of mini cookies, candies, and confections. We couldn’t decide, so we had one of everything. The standout was the brown butter semifreddo with pistachio halavah and apple confit. A close second was the bittersweet chocolate tart, with toasted sourdough gelato, blood orange marshmallows, and salted caramel. On the petit fours plate, I liked the candy that tasted like the inside of a tootsie roll pop.
The meal brought an appreciation for perfect preparation and flavours. The restaurant has a cool, casual vibe, with sophisticated, yet approachable choices.
Besides a lovely wine list, there was a delightful selection of “light and bright” and “big and bold” cocktails, as well as a large selection of wines by the glass, and a half a dozen beer selections.
Ad Lib’s name is so apt. It means, “impromptu” or “improvised”, and their eclectic dishes showcased the creativity and artistic flair of the chefs. In Latin, the name means “at your pleasure”, and it truly was a pleasurable experience for all.