Note from Karen, April 2: It was just announced today that Norman Van Aken has taken over as Chef/Partner.
AD LIB Coral Gables is unlike any other restaurant I’ve been to in Miami of late. It reminded me of the restaurant of an exclusive club of the low key, well heeled. The cuisine is delicious and refined under the direction of Chef Patrick Rebholz and two time James Beard finalist Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith. The service is quietly professional, decor comfortable and almost soothing, and we had no trouble having a conversation. Great signature cocktails too.
The food is modern American, intriguing combinations of ingredients, but not precious. It was tough choosing our dishes as we found so many appealing. Our starter turned out to be one of our favorite dishes of the night, tender heirloom baby carrots with a delicious spring pea hummus, Sicilian pistachios, young greens, and a Calabrian chili vinaigrette with a serious kick that worked.
Mr. W had another favorite dish, meaty wild mushrooms including the less common abalone and king trumpet that were cooked to perfection over charcoal, and served with a hazelnut condiment, shiro dashi and celery root. Pork lovers will want to try skewered Iberico pork, aji amarillo pepper and Japanese pickles.
For a main dish we had the elegant dry aged duck that was served in slices without the skin, almost like sliced steak. It was accompanied by a delicious crispy rice, sour cherries, black garlic and sorrel. We also gave this high marks, a welcome new riff on duck.
For the second entree we had the well marbled rib eye that was served in slices with hen of the woods mushrooms and deliciously different ricotta dumplings glazed in black truffle butter. For next time we’d like to try the crispy skin branzino with littleneck clams, cerignola olives, baby shitakes and vidalia onion soubise or the spaccatelli pasta with sorrel pesto.
Desserts showed once again that Hedy Goldsmith is a real talent. Get the Bittersweeet chocolate tart with toasted sourdough gelato, blood orange marshmallows and salted caramel or the Meyer Lemon Tart. Delicious and lovely to behold.
And, by the way, loved the cocktails divided by “light & bright”, less alcohol, and “big & bold”. My favorite was the Penicillin made of scotch, fresh lemon, ginger, honey and Islay float. It called to mind the song, “I Get a Kick Out of You”.
For those who don’t want to have to choose among appealing options, there are seasonal menu tastings of 4 or 6 courses for $65 or $85 with wine pairings extra.
AD LIB has 106 seats on two floors, the second a balcony with a lounge in the back. There’s also a communal table for those doing menu tastings and a bar where one can also eat.
As this is fine dining, expect easily over $100 per person for three courses plus tip, service and beverage. Cocktails are $16; a glass of wine (5 ounce pour) is in the mid to high teens; bottles start at $36. There’s a serious wine program with Sommelier Daniel Toral. A very good bet to try AD LIB Coral Gables is their two course lunch menu for $25 plus tip and tax (and if it’s on the menu when you go, do not miss the brownie with meringue on top, OMG decadent). They also just launched a happy hour, Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 7 p.m. at the lounge & bar and brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m.to 3 p.m. Cocktails and wine are $9, beers $4. A snack menu with light bites, burger,, sandwich, etc. is also offered.
AD LIB Coral Gables, 2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables (T.305-504-8895)