It’s Fresh

Swine on Ponce is Reborn as Ad Lib

March 2019

Entrepreneurial restaurateur John Kunkel wanted to completely reinvent Swine restaurant, the popular house of pork on Ponce de Leon, which he described as “the ultimate man cave.” And, so he has, transforming the dark, woody interior into a sunny, breezy space that is more reminiscent of the L.A. foodie scene than reserved Coral Gables.

“Swine was doing well, so it made no business sense to close it. But we wanted to do something new, and we had a great team,” he says.

Having spent a few months in Los Angeles, Kunkel wanted “the light, bright simple food being showcased in L.A.” The result is Ad Lib, a modern, clean interior with a color palette of soft whites with varying shades of blue and citron yellow, with brass accents. Even cleaner and brighter is the food.

“As the name implies, we make it up as we go. We are trying to highlight incredible ingredients with a new American menu – a nice variety with an evolving menu,” says Kunkel. The first iteration of that menu includes such innovative dishes as roasted pumpkin toast; charcoal roasted wild shiitakes with a hazelnut condiment; and dry-aged duck with crispy rice, sour cherries and black garlic.

Such inventive dishes – along with safer fare like a 28-day aged New York Strip or a crispy-skin Branzino with littleneck clams – are the brain children of Executive Chef Jamie DeRosa, formerly of the Michelin-starred Fat Duck (UK) and Wolfgang Puck restaurants. His mantra is to mix global ingredients (think Japanese, Italian and Mediter- ranean) with locally sourced vegetables and humanely sourced meats.

DeRosa is part of an all-star pedigreed team that Kunkel assembled for Ad Lib, including Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith (formerly of Mi- chael’s Genuine), Director of Cocktails & Spirits Sam Ross (formerly of New York’s At- taboy), and Sommelier Daniel Toral (formerly of the Setai).

“We came loaded for bear, as they say. They are a large and talented team, and we wanted to give them something to showcase,” says Kunkel. “I thought for right now this is what the Gables needed.”

If Kunkel’s track record is any indication, his aim should be true. Kunkel’s 50 Eggs, Inc. owns and operates some of Miami’s most popular restaurants, including Yardbird Southern Table & Bar and Spring Chicken. He is also known for founding Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, launched on Miami Beach.

While the new Ad Lib menu is definitively high-end, Kunkel says he won’t forget the loyal customers who made Swine a success over the last five years. “For lunch we will still have the old Swine Burger in all its glory,” he says, though the new food will be “a little lighter and more approachable.”