March 19, 2013
My Sunday Spiritual at SWINE Miami
Though I can't take credit for this tongue-and-cheek threat (Run Pig Run) that illuminates the interior of new Swine Southern Table & Bar in Coral Gables, I can be grateful that the this little piggy didn't make it very far. Every pork-driven creation set before me on this holy day of St. Patrick exorcised a euphoric religious experience; a worthy conversion for any kosher-keeper.
In an unassumingly bi-level lofty space just off Miami's Miracle Mile, I welcomed the familiar, trending aesthetic of rustic country chic - barn-meets-boutique Brooklyn. Not something you'd pin on the older-world affluence of the neighborhood, thus all the more reason I was tickled by its porky presence. Conceived by the same 50 Eggs team behind South Beach's successful Yardbird and new addition, Khong River House, their concept and locale I can only assume is strategic anomaly.
|Courtesy of Cortney Cates via Eater|
That strategy bleeds directly to the dishes as well, cutting straight to the heart of flavor and clogging every artery on the way. With pork thoughtfully integrated into almost every nouveau Southern-style dish, it's no wonder. Though beware, it may be the prices that send you into cardiac arrest.
For example, the seared Diver Scallops "small plate" boasted two rotund discs atop glorious smoked pork shoulder shreds bathing in a complementary smokey orange piquillo pepper sauce. Don't knock surf-and-turf until you try this bad boy. But to share with a group of three or four, a double order is necessary and at $17 a pop, you had better savor the flavor of every glistening bite.
|Mac & Cheese|
The Mac & Cheese with pigtail-shaped pasta was cute but lackluster at $10, a foible that luckily did not permeate the entire menu. The green mountain of a Kale Salad ($13) was expectedly rough and robust, cut eloquently with cider vinegar, sharp cheddar, and sweet cornbread croutons.
|Heritage Pork & Beans|
The "big plates" were spectacular, but big they were not. The Heritage Pork & Beans ($29) was winning with the optimal balance of sweet glaze and savory bite. Once our forks (all too easily) ripped the pork shoulder mass to shreds, it mercilessly drowned in a rich sea of stewed beans and a fresh sticky dollop of tomato-peanut relish - an amalgamation of a heavenly plate-licking status. And I caution with no hyperbole, that the Memphis-Style Spare Ribs will be your delicious downfall. If you order nothing else, order these - some of the best I've ever had. (Again, no hyperbole.) I will let you decide if the $32 is apt for the stack of 8 lean yet perfect ribs. I would say, for the price, they could spare a few more spares. Especially because the tangy, reigning dry rub begets the pinnacle of salivation (salvation, too) and finger-licking of the most indulgent variety.
Creative cocktails abound for a melodic mouthwash. My pick, of course, combining whiskey and pork in the best way possible: the Swine Old Fashioned ($15). Bacon-washed Overholt Rye with "swine" bitters and a dash of maple syrup...there are no words, only sips.
Another of my favorite combinations, chocolate and peanut butter, made dessert a no-brainer: a most decadent Molten Chocolate Cake ($10) with a nutty innuendo was peanut butter-punched with rich Chunky Monkey ice cream and the failsafe accompaniment of torched bananas. And get a load of the endlessly layered Red Velvet Cake ($10) with the requisite cream cheese frosting, sharply sliced with acidic lemon curd and cleverly rounded by strawberry-thyme jam.
|Red Velvet Cake|
If anything can persuade you to overlook dollar signs, it is the congenial waitstaff and supreme service, notoriously absent in Miami, but nonetheless exceeding even New York standards. And for that alone, I would scurry back to Swine.
Only a week old upon my visit, and this piglet is already wise beyond its years. An asset that will hopefully allow it to escape the ill-fated chase of its current slogan. I propose an addendum: Stay Pig Stay.
2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd
Coral Gables, FL
All photos by Rebecca Kritzer unless otherwise noted.