Over Memorial Day weekend, Mikey and I thought we’d try out St. Louis’ newest eatery, The Libertine. The foodies I follow on Twitter were clamoring like crazy about this place. Much of the hype revolves around the chef in the kitchen, Josh Galliano. As former head chef at Monarch in Maplewood and Food & Wine Magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef Midwest”, Galliano has made quite a name for himself in the food scene. The opening of The Libertine marks his long-awaited return to the kitchen, and I’m happy we got a taste of it only a couple weeks after the grand opening.
What I like most about The Libertine is how casual it is. If you think of a restaurant in Clayton, you’re likely to guess the dress code is categorized under “dress to impress” or “see and be seen”. I don’t think that’s the case for this Clayton neighborhood eatery. You could stroll in with jeans without a problem. And I like that. There’s nothing pretentious going on at The Libertine. The website even says, we take our food seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
One look at the menu, and it’s easy to see it’s anything but typical. Galliano focuses on ingredients and lets their flavors shine. And a lot of these ingredients you wouldn’t find on any ordinary menu. Frog legs, crispy octopus, bone marrow and uni, crispy pig tails. But I love seeing that there’s a high level of experimentation going on at The Libertine. It gives me a chance to be a little adventurous and try something I’ve never had before. Frankly, I don’t think there are enough chefs in St. Louis taking this sort of approach. I’m glad The Libertine is pushing the envelope.
If the ingredients themselves aren’t entertaining enough, the way the wine menu is written is a copywriter’s dream. Each wine selection was presented with a paragraph that told a story about the wine. It really brought some personality to it and gave it character. Like you would know your wine a whole lot better after reading its backstory.
Aside from the wine, the cocktail menu, featuring modernized parlor cocktails, was pretty impressive. However, Mikey and I were both in a beer mood, so we opted for the Goose Island Sofie and the Bells Two-Hearted IPA.
And as for the food we ordered, it goes like this:
The crispy pig tails were definitely our favorite dish of the night. Mouthwatering and succulent with just the right amount of crunch, I think it’s a must-have. The sunflower seed risotto comes in at a close second. Such an interesting take on risotto, and given the fact that Mikey is a sunflower seed nut (pardon the pun), this was a big hit for us. Another item worth noting is the Diner Burger. It was delicious — especially the chef’s take on “cheese whiz”, which you can see is draping oh-so perfectly around every patty, in the photo above. The Deep Water Hake (a fish) was tasty, but I was particularly in love with the gnudi ricotta dumplings that were paired with it. Give me a bag of those, and I’ll eat ’em like popcorn.
Not pictured above is the The Libertine Candy Bar that I had for dessert. Mikey had a glass of whiskey from the new St. Louis-based distillery, Still 630, for his final course. And before the pig tails and risotto came out, we also had a sampling of roasted chickpeas with a powdery coating on the house. I meant to take pictures, but sometimes my appetite gets in the way. When the food is this good, you can’t blame me.
Anyway, The Libertine is definitely a welcome addition to the St. Louis food scene, as far as I’m concerned. As I looked around at the surrounding tables that night though, I noticed a lot of Diner Burger orders — which is fine and dandy. I just hope that the people who dine at The Libertine are willing to step just a tad bit out of their comfort zone. Eating adventurously isn’t easily accepted by your average diner. But if you’re not willing to take a risk, you’re kind of missing out on all the fun. I know for sure that the hubs and I will be back for more of those crispy pig tails and some other dish we’ve never tried before.