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Restaurants

The Libertine

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on August 19, 2013 / review policy

The Libertine TorontoThe Libertine is the new underground speakeasy-style lounge now operating from under a blinking tarot reader sign on Dundas West at Rusholme. Co-owned by Byron Dill and Forrest Kendlbacher, the pair wanted to recreate a little Prohibition-era glamour with a dash occult and old-time carnival appeal. Deep colours, dim lighting, a stuffed peacock, and sculptural, mythological themed art work from Christy Langer do the trick.

Descending the stairs, there's a fortune teller performing readings behind a beaded curtain. Once inside, a long bar lines one wall, while high top counters streak down the centre and crescent shaped banquets, upholstered in tufted leather line the opposing wall.

Libertine Bar TorontoThe bar majors in strong drinks and carefully crafted cocktails like the Baudelaire ($12) blended with Amaro, Grand Marnier, gin and Campari. Bubbly served in champagne coupe is equally appropriate.

In the kitchen ex-Momofuko chef Leonie Lilla has assembled an all-ladies kitchen (an accident I'm told, but still awesomely rare). The menu lists 10-15 dishes each night and will change on a whim or per seasonal availability.

The Libertine TorontoNightly, the menu promises at least a few vegan and vegetarian options. Tonight there is an artichoke heart salad ($11) composed with roasted potatoes, shaved truffle and woody chicory greens.

Libertine Restaurant TorontoThere's also a grilled asparagus salad with torn rye bread, black olives and ponzu tofu. Eating salads in the dark is a bit like a treasure hunt, and each dish boasts varied textures.

For omnivores there's boneless fried chicken ($12), pork ribs ($19) and house cured salmon ($15). For my table, the trio is plated onto one large board inviting my party to graze over the delicious spread. Not one dish requires a knife. Chopsticks would have been fitting but aren't supplied.

Libertine Dundas WestThe fried chicken is served with bib lettuce, creamy kohlrabi slaw and carrots. On another night you might find it paired with anchovy and capers, but the golden cornflake coated nuggets are likely to become a menu fixture.

Libertine TorontoThe ribs are boneless too, and easy to eat delicately sans mess. They're glazed in sweet smoke and topped with candied watermelon rind.

Libertine TorontoThe fish is laid over sourdough croutons and paired with beet chips, Ontario peaches, pistachios and cream.

Libertine TorontoFor sweet tooths, there will typically be one or maybe two desserts. Tonight there is a semi-sweet chocolate mousse topped with a panna cotta-like Tonka bean cream which to me tastes heavily like almonds, but Lilla explains that they're more akin to peas (and furthermore are actually outlawed by the FDA in the U.S. for containing a paralysis causing chemical).

Libertine TorontoLibertine TorontoThe Libertine is open Tuesday to Saturday from 7pm 'til 2am and the fortune teller is to be a regular feature. Readings are $25 for a three card reading or $45 for more in-depth insight.

Discussion

16 Comments

P / August 19, 2013 at 04:58 pm
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Checked this place out on Friday night. Was pleasantly surprised by the friendly service - I was expecting it to be a bit try-hard and too-cool-for-school but it's actually a really nice space with well thought out cocktails, good food and welcoming staff. Food ranges from $2 - $20 if I remember rightly - some things are priced a little on the high side in my opinion but that's becoming the norm. Cocktails were $13. One criticism - the cocktails don't mention the alcohol content (1 oz / 2 oz) which might be a good thing to add going forward. I'll be back though!
Kimmy / August 19, 2013 at 08:28 pm
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LOVED it! Going back again this week ... More food to try!
teresa / August 19, 2013 at 09:36 pm
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Ordered four Dark and Stormy's - tried one of them and was so underwhelmed, probably the worst D and S I have ever had. I went and told the bartender that the drinks were bad and he snarled at me and told me to get a second opinion. I responded by telling him that I had actually gotten four, and we all agreed - he just walked away. Nothing worse than a self righteous bar tender - especially when the drinks cost that much.
Julia / August 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm
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I am super stolked to check this place out. it looks like the owners are being creative and at the same time bringing something that is hot in NY to TO...the term speakeasy is used to describe some NY bars today when clearly alcohol is not prohibited.
I assume the term nowadays is used to describe places that don't advertise themselves (no signs outside etc), so one has to know about them through word-of-mouth. Or atleast that's what I've heard.
secret / August 22, 2013 at 12:09 am
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The word amazing, doesn't even begin to capture the momentum of this restaurant. Not only does the food bring your stomach/mind to a whole to level of "so delicious I can't stop eating", but Chef Leonie actually hand delivered it to our table. The boneless (side?) ribs, were to die for, not to mention the tofu dish, in accompany with the fried chicken lettuce wraps - I actually thought I had died and gone to heaven. And the drinks!! Oh good god, I got a different one every round - and (to say the least) I was NEVER disappointed. The head bartender showed more creativity in a glass with ice than I ever thought was humanly possible. The service was... in one word... UNBELIEVABLE. All the servers - so down to earth and friendly, you really felt as though you were amongst friends at The Libertine. The owners are not only awesome, but did a great job putting this place together. It offers a unique take on the dining experience - and not the kind of unique you use when something is subpar- its the kind of unique that truly draws people into a space- an awesome and extravagant place where everyone is a friend (complete with food that will blow your mind - as previously stated). I will for sure be taking people here for years to come - maybe even those awkward first dates? Y'all know what I'm talking about.
Kirk / August 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm
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Funny how a few days ago there were honest and not beemingly positive reviews in the comments. I mentioned this to a friend who wanted to read before trying and seems blogto is now editing the review comments? Nice one.
SMU / August 25, 2013 at 12:21 am
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Went the other night. Pretty over priced for the quality of product. Can't say I'll be back until somebody really looks at what the perceived value really is from the customer's point of view. No one, and I mean no one, will be happy to pay $17 for the quantity and quality of those ribs. No amount of puffed this and pickled that will convince me that plate was worth that price.
FRT replying to a comment from SMU / August 31, 2013 at 02:13 pm
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Just to be clear, you're saying restaurants should price their food/drinks based on "the customers point of view" and not the market value? Sure that's realistic, small business would survive long in your world. Personally I think you should continue eating at big chain restaurants, that offer good deals and obviously your level of worth.'
Mark / October 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm
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Very underwhelmed with our experience. This was our second time back. First time was for drinks on a Thursday, this time was for food & drinks on a Friday. One of us ordered an Old-Fanshioned -neat, but served it to us with ice... we brought this up to our server's attention and they returned with a drink that was much under 1oz and had no bitters... hardly an Old-Fashioned. Our food was less then impressive, with the wings being served cold. The price of drinks and food certainly DOESN'T live up to expectation, very unfortunate as we were really rooting for this bar to be something special.
Rose / December 14, 2013 at 10:36 pm
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I like everything there it was nice but there was just one thing that i rely didnt apricat the psychic Reader was very rood she seemed to have a problem me and to other girls that i meat out side were talking about the exact thing that i was thinking this lil blund curly hair girl sounded like she didn't no what she was talking about most of the time she was picking up her phone like she was waiting for some one to call her and she most of been mad be for i walked in the lil room cuz she had this mad face i well go back but just maybe not that rood psychic very unprofessional looking for the Business.
Humber / December 21, 2013 at 09:03 am
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We booked our Christmas party at this place. All details and prices were worked out, in advance. We (the hosts) arrived just before our guests and were told that the wine price was one and a half times what was previously agreed to!

Not an honest way to do business. This is who you will be supporting if you go.
Johnny B Jonny / January 11, 2014 at 09:41 pm
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I'm sorry, but Rose, you're spelling, grammar and everything else is atrocious. "I like everything there it was nice but there was just one thing that i [really] didn't [appreciate]: the psychic Reader was very [rude]. She seemed to have a problem [with] me and [two] other girls that i [met] [outside]. we were talking about the exact thing that i was thinking [and] this [little] [blonde] curly hair girl sounded like she didn't [know] what she was talking about. most of the time she was picking up her phone like she was waiting for [someone] to call her and she [must] [have] been mad [before] i walked in the [little] room [because] she had this mad face. i [will] go back but just maybe not that [rude] psychic. very unprofessional looking for the Business.
Kurt replying to a comment from Johnny B Jonny / January 17, 2014 at 01:52 pm
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Haha, I love it when people act like the grammar police then use the wrong "your". Are you ok? I think you just fell off your high horse.
GRBY replying to a comment from Johnny B Jonny / January 17, 2014 at 05:36 pm
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You're a fool Johnny B Jonny. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Re: 'you're spelling'
GUYGUY / January 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm
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Almost $8 for a tall can of......Pilsner.

Brutal.
Malinda-May replying to a comment from Kurt / February 27, 2014 at 08:34 pm
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Well played Sir, well played. :)

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