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Libertine, an attention-grabbing bistro
An early contender for restaurant of the summer
RESTAURANTS • First Person
Last week, sipping my second Negroni (served over a single giant ice cube) in a leather booth at bustling new French bistro Libertine in the far West Village, I looked around the dining room and realized: not one person was on their phone. Everyone at Libertine was only at Libertine — not still-kind-of-at-work, emailing; or kind-of-hanging-out-with-their-friend, texting; or taking top-down table shots for the likes.
Most of the credit for the collective focus on the moment must go to the food at Libertine — on our table: gougeres, chicken liver mousse, gnocchi Parisienne, duck two ways — all the sort of unfussy French bistro cooking that seems like it should be easy to find but somehow isn’t. The menu is hand-written daily on a chalkboard. You could call Libertine a neighborhood restaurant, but then that’s just another reason why the West Village is the neighborhood it is.
At the end of the meal, my wife and I answered “yes” in unison when asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu. Three years ago, I would have suggested a final glass of wine instead of dessert. Now: Let’s have both. The rice pudding is incredible, with toasted nuts hidden on the bottom of the plate. And then the owner brings over two glasses of dessert wine, Domaine de Sau Rancio Sec, on the house. (When asked what the space had been previously: “A ‘brick oven pizza’ joint where they actually just warmed up frozen pizza in a toaster.”)
The only place we cared about on this night was this one, an early contender for restaurant of the summer. –Lockhart Steele