Restaurant: The Libertine
Location: 1307 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M6J 1X8
Price Range: $$
Just to clarify, this is not a review of a palm reading & tarot card shop :P. The Libertine is an underground speakeasy-type bar located in Dundas Street West, and their menu have been renovated under the new management and chef. I was invited by Pardis (from Zomato) and Phil to join the ZomatoxLibertine meetup to try their new cocktails and food menu!
I admit, getting here was tricky as there were no signs around. If you are planning to come here, look for the fluorescent Taro Cards & Palm Reading sign… a bit mysterious (and amusing) but it really adds to their “speakeasy” vibe. Apparently the story behind that sign was that there used (or maybe still there) to be a lady who did palm reading/tarot cards next to the bar’s entrance.
When you go down the stairs, you are led into a dimly lighted bar, so Pardis (from Zomato) actually asked the owner (Phil) to turn on the lights, which was really convenient for all of the foodies enthusiast there (to take pictures, duh!) ;).
We were greeted by Phil – the new owner of the Libertine, who was really friendly and accommodated us throughout the entire dinner.
All of the dishes were bar food and meant to be shared. Under the new and lovely chef JP, he have put together some of the most unique and tasty bar food that you wouldn’t find in any other normal bars in Toronto.
I found that their drinks were on the stronger side, and the cocktails were carefully crafted by Matt!
To be honest I can’t comment on the cocktails. They were pretty strong and it was a Thursday night, so I wasn’t looking to get drunk when I have work the next day hahah.
Whaaaat! Deep fried Mac n Cheese balls?! These were super duper delicious with the gooey and flavorful mac & cheese packed tight inside the ball. The outside was crispy and the chipotle Sriracha sauce provided just a hint of spice, and that rich cheese sauce? Yummmmmm.
To be honest, I’m not a fan of kale but uhhh I’m hooked! These kale chips were lightly salted and not greasy, I can easily eat a whole bowl of this. Everything on this board were tasty but I must mention, that homemade tomato jam was the highlight on that board! It had a perfect balance of sweet and savoury and intense tomato flavor. The chef should bottled up this jam and sell in the bar, seriously!
You know sometimes you are drunk and hungry as hell, then you decide to throw everything you have in the kitchen into a cute Chinese takeout box and eat it up. You see, the combinations will probably sound strange, but somehow it turns into something amazingly delicious, and that is exactly what happened to this slaw.
On my initial bites, I didn’t enjoy the slaws much as I got huge chunks of pickled ginger, just like the ones you would find in sushi restaurants. However I realized it was my fault for not mixing up the contents well enough, so use those chopsticks and keep mixing! The pulled pork was delicious, however I wish there was more potato chips and slaws for that nice crunch. Overall it was an okay dish as I felt there were too much flavors clashing with each other.
For those who care, these balls are vegan and gluten free. The risotto was creamy and cooked in coconut soy milk, which gave the balls ( 😉 LOL) a touch of sweetness with a melted cheese on the inside. The gochujang and almond butter sauce sounded like a great combination and would have balanced the arancini’s sweetness, however there was not enough sauce so I couldn’t taste it.
The falafel blinis was my least favourite dish, as I found the falafel to be a bit too dry and I couldn’t really taste the different layer of flavors.
This dish was a different take on the classic poutine and I really enjoyed it. The gnocchi was pillowy-soft and stuffed with a cheesy cheddar and parmigiano blend. Again, a bit more sauce would have been nice, however a really nice dish and the fried shallots added some texture to the it.
Phil and JP stated that they try to source the food locally, so for dessert we got an oreo cream (?) from a company called Junked Food Co. There were layers of cream and oreo, however I felt there was too much cream and too sweet, so a lot of people were unable to finish it :(.
Matt – the handsome bartender gave everyone there a demonstration of how to make a whisky sour and it was really informative, and fun of course! The cocktail was HEAVENLY by the way, I think I just found my new favourite cocktail! It tasted like a lemon drop candy with a dash of sweetness.
Throughout the night, Phil and the staff all made sure everyone was taken care off, and JP even came out at the end to explain the dishes and how he became a chef. He was really humble and down-to-earth, and you can tell he was really passionate about cooking from the way he spoke.
It was such an awesome experience to meet other foodies from Toronto through this meetup and the Zomato team did such an excellent job organizing it! Though the reviews on Yelp and Zomato of the Libertine are horrible, please note the bar now have new owners and the place definitely shows a promising future. The food at the Libertine was delicious and unique, and overall, a very chill and friendly vibe where you can come in for a drink and just talk.
Disclaimer: While the dinner was provided by The Libertine and Zomato, I am not obliged to publish a review on the business. All opinions/thoughts are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.