Give us Libertine or give us dea– crap, we already used that pun, didn’t we?

Sometimes it’s unbelievably difficult to choose a dinner destination. Every family has their own method of narrowing it down; some genius even made a wheel you can use to leave it up to chance. As for SPAK — especially with a massive to-dine list like ours — we have to be pretty arbitrary with our decision-making sometimes.

This time, it came down to menu size. Libertine’s is huge! Well, not like neighborhood-Chinese-restaurant-“I’ll have the number #1,376” huge. Still, compared to other restaurants of its caliber, them’s some pickins. As if selecting the restaurant wasn’t difficult enough, our appetizer was a tough choice. AK sort of wanted the Bone Marrow Toast (it had her at “onion jam”), but we ultimately decided on the Steak Tartare.

Steak tartare with ginger, nori, and a quail egg.

Steak tartare with ginger, nori, and a quail egg.

So squishy. So goopy. Once the quail egg “eggs” all over everything else, it gets squishier and goopier without drowning, adding wonderfully to the savor of it all. Spread some on the french bread served with it, garnish with a shroom and some nori, and you’re gold.

Speaking of shrooms: it’s tough to resist a stuffed one, especially if it happens to be stuffed with spinach and feta. You should know by now that mushrooms and onions are some of our middle names (SPAKtholomew Mushroom Onion Garlic Willsnack, at your service!) so it must not be a surprise that for our sides we chose Stuffed Mushrooms and also Spring Onions with tajin.

Mushrooms stuffed with feta and spinach!

Mushrooms stuffed with feta and spinach! The powder-looking stuff scattered about is actually just part of the plate.

Spring onions, charred, with lime and tajin powder.

Spring onions, charred, with lime and tajin powder. 

AK burned her mouth on the mushrooms. It was worth it.

You’ve seen the menu. How could we possibly choose our entrees when it all sounds so delicious? Well, we managed. It was tough and we might never be the same, but we did it. SP went for the Bacon Chop. Admittedly, he mostly picked it because on the way into the restaurant there’s a quote written on the wall from a reviewer calling it the best pork chop in the Twin Cities. IT WAS.

Bacon chop!

Bacon chop! And onion ring! And kale!

Pork chops are a dangerous food to feature. You usually get critics who talk about dryness and toughness. However, Libertine’s defies the odds. This wasn’t just the greatest pork chop in the Twin Cities — it was the greatest pork chop ever. It was so moist throughout, and left a huge puddle of juice all over the plate. Along the edge is a thick layer of fat that tasted exactly like perfectly cooked bacon. By the end, SP was picking up the bone with his fingers and gnawing at it, trying to find every last bit of meat. Ain’t no shame in it.

Oh, and the onion ring was pretty good, too.

AK was overwhelmed by all the enticing beef and lamb options, and thereby decided to go for some chicken. Jamaican Jerk chicken, to be exact!

1/2 Jerk chicken, flavored with scotch bonnet, pimento, and garlic. Also featuring the return of the onion ring.

1/2 Jerk chicken, flavored with scotch bonnet, pimento, and garlic. Also featuring the return of the onion ring.

If Libertine can keep a pork chop juicy, you can only imagine the state of their chicken. The picture almost captures the depth of the puddle on the plate. And the seasonings… oh good lord, the seasonings. AK isn’t that fond of seasonings that are crumbly and dry and just kind of sitting atop the meat. The rub on this chicken practically melted into the skin, leaving a sort of paste that built and built in spicy heat with every bite. Even the leftovers were amazing!

Are we, SPAK, the sort of people who just get one dessert? Absolutely not! Of all the decisions involved in our Libertine adventure, dessert was the easiest. PB&J Ice Cream Sandwich and a Smoked Chocolate Tart, coming right up!

Smoked chocolate tart

Smoked chocolate tart & bourbon caramel ice cream

PB&J ice cream sandwich

PB&J ice cream sandwich 

When it comes to the tart, it’s this super deep chocolate, like a pudding, inside of a crisp wafer-y chocolate shell. When you break down the first tart wall it starts oozing, so you hasten to scoop up whatever you can with a spoon. But it’s so rich, you have to take it slow. In the very center there is a gooey caramel that is salty sweet. It’s kind of confusing when you bite into it at first, because you expect solid chocolate all the way through, but it’s offset by an almost BBQ-quality saltiness with an amazing aftertaste. There is a warmth of flavor without any actual heat. We don’t even know what to say about the ice cream except that it was a perfect match.

Have you ever eaten an Uncrustable? SP makes fun of AK for liking to eat them frozen, and the PB&J ice cream sandwich was basically a frozen-Uncrustable-lover’s dream come true. It’s pretty much two layers of sponge cake with one thin (maybe a quarter inch?) layer each of peanut butter and blackberry ice cream in the center. Very, very, VERY frozen ice cream that you need to hack through for the first bite. That is, unless you’re willing to wait for it to melt a little. We (or maybe just AK) were not willing to wait. The spread of jam below and the berries on top were a tart and lovely pair for the sweet and airy cake.

This one’s a do-over! There is much menu to explore, and explore it we shall.

SPAK

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