Josh Galliano’s name means as much to St. Louisans as Colby Garrelts’ or Michael Smith’s means to Kansas Citians. Galliano is a recipient of Food and Wine’s Best Chef-Midwest award and a multiple James Beard award nominee. His latest venture is a neighborhood eatery in Clayton called Libertine.
Diners first walk by the very cool looking bar that utilizes rustic wood and subway tile. The dining room is in the back part of the space, offering a bit of separation in terms of noise and ambiance.
I went on a busy and loud Saturday night with my parents, but fortunately the restaurant had a Roaring 20’s theme going on and they liked the music. The menu is fun, but it isn’t easy to find something for those who may not be adventurous, except perhaps for the hamburger. I spied one at the table next to us- on a beautiful bun with cheese smothering the double patties, it was accompanied by a gorgeous pile of crisp French fries.
The menu itself is organized by food category–meat, fish, vegetable and seafood, with the appetizers and smaller meals at the top of each list and larger portions at the bottom. I ordered sunflower seed fried rice with Chinese bacon, sprouts and pickled carrots and octopus pozole, both of which were in the middle of their respective lists. Though our server, who had not been well-trained, brought them both out at once instead of coursed out, they were both interesting and flavorful. In fact, though it may not have been an authentic pozole, it rivaled any I’ve had in New Mexico; the octopus was prepared perfectly and added an unusual and welcome twist to the dish.
Each night the restaurant serves a pan roasted fish of the day served with General Tso’s Mushrooms, Wilted Sprouts, Golden raisin and scallion relish. On this night, our server told us it was tuna, though it turned out to be Mahi-Mahi.
The crab boil curry was one of the smaller dishes, but it had a nice kick to it and the lo mein noodles were the perfect foil for all that curry sauce.
I had never seen the Korean spice togarashi used as a pepper crust for tuna, but now that I’ve had it, I will definitely try it that way at home. The tuna also came with creamed corn, Nduja sausage vinaigrette, roasted peppers and pickled corn. My sister asked for a vegetarian substitute for the sausage vinaigrette, which our server said she would take care of, but it came dry. Fortunately the corn carried the day.
The “candy bar” on the dessert menu was a hit. Made with Salted Caramel Semifreddo, Hazelnuts, Ganache, Chocolate Dacquoise, it was definitely meant to be eaten with your hands–using a fork would have sent it flying across the table. It was a fun way to finish a delightful dinner.
Given Galliano’s pedigree, I imagine the menu will change at least seasonally , giving diners a chance to sample more of his creativity and also allowing an opportunity to find dishes that appeal. And despite reading rather mixed reviews before my visit, it’s only a matter of time before this imaginative restaurant hits its stride.