Monday, July 28, 2008

A Pleasant Surprise: Liberty Tavern

Friday night, with no dinner plans as of 7:30, I found myself searching Open Table for a last minute opening. Hungry and not wanting to travel far, the availability of an 8:00 slot for two at Liberty Tavern in Clarendon caught my attention.

Half an hour later, upon being promptly seated, I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the bread basket soon arrived. The wine was served almost warm, and the bread was not notable, so we were not off to a particularly stellar start. Our attitudes would soon shift, however, with the introduction of spectacular opening courses, a salad of octopus and grilled shrimp for myself, and braised short ribs for my dining companion. The ribs, served on silver dollar pancakes, melted in my mouth (yes, I got to try not one, but two bites that were spared, no pun intended), completely fused with flavor and leaving behind entirely the texture of the meat. The salad, lightly dressed with a citrus vinaigrette, red onion, mint and mandarin oranges, was refreshing and just generally palate-pleasing. The octopus surely was the star though, a unique grilled treat.
For our main courses, we enjoyed the smoked pork chop and pan-crisped mountain trout. The pork chop was heavy for a summer evening, but nevertheless tasty. The "milk and honey jus" tasted a lot more like a butter sauce, but provided a nice compliment to the juicy chop. The goat cheese souffle was nice, but not worthy of any particular acclaim. On the other side of the table, my dining companion thought that the lavender butter sauce overwhelmed the trout. Personally, I thought the flavors meshed well, especially with the house-cured bacon. Both dishes included perfect tender-yet-crisp snap peas, something I always enjoy as a seasonal side. In the end, we were both too stuffed for dessert.
All in all, the food was of an unexpected caliber. I'd been for the scrumptious brunch, but I was nevertheless skeptical of the evening fare that my fellow compatriot deems a favorite. Perhaps because Liberty Tavern's founders do not seem intent upon taking the culinary world by storm, but rather providing a neighborhood hangout. Or, maybe because the first floor is such a desirable destination for the bar crowd (tasty cocktails here indeed). In either regard, I underestimated how top notch the cuisine could be. In fact, LT has found a way to fuse two environments (bar and grill), with neither floor detracting from the other. I'll be returning again, for brunch and evening dining.

No comments: