Battle of the Joshes
The Libertine has closed.
A few months back, I was eating dinner at The Libertine and chatting with chef Josh Poletti about the possibility of him doing a Dinner Lab. He excitedly told me they were still working things out, but that if it all got finalized, he'd be cooking a Feast of the Seven Fishes Dinner Lab. I smiled and said that would be great, then as soon as he walked away realized I had no idea what he was talking about. I whipped out my phone and checked Wikipedia: the Feast of the Seven Fishes (Festa dei sette pesci) is a Southern Italian/Italian-American Christmas Eve meal. I like fish. I like Italian food. I'm good with this.
Just after I got the official Dinner Lab email announcing Poletti's late-December dinner, I got one from The Libertine announcing Josh Galliano's a mere three days later. Hence, we have The Battle of the Libertine's Joshes.
Because there are so many pictures, I've utilized these nifty toggles below.
[symple_toggle title="Dinner Lab: Josh Poletti" state="closed"]
Poletti's Dinner Lab was held in a soon to be remodeled section of the CORTEX building at 4240 Duncan Avenue. This was my 3rd Dinner Lab experience and I've never seen chefs plate as intensely and quickly as these guys did. When they decided it was time for the next dish to go out, they got it done with military like precision. I had so many pictures that were just a blur of arms and frantic faces.
That light you see behind the chefs was the only one in their area.
Course 1: Smoked Swordfish Escabeche
radish puree & glaze | oregano & sprouts
Course 2: Octopus Confit
garbanzo & n'duja relish | tomato confit | smoked olive oil & basil powder
This was my favorite course between the two dinners. The octopus, grilled outside, had a smoky and slightly charred taste (which I mean in a good way). It was extremely tender - pretty much perfectly cooked, in my mind. Adding n'duja to practically any dish will improve it. It added more of that smoky heat I love and went well with the inventive basil powder.
Everyone should ask very nicely that this be added to The Libertine's menu.
Course 3: Bucatini
white anchovy & tuna conserva | calabrian chiles | gremolata | beurre monte
What I really loved about this was that each bite of pasta was coated in all the little crunchy bits. I'm not normally a big pasta eater, but both bucatini's were pretty much just inhaled.
Course 4: Baccalá Gnocchi
salted cod | charred onion | lemon emulsion & preserved lemon
Course 5: Struffoli
coffee gelato | candied hazelnuts | honey & brown butter foam
Why is it that every Dinner Lab I've gone to has had an outstanding dessert? The bottom of the plate was covered in what I appeared to be space rocks, but were actually coffee gelato bites. Sort of like fancy Dippin' Dots. Candied hazelnuts and struffoli (basically donuts) were put on top, then covered in a honey and brown butter foam. I loved it.
Overall, it was a really solid meal. I wasn't a huge fan of the first course, the swordfish escabeche, but I would happily order the rest if I was out for dinner. The octopus and struffoli dessert were my favorite dishes of the night, but the bucatini and gnocchi were very good as well.
[symple_toggle title="Josh Galliano's Feast of the Seven Fishes" state="closed"]
Galliano's Feast of the Seven Fishes took place at The Libertine, with all the courses served family style.
bacalau fritters with salmoriglio
These were somewhere between fish sticks and french fries, which I mean in the best way possible. Really tasty.
Cuscusu alla Trapanese
couscous with poached shrimp, fried calamari & fish
This massive plate of seafood was the highlight of the meal for me. Every part of it was cooked perfectly and went together well. Even the bottom layer, a couscous cooked in some kind of tomato sauce, stood out.
Sicilian pizza with white anchovies, mozzarella, tomato, cacciovallo
This thing was so massive that I couldn't have gotten the whole thing into frame unless I backed up to the table behind us. I normally don't care for Sicilian style pizza, but this one was different. Most Sicilian pizza crusts I've had are soft, almost like a focaccia, but this one had a crunchier texture. Maybe we'll see pizzas as Libertine specials?
with ceci zuppa
with semi dried tomatoes, garlic, chives, bottarga
This bucatini tasted much like Poletti's. Both were delicious.
rosemary beans, lemon conserva
By this point I was so full, I thought death was near. Still, I tried a piece of the swordfish and thought it was good. I just couldn't make a dent in it. Couscous was rapidly expanding in my gut.
Olive Oil and Chocolate Mousse
orange marmalade, salted shortbread
A simple but good dessert to end the meal. I was only able to nibble on this, but I did pocket the cookies to eat later on.
Like Poletti's dinner, this one had its highs and lows. Our least favorite dish of the evening was the octopus & chickpea soup - it was a little too bitter and briny for me - while the rest was pretty stellar. I would happily order the majority of the dishes from this meal on any given night.
It's in your best interest to get to The Libertine's annual Feast of the Seven Fishes next December if you enjoy Maggiano's-sized portions of upscale seafood and pasta. I know I'll be there. And it's another example of a great Dinner Lab meal in town.