French Pasta Is French Pastry at Libertine
By Hannah Goldfield
The other night at Libertine, a new French bistro in the West Village, a server described the Gnocchi Parisienne: unlike their Italian counterparts, they were made without potato—“just flour.” After a pale pillowy puff, coated in a rich Sungold-tomato sauce flecked with spring onions and fennel, seemed to melt on my tongue, I waved him back over. “Only flour?” I asked, incredulous. “Oh,” he said, “well, also butter and egg.” Bien sûr. French pasta is French pastry: pâte à choux, gently simmered, then browned in more butter.
The combination of butter and egg was also the secret to the Scallop & Seaweed, for which a plump, sweet diver scallop was sliced and spooned, with sautéed leeks, back into its shell, then bathed in a hollandaise made with kombu-infused butter and Espelette pepper and lightly broiled, the sugars caramelizing into a crème-brûlée-like crust. Butter, on its own, was smeared into a glass pinch bowl, served with half of an excellent, crusty baguette and a few wonderfully sweet, meaty anchovies, whose gentle brine made the butter taste even creamier. And is there a dish that gets closer to the essence of the egg than a classic œufs mayo? Medium-boiled eggs were sliced in half, draped in fresh, glossy mayonnaise, and finished with chive and more eggs—clusters of trout roe.
The egg came first, but the chicken would not be upstaged. For the Poulet Doré Vin Jaune, half of a golden chicken (fed a diet of heirloom corn that turns the skin and fat a vibrant yellow, and slaughtered on the morning of delivery) was served with the foot still attached to the leg, suspended dramatically off the edge of the plate. (Beware: the hooked talons threatened to sweep my glass of natural rosé off the table.) That said, I was more impressed by the Duck Deux Façons, or two ways, featuring a rosy-fleshed, crisp-skinned breast atop a creamy green-peppercorn sauce, and a cocotte of confited leg meat capped with a torched purée of potato, egg yolk, and Comté.
You may have surmised by now that this is not a restaurant that puts vegetables on a pedestal. Still, herbs make thrilling cameos. Fresh tarragon livened up the salade maison. The namesake parsley in the jambon persillé, a cooked-ham terrine served with mustard and cornichon, accounted for the gorgeous green marbling in its terrazzo-like pattern. And, for dessert, a sublime chocolate mousse with a texture resembling soufflé came with a dollop of crème fraîche infused with Chartreuse—made, by French monks, from more than a hundred plants. (Dishes $9-$72.) ♦
An earlier version of this article misstated the ingredients of the chocolate mousse.