Libertine Social raises the bar
For years, the space now known as Libertine Social was adorned by ceramic busts on the wall, offering a popular photo opportunity for Mandalay Bay revelers. But with the arrival of Libertine Social, visitors have a better reason for meandering near the still-remaining busts: a venue which is the culinary and libation-infused partnership of celebrity chef Shawn McClain and master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim.
Libertine offers a glorious mix of food and drink. Begin with a bottled cocktail such as the well-balanced and floral Luce del Sol with grapefruit vodka, Aperol and clover honey syrup. And then dive into the menu.
To begin, Parmesan churros are as savory as the strawberry gazpacho is refreshing, elevated with the addition of king crab and avocado purée for a tad bit of heartiness. But the best starter on the menu—and possibly on the Strip—has to be the modern fried egg. Sweet summer corn purée is layered with sea salt-laced sous vide egg yolks and fried egg white foam in an eggshell; finished with American sturgeon caviar and accompanied by a crispy brioche stick for dipping, it’s an epiphany of saltiness and sweetness.
Elsewhere on the menu, the braised oxtail crostini delivers savory oxtail atop pan de cristal highlighted with sweet and sour onions and citrus gremolata. And the shaved country ham flatbread is an upscale rendition of the traditional Hawaiian pizza, improved upon with jamón serrano, smoked goat cheese and pineapple. Or create a sausage board from housemade sausages including lamb merguez or a not-too-spicy Louisiana hot link.
Can’t decide on an entrée? Ordering the whole Petaluma chicken significantly eases this choice by serving both crispy thigh and roasted breast in the same dish with an unctuous truffle potato purée. While the roasted breast skin is browned to perfection, the fried rendition is arguably the best on the Strip, with crisp and flaky skin revealing juicy fowl beneath. If a dish from the ocean is preferred, explore the whole roasted fish which, on a recent visit, was a flayed branzino with roasted lemon, which didn’t overwhelm the seafood. Pair either with the char-forward wood-grilled broccoli and it’s a fine meal.
Desserts continue to promote the marriage of food and drink with margarita doughnuts and a warm dark chocolate ganache cake masquerading as a hot chocolate martini. And the Manhattan tops rye whiskey bread pudding with sweet vermouth caramel, completing the riff on the classic cocktail with house maraschino cherries.
Libertine Social is a fun restaurant which doesn’t take itself too seriously but is serious about the experience it delivers.
Mandalay Bay 5–11 p.m. daily, lounge 3-11 p.m. daily, to-go window 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. 702.322.8199