Libertine Social encourages sharing scene
Exemplifying the trend over the last few years of casual dining with an emphasis on sharing is Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay. Chef Shawn McClain, whose restaurant group operates several other Las Vegas and Chicago restaurants, opened Libertine Social two years ago in conjunction with cocktail guru Tony Abou Ganim, and it’s been a Vegas favorite since. Inside are several separate areas, including a modern-style bar with plenty of tables, a more private dining room with a separate bar, the casual back dining area with eclectic art adorning the walls and rustic tables, and a patio area with pleasant views.
Over the last two years, McClain and Libertine chef Jamaal Taherzadeh have kept the menu consistently excellent, with standouts like the Modern Fried Egg. One of the tastiest things on the menu, and certainly one of the most photogenic, this adorable shell is perfect to whet your appetite, filled with a bit of corn pudding in the bottom, foamy “fried” egg and, on top, a dollop of caviar. If you’re a vegetarian, let the serving team know—that egg will come adorned with yummy corn, and you’ll have guidance for the rest of your meal.
Before your other dishes come out, indulging in a cocktail is almost required. The Pisco Punch combines Machu la Diablada Pisco, Wilks & Wilson pineapple gomme, lemon and pineapple juices for a bright sip; but kick the sharing up a notch with pitchers of Swizzle drinks like the Kingston Swizzle with Rum Fire Overproof Rum, Coruba Dark, Appleton Estate Signature Blend and pineapple gomme. It’s just rum, rum, rum, yum.
The menu here is divided into small plates, shared plates and large plates, but you’ll find that you will be sharing most everything you order. A simple roasted beet salad perks up with pistachio, goat cheese and orange; new for the fall menu are crispy sweetbreads with smoked potato and zough, a bright green spicy chile sauce. The balloon bread wows when it’s popped on the table—the puffy mountain comes with grilled cauliflower and garlic hummus for dipping.
Larger entrées include the Petaluma chicken with truffled potatoes, and branzino with citrus olive oil. If those aren’t quite enough, get the black truffle pizza, with fontina, Parmesan and a farm egg; the crust is nicely charred, the cheese browned and the truffles fragrant. The pizza oven stands near the dining room entrance, offering glimpses of flame and giving the area a homey, inviting ambience. Sides are super flavorful, with a sweet potato gratin and marshmallow new for fall. The grilled broccoli with Taleggio cream is one of those dishes that you’ll keep coming back to, sneaking just a bit more onto your plate while hoping your companions don’t notice.
Desserts switch out periodically here, with chocolate pot de crème and lemon meringue pie offered on a recent visit. Honestly, you may or may not make it that far; it’s understandable considering all you’ve just tried.
And just so you know, your reach will be pardoned as long as you pardon theirs.
Mandalay Bay, 5–10:30 p.m. daily, to-go window 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. 702.632.7558