Review: Libertine in Uptown

A steakhouse takes liberties

“I want you to write this up as a sexy, sloppy cocktail,” my dining companion said as he licked caramel foam out of a martini glass with unrestrained—almost libertine—pleasure. (This was after our waiter had funneled us whiskey shots through a channel of bone we’d just hollowed of its marrow.) We ate pig ear, too, which tastes a lot better than it sounds—delicious, in fact—when it’s julienned, battered and fried like a state-fair snack, and paired with pickled peppers. This is what happens when chef Tim McKee, of La Belle Vie fame, gets the chance to loosen up.

For the past three decades, the Parasole restaurant group cornered the market on Uptown dining, from Figlio to Chino Latino. (Chino’s about to turn 15—how’s that to make you feel too old for sake bombs?) After closing Figlio, Parasole tried two subsequent Calhoun Square eateries, Il Gatto and Uptown Cafeteria. But both banked on comfort and kitsch after the zeitgeist had moved on to sleeker, edgier concepts. So McKee, who has been advising Parasole in recent years, was tapped to bring something fresh.

Libertine was conceived as a steakhouse, but its approach is more modern than macho (akin to the highly successful Burch, just up Hennepin). The cuts aren’t as decadent as Manny’s, but they have better flavor and texture than most $20 steaks. And in a neighborhood where dining elevation and quality often seem inversely related, Libertine’s roof deck excels. The casual fare, including a lamb/Brie Juicy Lucy riff and a bratwurst burger, pairs good ingredients with thoughtful details. Or you can dine on a delicately nuanced blue-crab/avocado salad or burrata cheese with Moroccan-spiced peppers and tomatoes. There are no rules; do as you like.

Libertine • 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., MPLS. • 612-877-7263,