Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Libby's Has Visual Appeal, Varied Menu

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Libby's Has Visual Appeal, Varied Menu

Article excerpt

Not much has changed physically at Libby's since I was last there several years ago. It still retains many of the features from when it was Fred's, and for good reason, because these make the restaurant one of the most visually comfortable in the area: the profusion of warm dark wood, the series of large glass doors that mingle inside and outside dining, the spaciousness that allows plenty of room between tables. It's a fine setting for dining.

What has changed, and rather dramatically, is the menu, which now has Asian influences weaving through it in dishes like Bulgogi Beef Soft Tacos ($18), General Tso's Bork Belly ($16), Spicy Tuna Rice Paper Roll ($9) and Kogi Truck Mussel Pot ($11). More particularly, Korean cooking asserts itself, with kimchi -- the spicy fermented cabbage that is a staple of that country -- showing up in a variety of incarnations. Many of the Asian inspired dishes come as part of the small plates section, where they commingle with ones from other lands like Shepherd's Pie Fritters ($10) and Crispy Calamari 'n Cauliflower Classico ($13).

What a delight after having experienced menu after menu around town with a round-up-the-usual-suspects approach to appetizers. And even if all the small plates don't measure up to their tantalizing descriptions, Libby's deserves kudos for imaginative efforts.

Surprisingly, however, the plate that dazzled most claimed a homegrown inspiration, the Besh Barbequed Shrimp ($11), so named I assume for New Orleans chef John Besh. The two large shrimp float in an outrageously rich butter and lemon-infused broth that tempts you to just spoon it up, enjoying the warm glow of its spices. But beneath the shrimp lurk toast points, and these allow a more dignified way of savoring the flavors.

Playing a variation on Thai larb gai, Seoul Kitchen Lettuce Cups ($9) mix chopped chicken with crushed peanuts in the traditional way but then puts a Korean spin on things by working in a barbecue glaze and some kimchi. …

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