Friday, January 22, 2010

Restaurant review: Eating at the Libra Room

N and I went to the Libra Room tonight to hear a string quartet play some Shostakovich. I know, what? He's a Russian composer that I had only read about, but our friends R and J were interested so we agreed. R pulled out (something about touring NYC with his band... guess he missed out on Shostakovich), so the three of us went to enjoy an evening of modern classical music at what is normally a jazz-ish bar.

We started with a drink. The wine list is full of cheap drinkers that didn't appeal. I went for beer: Unibroue's Blanche de Chambly is a lovely wheat beer in the German tradition. N had some forgettable shiraz. I have no idea what J had. Like I said, cheap drinkers.

I ordered the southwest pork tenderloin with polenta, salsa and refried beans (of which I was nervous) for $14, N opted for a beet salad to start ($8) and the sable fish with purple potato mash and green pea puree($15), and J went for the steak with puff pastry potatoes au gratin and grilled tomatoes and eggplant ($19). The lamb sounded good (anything wrapped in prosciutto will taste pretty good), but for $25 I'll eat lamb elsewhere.

I'm not overawed with the kitchen's ability to put out a pork tenderloin. The pork itself was a bit bland (though nicely tender), the polenta was a touch too crispy (when polenta gets too crispy it's just chewy), and the refried beans came out of a can, I'm pretty sure. Still, for $14 I've had burgers that were worse than this. I wouldn't order it again, but I would try something else on the menu.

I tried a piece of steak, and it was decent. I hope the sides were better. The sable fish looked very good, though I didn't try it. N's beet salad looked quite good, with a generous dollop of chevre.

All in all, not a great dining experience. The Libra Room is not a place to go strictly for food, though they are trying to make it so. The menu has been improved, and you can tell that the chef is trying to offer interesting meals. They're just not pulling them off that well. It's decent for the price, and hopefully they will improve.

The real reason to go to the Libra Room is the music, which tonight was horrible at times, and merely good if uninspiring for the remainder. A Shostakovich string quartet is not your mother's classical music, I'll tell you that much. Moody, amelodic (unmelodic?), punctuated by sharp bursts of minor notes... pleasing dinner music this wasn't. It is, however, one of the only places I know that has live music seven days a week, and for that it deserves our support (even though I've heard there are rumblings about how they treat musicians). I'll come back the next time a friend's band is playing, order a beer, and maybe try the fish.

Libra Room
1608 Commercial Drive
5 - 1 seven days a week (and usually later on the weekend)

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