La Belle Vie Cooking at Bar Food Prices

Does this look like bar food? Well, it is.

Does this look like bar food? Well, it is.

It's already a great deal: Libertine took the steaks out of the steakhouse and put romp where there used to be pomp. A steak place for everyone else, plus tuna poke tacos. We've always liked it.

But we dined there over the weekend, and maybe it was our imagination, but right this minute, the place is on fire! Is it because sous chef Shane Oporto is on his way to head up La Belle Vie and the pressure is on? We're not sure, but we like what we see. See also: New La Belle Vie Chef Shane Oporto: "I'm Not Used to Talking About Myself"

Soba noodles with hearts of palm in a chili-soy vinaigrette possessed a bright levity that had it just about floating off the plate. And it was: on forks into our mouths. It's the sort of dish that's actually good and good for you, and great Japanese noodles are very difficult to find around these parts so file this one under: "great find."

Steak tartare with ginger, nori, and a quail egg had the deep, thunderous satisfaction of a good steak, all in a few bites of revelatory glory: How can it be so good? How can it be? How? Bang! It's gone, and you're left wondering.

And don't think it's all swish and swank: Buffalo wings are here, and they're probably the best in town, with a whipped blue cheese providing an addictive dip for dunkin'. And for once, the celery will actually get eaten: It's prettily cut, and the whole of the dish is really thoughtful and graceful, if buffalo wings can be such a thing.

Steak tartare is a few-bite wonder.

Steak tartare is a few-bite wonder.

Don't believe us? No wet naps here. Instead watch for a hot towel with a little lemon wedge on the side.

Shane Oporto starts work at La Belle Vie on March 19, but we're confident the entire kitchen at Libertine will hold things down righteously in his absence. But do go, and do get a look at his work right now. All of it can be had inexpensively at the bar, right next to a $3 Lone Star, if you want it.

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