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New Orleans

CA hounds' NOLA report

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Restaurants & Bars 3

CA hounds' NOLA report

PolarBear | Mar 5, 2006 05:55 PM

Checked in to the Ch. Sonesta in the Vieux Carre on Thursday a couple of weeks ago and went looking for sliders. Workmen were still making repairs to Acme and Remoulade had a sign on the door that they were out of raw oysters. Ended up at Bourbon House for a decent dozen raw that were very good, but the half-dozen Rockefeller were pretty ordinary with just a pile of bland spinach topping each. Washed them down with a couple of nice whites offered BTG.

For dinner that evening we walked up to Meauxbar on the corner of Rampart and St. Phillip. Arrived a little before 7pm to find only about 3 tables taken but was filling up by the time we finished. We started with the Roast Beet Salad w/ apples, toasted pecans and goat cheese and an app of Ginger Crawfish Dumplings w/ sesame sauce (8.00 ea). We both loved the salad and the dumplings were fine but lacking much of a crawfish flavor, and made us wonder if we’d have liked the Paradise Spring Rolls w/ lime sauce better. Had a nice glass of ’03 Bordeaux Ch. Lamothe de Heux (8.00) to accompany. We shared entrees as usual, her choice being the Tilapia w/ ginger, tomatoes, coconut curry in parchment and mine the Coconut Shrimp in Red Curry with cilantro/mint garni. The Tilapia was well prepared and tasty but the shrimp in red curry was excellent, having a nice tang and lacking the usual overly thick battering and any presence of sweet condiments. I had another decent BTG selection with the entrees, Mommesin Bourgogne ’02 Burgundy (also 8.00). Total pre-tax/tip was just over $70, we were both pleased with Meauxbar and would return.

The other option we’d considered for dinner this evening was Peristyle, so I was able to convince my dear wife that she should skip dessert at Meauxbar and we’d pop into the bar at Peristyle where she could have a sweet fix and I could try their sweetbreads. Turns out she was too full but humored me by hanging out at the bar while I ordered and woofed down the Crispy Sweetbreads w/ roasted leeks and fingerling potatoes (usually an entrée but they gladly accommodated my request to have it as an appetizer). The perfectly crisped meat was presented with Prociutto di Parma, fennel and Herbs d’Provence, with a Marsala infused reduction sauce that was quite rich with great depth of flavor. This was a great dish and went very well with a glass of Garnacha (sorry, didn’t catch vintner or year).

Friday morning, picked up a couple of coffees and an order of beignets from Café Beignet on Royal, they were OK but didn’t seem to quite match those from CdM, or at least my foggy memory from a few years back.

Stopped into Coops for lunch while walking around the quarter, Lady PB ordered the Chase Sampler, fried chicken, seafood gumbo, jambalaya and red beans and rice. I ordered the two-piece fried chicken ala carte and a cup of the gumbo. My fried chicken was excellent, crispy exterior and moist inside, perfectly seasoned. The main disappointment was a single wing that made up the chicken portion of her plate. We both thought the gumbo and jambalaya were just OK and the red beans and rice were quite good.

I had asked in Coops about mac ‘n cheese, which they didn’t have but suggested I try the jalapeno version at Margarittaville across the street. Picked up a side order that turned out to have a pleasant hint of heat but just a thin veneer of cheese present on the noodles.

Friday night headed to Bon Ton in the warehouse district. Started with the Fried Oysters Alvin w/ sautéed mushrooms and a vinagrette sauce. These are not to be missed, simply one of the best preps of oysters we’ve ever had. We shared the Crabmeat au Gratin (21.00) and the Bayou Etouffe with Eggplant, Shrimp, and Crab. The etouffe was three separate servings around a central mound of rice, the shrimp and crab were unremarkable, the eggplant part was actually pretty good but contained only one small chunk of eggplant. I have to take full blame here since it was the one time during the trip that I ignored the local hounds’ advice (about not be able to find really good etouffe in the area). The Red Fish Bon Ton topped with crab would have been the better choice. The Crabmeat au Gratin, OTOH, was the stellar dish of the entire trip, decadently rich with great fresh tasting crab. We had chosen the cauliflower gratin to accompany which added to the richness, but so good we didn’t care. Stuffed to the gills we got an order of the Bread Pudding w/ Whiskey Sauce to take back to the room. I neglected to note which wines I tried, seems the bill was around $80 pre-T/T.

On my own for lunch on Saturday, took a walk over to Frenchmen St. to check out a few rec’s from the hounds and a couple more I ran across from an article in a small local publication. I had intended to check out Feelings and Mimi’s but with hunger setting in didn’t venture that far into the Faubourg-Marigny. The Marigny Brasserie looked interesting but nothing on the menu fit my mood, Praline Connection was packed, food looked great but again nothing clicked, ended up getting a variety of sweets for my sweetie. All the others on my list had really good looking menus posted but they were all only open for dinner, Suko Thai (1913 Royal), Adolfo’s (upstairs at 611 Frenchmen), and Hookah’s (for their mussels) on the corner at Decatur. Crossed over to Esplanade to check out Marisol’s, saw plenty of wine bottles sitting out, a couple of half full glasses of red on the bar, but there were a couple of tables stacked on each other. Menus posted listed lunch and dinner but there was no pink health dept. permit notice to be seen anywhere. I see from a couple of recent posts that they are now not planning to reopen, such a shame.

Ended up trying Fiorella’s on Decatur behind the French Market Pl. Old funky nautical themed place and already packed before the lunch hour. Started with a well prepared Bloody Mary and an order of the Fried Pickles (4.75), a first for me and can understand how one could get an occasional craving for them. Very generous serving, easily enough for 3-4 people, but I managed to put away about half. Ordered the 3 piece Fried Chicken (two thighs and a leg) (8.25) that was served with their mac ‘n cheese and corn machoux (sp?). The mac ‘n cheese was tasty enough but baked more done than I care for, the warm corn relish had great flavors, and the chicken again cooked perfectly. The chicken wasn’t as highly seasoned as Coops, but getting three pieces for a dollar less I thought was the better deal of the two.

Saturday dinner had been pre-arranged at the Redfish Grill by the organizers of my wife’s event so I didn’t get my ersters three ways, She had come down with a bad cold and didn’t even make it to dinner. They served sampler platters with fried oysters, BBQ shrimp, andouille sausage, and crab balls, all decently prepared and tasty. Ham and pea puree soup was also good. There were three choices for entrees, Yellow Fin Tuna, a grilled Filet w/ bordelaise sauce, and a Pecan crusted Drum. I chose the latter which was served with a wild mushroom and pea popcorn rice and finished with a Creole meuniere sauce. The fish was a very generous portion and cooked perfectly. The pecan breading was a little heavy for my taste that might have been better if it had been a little crisper, but the meuniere sauce was one of the best I’ve had. We were given a choice of a white or red wine, opted for an OK but unremarkable cab from CA. Took the Praline Bread Pudding back to the room for my gal along with crab salad for her dinner.

On my own again for lunch Sunday, popped into Phillip Chan’s Asian-Cajun to try the Chicken w/ toasted honey-glazed pine nuts. The chicken is wok sautéed in a light brown sauce and served over crispy fried spinach and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. In a word…. Outstanding, loved every bite matched with a glass of Cavit Pinot Grigio from Italy.

By dinner time, Lady PB was feeling much better. I’d made res’s at Muriels but thinking it over we’d only seen two items on the menu that interested us, the scallops and the cassoulet. Since her appetite had returned we decided we’d like to try a number of different things, so we ended up back at Chef Chan’s. I’d called first and was told they were very busy but to come on in. They managed to get a table cleared in just a few minutes after we walked in, but noticed quickly that they appeared to operating on the edge of panic mode. Packed house and only two waiters and the gal bartending, another waiter had called in sick and there were no bus-persons, waiters were having to do it all. We had fears of long waits to order, be served, etc., but somehow they were able to cope with the madness managing to process the tabs for those wanting to leave, bussing tables, seating newcomers, taking orders and getting them out in as timely a fashion as possible.

We ordered about six dishes and said to just bring them out in whatever order they appeared. Crab cake w/ Asian breading (11.95), Fried Green Tomato w/ crabmeat & crawfish (8.95), topped w/ creamy béarnaise sauce, Crawfish Spring Rolls (4.50/2), Hot & Spicy Cabbage Seafood Soup cooked w/ Korean kim chi, shrimp and crawfish (5.95), Crab Salad w/ honey mustard dressing, and the Wok-sauteed Chicken dish I’d had for lunch. We asked if it’d be possible to get a half order of the latter, to which the chef agreed, but he sent out a full order anyway and only charged us for the half. The martini I ordered at the beginning and the glass of wine to start dinner were a little slow in arriving and the waiter comp’d the glass of wine. I should note that as hectic as things appeared they never lost their composure or warm friendly attitude. I ate most of the soup, wonderful rich broth and great kim chi flavors but a little to spicy for my wife, but she was perfectly happy handling most of the crab salad on her own. The crawfish spring rolls were very good, but again not much noticeable seafood flavor. The chicken and crispy spinach just as dynamite as before and the Fried Green Tomatoes were out of this world, the acidity and slightly crunchy texture balancing out the rich béarnaise sauce. The huge crab cake was the only disappointment being quite dense with filler which didn't let the crab shine through. A little over an hour after we had arrived we were stuffed, out the door to walk it off and do a little shopping. Total for all of this was just over $60 pre-T/T. Definitely high on our list of places to return to.

To finish off the evening we stopped in Arnaud’s and asked the bartender if we could get a Café Brulot. We were told that the waiters have to make this particular after dinner treat and the dining room was packed. I explained to the hostess that this was our last night and we were really looking forward to trying this special preparation for two. She checked with Charles, the gracious and distringuished head waiter, who said he would prepare it for us in the bar (not usually done I understand) but we might have to wait a little while. About 10-15 minutes later he wheeled a cart into the bar, complete with a burner and old copper pot and ladle, and proceded to peel an orange in a circular pattern, leaving it attached, then studding the long curly-que peel with 20 or so whole cloves. The cognac was ignited and allowed to flow slowly down the long spiral of peel and into the copper pot containing coffee, cinnamon sticks, a whole lemon with peel, and who knows what else. Finally he filled two tall but narrow cups with the great smelling spiced coffee. It was the perfect end to an all too short stay. Thanks to all the hounds that keep the rest of us updated as things recover.

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