The bar has been raised for New Orleans dining. I'll start by saying that I had probably the most memorable meal of my life at Tru in Chicago, so I was extremely excited when I first heard Rick Tramanto was teaming up with John Folse to start Restaurant Revolution. Three years in the making, it finally opened last night, and four of us went. It was the first night it's been open to the public. "Wow" is all I can say. There is no place like this in New Orleans. This is true high-end dining. Ingredients and culinary execution you typically see in big cities like Chicago, no surprise there, New York, etc.
On to the food. The menu is huge, and there's something for everyone. A full line of steaks, pasta, salads, soups, meat, fowl, fish, caviar, you name it. There wasn't a fixed tasting, and We couldn't make up our minds, so we told the staff to just feed us four or five courses, and the fun began. We started with four different amuse bouches. I assume all were great, as I only got to try mine, but no one complained about their respective amuse.
Next was a soup course. Gumbo, turtle soup, and two crab bisques came out. The gumbo was the best gumbo I've ever eaten, and I've made it a life mission to try as many gumbos as possible. Suffice it to say, I've tried a few. The stock was a lighter brown but very thick rich. It was obviously blended, as it was very smooth and creamy in consistency. In the middle of the stock sat a perfectly cooked quail stuffed with rice and house-made andouille. Once the quail was distributed in the stock, it was a thing of beauty. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The other two soups were elegant and beautifully crafted, but man, that gumbo was incredible.
After that was a salad course, and we each were brought a different preparation. There were two different mixed greens salads, one beet salad, and a salad featuring fried oysters. All were very good.
Next was a venison carpaccio and crab beignets for the table to share. The venison was very light, with subtle flavors. The crab beignets were on the opposite end of the spectrum: dense and rich. All in all, an excellent third course.
Entrees were brought out shortly thereafter. I had a braised short rib accented with local citrus that was fork tender and excellent. The citrus really made the dish shine. My wife had a surf and turf featuring pork belly and red snapper. Another had a gnocchi dish with perfectly poached lobster. The fourth in our party had "bird in a cage" that was a heritage chicken quarter with mushrooms and I don't know what else. It was a delicious, umami heaven. All of the entrees were fantastic.
Even though we were stuffed, we agreed to get a few desserts, three to be exact. We ordered our three, and they brought out five: bread pudding creme broulee, chocolate cake, banana creme pie, creole cream cheese panna cotta, and strawberry roubharb angel food cake. My names for the dishes don't do their creativity and execution justice. Each one was a delicious work of art, but the bread pudding creme boulee was the table's favorite.
With our check came small, warm cookies and housemade chocolates, just in case we hadn't eaten quite enough.
In short, the execution of the food was incredible. Every dish had a story--that the wait staff will eventually be able to tell--and each was crafted and presented like a work of art. All in all, this was without a doubt the best meal I've eaten in New Orleans from an execution, attention to detail standard. I kind of hate to say it, but all others pale in comparison. This restaurant has raised the bar for New Orleans dining.
Despite the haute cuisine, it felt pretty casual and unpretentious, probably because of John Folse's tempering local's hand. And it's in a hotel, so there will be the inevitable folks in shorts and the like, but I felt perfectly fine in my work clothes: sports coat, slacks, and no tie. I'd recommend a jacket for men, but you probably wouldn't be out of place or uncomfortable in nice jeans and a button down shirt.
The service left a little to be desired, but that's to be expected on the first night. You could tell that not everyone knew where to be and when, but that will come. Also, there's so much going on on these plates that it will take some practice for the waitstaff to get their descriptions down. Despite these hiccups, the meal still flowed well, and we didn't want for anything. In a few weeks, assuming the cooking doesn't drop off for some reason, this place will be running like a well-oiled machine.
Wine selection is stunning as well, and the list is presented on an iPad. That makes sense because the sommelier said they have approximately 10,000 bottles in their cellar, ranging from the affordable to the obscene. We had two bottles with dinner and a pairing of two different wines at dessert. All were wonderful and excellently paired with the food.
After dinner, we took a tour of the restaurant. They have a private chef's table and a private room off the wine cellar that looked to seat about 14 or so. One of the sous chefs told us that the kitchen is incredible, with the highest end appliances available. He also said that the ingredients they're using are ridiculously fresh and high end. Ingredients for the most mundane menu items are flown in daily.
As you might expect, all this finery and attention to detail comes at a price, but it was definitely worth it. I can't wait to go back, and I only hope the food continues at last night's level and the staff rises to meet that level. With Tramanto and Folse at the helm, both of which were in attendance and came to speak to us, I have no reason to expect otherwise. Food just got a lot more interesting in New Orleans.