Just got back late last night from a wonderful visit. Our first dinner was at Stella and I absolutely loved this place. I had a salad to start - beautifully seasoned avocado topped with crab & baby arugula, with a vinaigrette of corn, lobster & truffle. This was my favorite dish of the trip. Every bite was heavenly, didn't want it to end. Followed this with the sea bass with shark fin broth, thanks to fellow reviewers. This dish was also fabulous. The fish was firm, beautiful large flake, and cooked to absolute perfection. My husband had the gnocci with truffles and crab to start, and the lamb to follow. He loved the gnocci. Said that the quality of the lamb was fantastic, preparation perfect, but wasn't overwhelmed by flavors of the dish itself. Chef Scott Boswell visited with us and other diners in the dining room - super great guy, really down to earth, absolutely a blast to talk to about the food and his philosophy. The sea bass that he uses is line caught, there are Umbria truffles on the menu, and all sorts of other things that show that he is all about quality ingredients. It really shines through.
Next night was the Bistro at Maison de Ville. Please, please, please go to this place. It was really slow on Tuesday night. Several fellow diners said that they had been there previously and were the only ones there. The food is impeccable french bistro fare, reasonably priced, and spot on. I ordered the house smoked salmon salad to start (it was highly recommended by the waiter). I'm guessing that the salmon was hot smoked, it was served medium rare, over frisee, topped with a poached egg and a creamy remoulade blanc. Terrific dish, perfectly executed, and only $6.25. My husband had the sweet breads - crisp, tender, beatifully moist, served with a shitake and fig jus. I had the duck sampler for an entree, my husband had the filet mignon. Both were amazing. My hubby commented that the filet was the most tender that he's ever had. The duck was also great - seared breast, confit leg, foie gras, and an absolutely terrific yam pecan cake. Hubby had creme brulee for dessert - perfect. The chef, Greg Piccolo, also came out and chatted. This was a great evening, chatting with fellow diners, plus the chef joining in, it was a real blast. Servers were also terrific, even remembered us two days later when they saw us on the street. I hope that more of you will try this place, it really is wonderful, and doesn't seem to get a lot of mention on this board.
The last evening was August. Loved the atmosphere, had great service, found John Besh to be very personable, but neither one of us loved the place. The gnocci with truffles was amazing, actually better than at Stella - lighter texture, more delicate dish overall. I had the trout pontchartrain for an entree. Found this completely uninspired - pan fried trout topped with crab, and a sauce with fresh Porcini mushrooms. Sounded great. The sauce didn't have a lot of flavor, and lacked acidity. The waiter brought the lemon that I requested at the speed of light. The fish was cooked perfectly, but there was nothing else to the dish. I don't remember that this was an a la carte menu, so I found it odd that there was nothing else on the plate. Don't get me wrong, plenty of food for me, but I love when the chef comes up with a dish that involves more than just the protein. My husband had the pork belly served with Maine lobster. There was a lot of braised pork, actually quite a bit of lobster too. Unfortunately they really didn't go together, and the pork belly was so rich that my hubby didn't feel so swell the rest of the night and yesterday am. Overall it was just too much richness, maybe better as a starter.
We had lunch at Acme one day - oysters at the bar, shared a fried oyster po boy. Also had the trio of Oysters at Bourbon House. These are terrific, particularly the Fonseca - oysters topped with a mixture of Tasso, peppers, a bechamel, some bread crumbs, and cheese. For sure these toppings kind of mask the flavor of the oysters, but they taste great. Ended our last morning with Breakfast at Brennans. Maybe overpriced, but terrific Turtle Soup, and great poached eggs over fried trout and creamed spinach. Just a nice way to leave the city. (Along with the 2 whole Muffaletta's stowed in my carry on. Made for a great snack last night, plus lunch today. By the way - tried heating it up. That's pretty hard to argue with. My hubby wanted no part of heating, but I think that I'm hooked. Thanks for this suggestion.)
Service, pacing, and overall experience was just delightful at all of these restaurants. This was our second trip to N.O. this year, and we just love to see that things are starting to come back, but it still looks to be a struggle for so many people. Thank you all for your great advice, and may you enjoy many happy meals. Can't wait to return - it's snowing in Vermont, and yesterday it was 70 and sunny in New Orleans. Cheers!