Thanks to all who contribute here providing some great recommendations, and to those who answered some of my questions. It has all been helpful.
In an effort to give back a little, here's my report of the restaurants we sampled over the four and half days we spent in New Orleans. This was our first visit and we sure like the friendly people and seemingly everyone's interest in food.
Emeril’s (800 Tchoupitoulas St) (website:www.emerils.com/restaurant/1/Emerils-...)
There’s a feeling of energy to this restaurant. We arrived early and sat at the bar for a pre-dinner libation before our meal. For a Monday evening, it was very busy with a number of people coming and going, and people having a meal at the bar.
The look of the place is casual, with an exposed brick wall, but distinctive, with the interesting panel treatment on the ceiling. The big windows made the place bright on a sunny evening.
This was our first trip to New Orleans and the first place we ate at. It was fun to open a menu containing items I’d never had seen before, let alone tasted. The servers were keen to give us recommendations. We tried the seafood and andouille gumbo and the arugula, endive and radicchio salad to start, then the jumbo shrimp, and andouille encrusted drum for mains. We split a trio of ice creams, which flavours I cannot now recall, but they were all interesting and tasty.
Service was excellent and our meal was thoroughly enjoyable.
Stella! (1023 Chartres St) (website: www.restaurantstella.com)
This restaurant has a beautiful formal ambience. The servers are also formal and attentive. From the moment you enter, you feel this is a place for a special meal.
We tried the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairings ($125 for the menu, $95 for the wines). That night the courses were: Local Cherry Tomato Gazpacho with Louisiana Jumbo Lump Crab and Virgin Olive Oil; Canadian Lobster, North Shore Farm Egg and American Paddlefish Caviar; Louisiana Gulf Shrimp Risotto with Caramelized Shiitake Mushroom, Grilled Ramps, English Peas and Virgin Olive Oil; Panko and Parsley Crusted Japanese Mero Sea Bass with Glazed Baby Turnips and Dill Sauternes Butter; Seared Prime Beef Tenderloin with Potato and Foie Gras Croquette, Caramelized Baby Onion, Baby Beets and Red Burgundy “Glace de Viande”; Goat’s Milk Panna Cotta with Louisiana Strawberries, Candied Orange Peel and Pistachio Glass and Bombe of Sesame Cake, Chocolate-Caramel Ice Cream and Meringue with Chocolate Sauce Sphere, Black Sesame Lace and Pink Peppercorn Powder.
I could not finish all of the last three courses but each course was excellent and paired well with the wines selected.
In terms of the setting, food, wine and service, this was the best meal we had overall while in New Orleans.
August (301 Tchoupitoulas St) (website: www.restaurantaugust.com)
I had been looking forward to this meal, but it proved somewhat disappointing.
We were seated in the back room right next to the door where most of the servers were exiting and entering and thus, frequently bumping my dining companion’s chair. It wasn’t an ideal start.
My starter of organic greens with pumpkin seed brittle, Point Reyes blue cheese and pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette did not (to me) really work. The greens and cheese with dressing were good on their own, but other than add texture, the pumpkin seed brittle did not seem to belong. The sweetness of the brittle was too strong. For mains, my dining companion had red fish which he thought was good. I had poussin with barley risotto and a blueberry sauce. The sauce on its own had a full berry flavour but was too strong for the rest of the dish overpowering the flavours of the fowl and grains.
The hot and humid weather was wearing on me and I felt tired which probably affected my enjoyment of the meal. The servers did not seem as friendly as other places we tried. I wanted to like August, but it was overall the least enjoyable of the four dinners we had.
Bayona (430 Dauphine St) (website: www.bayona.com)
We had asked to sit in the courtyard at Bayona and were told that it was not a guaranteed seating. Just as well. When we arrived, it was starting to rain and during the meal, there was a massive thunder and lightening display as rain poured buckets until shortly before we left. We couldn’t complain about not being in the courtyard. The interior with its many rooms is intimate and elegant.
We were a group of six and I now cannot recall what everyone else ate. I started with the cream of garlic soup which was very tasty but did cause me to burp up garlic from time to time for the rest of the evening. If your dining companions are tolerant, I would say it is well worth trying. For mains, I had chorizo-stuffed rabbit roulade and panéed leg, toasted angel hair, escarole, and sherry garlic sauce. I loved this dish but could not manage any more food despite lingering for some time after while others had dessert.
The servers were gracious and tolerated us being the last people in the restaurant.
Ralph’s on the Park (900 City Park Avenue) (website: www.ralphsonthepark.com)
We had lunch at Ralph’s on the Park after visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art and walking around City Park and the area beyond.
The restaurant has a lovely view of the park. It seemed to be frequented by many locals who were visiting among their tables. The restaurant has the feel of a place where you would regularly go to when wanting a special place but an relaxing atmosphere. Indeed, before we were finished two different extended family groups arrived looking like they were celebrating someone’s birthday.
I had corn fried oyster remoulade salad, which was a salad with fried oysters on the side sitting atop remoulade sauce – tasty but not too heavy for lunch. My dining companion had seafood crepe. We found the food well prepared and a lovely oasis from the heat of the park.
Mr. B’s Bistro (201 Royal Street) (www.mrbsbistro.com)
At the New Orleans School of Cooking, Mr. B’s was recommended as the place to go for BBQ shrimp. So our group of six went there for lunch.
I’ll eat one shrimp, but didn’t want an entire plate, so while my dining companions were sitting with the paper bibs tied around their necks, I had the trout amandine. The dish made me think of France as it was prepared as the French would do. I did dip some bread into the BBQ Shrimp sauce -- wow, rich.
The restaurant was very busy and the servers engaging making it a fun spot for a meal.
430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112
800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130