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Restaurants & Bars 7

FQ Fest Dining Report: From Hype to Heaven

groovyman | Apr 13, 200507:46 PM

Long anticpated and planned (maybe over-planned) French Quarter Fest Trip.

Thursday night: Galatories
Brandy Milk Punch at bar upstairs was great, though bartender was a drag. First sip--strong. But love at second sip. Even better 2nd one downstairs, where they bothered to put on the nutmeg. Definitely will be part of my future drink repertoire.

Seated quickly, and was almost disappointed, having braced for a casual wait w/drinks. Much smaller than anticipated and not the type of busy I expected. With large mirrors and tiled floor, I felt more like I was going to get my hair cut than be treated to a fine meal.

Oyters en Brochette was generous and great oyster dish, though nothing complex: bacon and grease balance by lemon. Date's garlic salad was excellent, garlic and oil balanced by . . . lemon. As entree, I had the pompano with crab meat and, though the crabmeat was so fresh and sweet i'd eat the menu if it were covered with the stuff, the fish was good but nothing special. My date ordered independent of my 'research' and she got the better dish: shrimp au vin. Very tasty, but not mind blowing.

Was looking forward to the Eggplant Bernaise, but the sauce was limp and the eggplant fair at best. The Lyonnaise Potatoes, however, were criminally bad at this price. Soggy, salty, greasy, and tasteless. I literally have had better homefries at the Waffle House.

Waiter was young and didn't have the personality that I'd read about. Nice, competent, but unmemorable. Desert was the one standout. The Banana Bread Pudding was the best bread pudding I've ever had, and it's a dish I love. This was the one true WOW of the night.

VERDICT: Was expecting sophisticated and sublime, especially after the lambasting one takes here for loving Jacques Imos, but was underwhelmed. Dishes weren't sophisticated . . . mainly grease or fat set against a hint of lemon. Good, but not worth the price. Would have been happier returning to Jacques Imo's or Mr. B's. They both blew me away my 1st time. Galatoires just blew my budget. Tourist go for the hype and scene. Locals go to be seen. Sounds like a tourist trap to me! At least J-I's delivers memorable 'slop' and genuine fun!

Friday Lunch: Uglesich's
Loved the experience. Talked to locals in line. STaff friendly and inviting. Food was good, but again not the revelation I was expecting, and definitely overpriced for the small portions they serve. Shrimp and Grits was good, but not bursting w/flavor like this dish often is. This is a favorite dish of mine, and it had been called, on this board, the best dish in N.O. Not even close to the best shrimp and grits I've had. Fried oysters came cold but still were the standout. Best by far I've ever had. The one "blow me away" dish. Imagine if they'd been hot! My date again ordered outside my research and hit another winner: Shrimp and Onions. Much better than the Shrimp Uggie I had, which really didn't have much taste and the potatoes were soggy and tasteless. Super slaw was good . . . but it was , as I feared, just slaw. Tasty slaw, but slaw.

VERDICT: Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but just didn't get the amount of hype (everyone said if you love Mother's, Uggie's will slay you, but, sorry, I still prefer Mothers--berate me all ya like!). If they do remain open, I'd go back one day, but order much more carefully. Paid over $60 (including two great bloody mary's) for what turned out to be kind of a light lunch.

Friday afternoon crawfish and goatcheese crepe from Muriel's at a fest booth was a standout. Pleasant, light dinner at Gumbo Shop, but, while their gumbo was good, not memorable. Tried Sazerac. Read that it originated as a medicinal. Tasted like a medicinal. No thanks.

Saturday: breakfast at a nameless place in the quarter. Was looking for spontenaity since my planning hadn't paid the dividends I expected. lunched at booths, then, craving oysters, headed to ACME. Said before they weren't anything special, but they win the award for Right Thing at Right Time. They do have great oysters. Wouldn't plan on going there, as I can get great Oysters in FL or VA, but was glad to know about them cause when the craving hit, they made me a happy man.

Dinner: Brigtsen's
Finally started to feel some of the hype materialize. Quaint, romantic feel. Nice waitress. Limited wine list, and I'm not extremely knowledgeable. Have been on a Sauvingon Blanc kick, but none on menu so just gambled on the most inexpensive Chard. on the menu (this trip was a real budget breaker as it was!) Gamble paid off. Best bottle of white I've ever had at that price (and better than most i've had that cost more). Got the feeling Frank B. knows his wine and chose his list carefully.

House salads were excellent starters. Date had Shrimp Remoulade made into a meal and loved it (though she seemed to enjoy the previous two meals more than I). Had the seafood platter. Every taste was excellent. Only complaint is that I would have liked a starch and vegetable. There was enough seafood that I was comfortably full, but I had been feeling guilty for having 4pm oysters though pre-warned how generous the portions were. I found them 'fair', but wouldn't quite go to 'generous'. Would have been a little hungry if I hadn't had the late lunch.

Desert was the only true disappointment. Followed waitresses rec. and got Double Chocolate Cake with Orange Ice Cream. I mean, chocolate cake can't be bad unless set out overnight, but this was nothing more than, well, ordinary chocolate cake.

VERDICT: Lovely meal. Impressed, but not to the point of Herbsaint, which is the restaurant I've tried in N.O. that I'd most class it with. Will definitely be back, but not before trying Bayona and probably returning to Herbsaint. The duck at Herbsaint was soooo delicious and the best dish I'd ever eaten that had once had feathers. Until . . . . .

This was the one I wasn't sure about and thought about cancelling, esp. after starting on a disappointing note, but I'll be forever grateful that I followed through. This place truly deserves its reputation as one of the best restaurants in the nation. It was one of the most wonderful meals I've ever had.

A few VIPs arrived ahead of us and the maitre de handed out cards to the whole party, telling them to contact him if they ever needed anything. But, from the moment we were seated, we too were treated like royalty.

Had been reluctant to try the Pimm's Cup (which is really British, for all those cultural bloodhounds out there) but found it a wonderful pre-dining cocktail. The cajun bloody mary's were the best I've ever had . . .spicy and tangy with pickled pepper and okra (and I've heard no protests aganist these, though they possess all the offending factors of the cajun martinis I mentioned: vodka, peppers, tabasco, and cajun seasoning on the rim). Fortunately, one came with my "Traditional Jazz Brunch."

Started with the Egg Sardou. Thought one little poached egg couldn't blow me away, but was a perfect blend of flavors. The creamed spinach surrounding it was divine and flowed perfectly into the artichoke accompaniment. Wow. Have never enjoyed an egg dish this much. My date had the Summer Seafood Timbale and this was light, fresh, well-balanced and perfect.

She had the Eggs Garden District next, which was beyond reproach and I had the Muscadine and Chicory Coffee Lacquered Quail. What an explosion of fresh, delicate flavors. Simply one of the best dishes I've ever had. The quail was unbelievably tender and flavorful and the sauce sublime. Can't name all the flavors in the stuffing, but I'm always happy when an excellent chef stumps and astounds my tastebuds. I could rave about this all day.

Desert, her sorbet was again unparalleled. My bread pudding souflee was great, but the only thing that Galatoires bested them on. Still it was the 3rd best I've ever had (2nd at the Mountain Lodge in Pipestem, WV--1 of only 2 excellent dining experiences I've ever had in my home state). A little trouble getting coffee with my desert, but service was so impeccable otherwise and they were busting their hump that this was quickly forgivable. Gladly tipped big, feeling like I was paying for a professional service and not offering up a guilt/obligation upcharge for someone competently doing their job.

Food 10 Service 9.75 (10 if not for the coffee) Ambience: 9

Perfect meal followed by a perfect stroll through the Garden District on a perfect day.

VERDICT: Many moons will pass before I return to New Orleans without returning to CP. Always thought I was more laid back and non-traditional, so whoda thunk I was such a Brennan's guy. Dearly love Mr. B's and CP after one visit each (the latter now firmly my NO fave), and will definitely visit Brennan's my next time in town. I know some on this board have called it overhyped, but everyone's tastes are individual and I don't get some other people's tastes just as much as they don't get mine.

Dinner: Snug Harbor. Light dinner. Burger good but wouldn't go back for. Their gumbo, though, was second only to Mr. B's in what I've tried.

Sunday: Mother's
Bash this place all you want. I eat there several times most visits and it always leaves me warm, satisfied, and with a literal food buzz. Had debris and black ham biscuits on my only visit. Perfect finishing breakfast. Mother's is comfort food perfection, second only to that of my own mother's in its ability to warm my soul. Good plain down home eats. Confounds me that anyone could hate this place.

Lunch: Central Market Muffaletta on the plane home. And a second one for lunch the next day. They always deliver the goods! Best dang sandwich ever.

Sorry so long, if you made it this far. Read up a lot before the trip, so had a lot to report upon completion! Galatoires was most anticipated and went in that order to CP, which was least. Turned out inversely, with each meal more impressive than the last, culminating in culinary nirvana! Hope to get back soon!

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