I may have been the only one of us horrified by the loss of Lulu's on Exchange Alley, but that little dining nook has been a welcome respite since back in the Old Dog days. It was always nice, when dragged downtown by visitors, to be able to divert from the overpopulated tour-o-fares of the Quarter down to the alley oasis of al fresco dining. Maybe the guy with the cake-shop will have a better go of it there. But i digress...
Last weekend, my dining companion and I were looking for someplace low-key to go have supper, and she suggested Lulu's in the Garden, after raving about a luncheon there several weeks ago. A quick drive down St. Charles to Jackson, where we found decent on-street parking, and all was set.
The room is nicely bright, but there are structural columns that break up the space in a subtly off-balance manner. The tables in the window nooks are quite cozy, though. I did find it a bit noisy, especially since there were only 5 tables in use, but the most intrusive party departed about the time our appetizers arrived.
Since this incarnation of Lulu's is more formal and more culinarily ambitious, they've dropped the house antipasto + entree of your choice set up they had in the Quarter; in the Garden, you order everything a la carte. There were 7 or 8 different appetizer and entree choices on the menu (which seems to change bi-weekly), plus a couple of specials: a soup, an appetizer, a salad and two entrees, all of which sounded quite good, and i appreciate that the waitstaff include the price in the vocal description of the food.
I chose to start off with the house salad, which was a basic mesclun with fried chicken nibbles (read: chicken cracklins) which were superb. Dining Companion had the heirloom beet salad, which she enjoyed, but i eschewed because of the liberal use of nuts.
The entree i chose was the hanger steak with shallots. Wow. Perfectly cooked meat, wonderfully caramelized, vinegar-laced shallots, and long beans, which were good, as far as long beans go, but i'd have preferred haricots vert. the DC had an equally succulent breast of duck with a vibrant jus, that was as good as my hanger steak.
Too full for dessert, we packed up the few slices of meat and vegetables that remained, and got out for about $120, tax/tip (and ~$50 in liquor) included.
Lulu's in the Garden bares a repeat visit in the near future. If they can deliver twice in a row in the new space, they'll rate fairly high on my frequent-visit list.
Oh, i almost forget about the bread. It's baked onsite in a smallish terra cotta pot, and i would have eaten myself sick on it if i hadn't had the forethought to ask the waitress to stop refreshing it. It was a light, eggy challah/brioche that was baked to perfection. I don;t know if it's always the same, or if they were giving a nod to Yom Yippur, but i could eat my weight in the stuff.