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New Orleans Trip Report

Long trip report - Emeril's, August, Mila, Stella, CP, Bayona, etc. 7/10-15


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Long trip report - Emeril's, August, Mila, Stella, CP, Bayona, etc. 7/10-15

chris | Jul 22, 2010 01:33 PM

Got back from New Orleans five days ago and I'm still full.

Between my wife and I, we did not have a single bad dish. Some things may not have worked to my personal preferences but the quality of the food and preparation were consistently strong across the board. I apologize for the lack of in depth descriptions of things (I know everything is "good") I just don't do the poetic description thing well. I'm looking forward to another visit sooner rather than later, though I certainly won't go at it quite so gluttonously....

Photos of everything consumed and the like can be found here:

Day One:
Excellent though, as I've read in various places, definitely not "New Orleans" if that makes sense. My wife's meal was fantastic: truffle risotto and fish and chips - tempura battered anago, very much an Asian flare, great stuff. The preparations of my food (foie gras BLT and veal medallions) were without question high quality and nicely done, but were definitely a bit more 'traditional' than I expected...more a problem with my expectations than anything else. Service was spotty...nothing big, but a collection of minor irritations. The one thing I got a kick out of is if you order iced tea, you get a pot of hot tea poured into a glass that seems to have dry ice inside - it's quite the spectacle.

Raw and grilled oysters - we were warned they would be a bit on the small side but there were 16 on the order of a dozen (unnecessary - they weren't 'that' small, but appreciated). Blackened alligator was amazing as well.

Day Two:
$20 three course prix fixe and a full page of bottles of wine for under $30. Squash soup, hangar steak, and rice pudding - top notch all around (the rice pudding was amazing - a phrase I never thought I'd ever say). The highlight to me anyway were the sweet potato rolls with pureed fava beans. Great food, great service. Definitely a business lunch crowd.

Slightly larger oysters (raw and grilled) than Felix, very different vibe (darker, more of a "bar" feel than Felix's diner thing), and seemed to be constantly packed. The only real difference in the oyster preparations was Acme had a cocktail sauce and Felix was DIY with horseradish and Tabasco. (The people at Felix were way nicer, the guy here was extremely grumpy but in a lovable kinda way.)

Giant portions. Best service of the trip. Some of the best food of the trip - rabbit remoulade was outstanding and sweetbreads with veal were quite good. Gumbo was just so so (it was basically all broth - maybe a few pieces of meat, but all I remember is liquid). She had the BBQ shrimp (the sauce was very heavy, but undeniably delicious) and redfish were both excellent. Extremely loud room if that sort of thing matters to you. Dessert of root beer cheesecake on bacon shortbread had a bit too much bacon for my liking. Banana cream pie deserves its reputation - tons of fresh bananas, awesome.

Day Three:
New Orleans School of Cooking
Not a bad way to spend two hours and $24.. For the regular class at 10 am, you don't cook or participate (though the chef does go around and ask people a few questions), it's just a show with an angled mirror on the ceiling so you can see everything going on easily. We were there for gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding, and pralines. Plenty of iced tea during the class and Abita Root Beer and Amber is served with the meal. They serve you a plate but if you want more, you can get seconds. We both thought the gumbo was better here than at Emeril's.

My wife's pick for best meal of the trip. Arguably the most "southern" style cuisine we encountered. She had a crab tart and rabbit roulade and I had shrimp with black bean cake and sweetbreads. The sweetbreads were some of the best I've ever had and she feels the same about her rabbit. I did see Susan Spicer running around which was fun to see.

Day Four:
Most people are just given the $20 prix fixe menu when seated. I had to ask for a regular menu and when I did our waiter got a whole lot friendlier. My wife did the prix fixe with a trio of oysters (very good, rich and flavorful) and shrimp in a vin blanc sauce, which was also good but a rather small portion (not a big deal considered it was part of the deal, but this was the only $20 prix fixe that seemed to not have a lot of food). I had oysters a la foch, which had some of the best fried oysters I've ever had, and soft shell crab which I'm sure was done well, but just not my thing - two crabs, deep fried, no sauce except butter on the side... Apparently only the front dining room was open, it got very crowded and very loud by the time we left. I must mention the 25 cent martinis - your choice of gin, vodka, cosmo, or lemondrop. We each had three.

Commander's Palace
For a special meal that's a New Orleans classic, this is probably the way to go - excellent all around. We both had soup trio (gumbo, turtle soup, and a shrimp and okra soup of the day). The shrimp and okra was by far the best perhaps because the only flavor either of us got from the turtle soup was sherry. I had frog legs (fried - excellent), she had escargot for appetizers. Entrees were steak for her and veal for me. All the food was excellent, service was fine as well. I really liked that wine was offered by the glass and half glass (half was still a generous pour) so you could get three half glasses and keep the wine tab under $20 with ease.

Day Five:
Restaurant August
Best meal of the trip as far as I'm concerned. $20 prix-fixe. I had pate, veal, and a unique gourmet grilled cheese of sorts with peaches and goat cheese. My wife had fennel soup, a dish that was essentially a fancy gumbo, and an almond cake with peaches (and corn ice cream). An amuse bouche of seafood custard and a gift of some candy after the meal make this actually a five course deal IMHO. Tied with Emeril's for best service of the trip, absolute nicest people - my sole regret is just doing lunch, next time we're doing the dinner tasting menu.

Central Grocery
Muffuletta to go - ate it on the train on the way home. The entire thing was too salty for my tastes, but I did enjoy the olive salad topping.

Restaurant August
301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Commander's Palace Restaurant
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Emeril's Restaurant
800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

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