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Restaurants & Bars 11

Thanks for the memories... the longest report ever.

bugtown | Mar 30, 200411:13 PM

Had a wonderful four days in NOLA, and it was great fun to see my husband, Mr. Jaded and Unenthusiastic, blown away by the architecture and the whole ambiance of the place. But this is about the food, and it's long, so let's get started.

Meal one: Flight was late and long (3 stops)and most places were closed by 10:30. So we hustled into Acme for fried oysters, beer and a softshell crab po-boy. The last crab was sold from under our nose so the waitress nicely replaced it with a half order of shrimp (not so hungry, bumpy flights). The service and ambiance were great fun, but I've got to say their oyster breading was dry and crumbly. Very odd. A fluke?

Cafe du Monde for breakfast the next day, of course!, and then hoofed it through no-man's land for lunch at Uglesiches. Let me just say... oh. my. god. We identified it among the milk plant, the parking lot surrounded by razor wire, and the dilapidated shotgun shacks in various stages of renovation, by the line of people snaking around the block. We were surprised to order in line, but when we asked for recommendations we saw why there were permanent indentations on our laminated menu. It's where the gentleman at the counter had been pointing out fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, fried oysters and Uggy's shrimp to ignorant tourists for years.

We crammed into a table amid the crates of coke and cream soda with a woman who was traveling solo, and ended up sharing all our small plates. Absolutely amazing, every scrumptious morsel, though I do wonder about the blue cheese in the fried oyster. They were so tiny that the cheese masked any oyster taste. A trip to N.O. and nary a great fried oyster to be found? But never mind, the standout dish of the trip...okay the year...was Uglesich's shrimp, floating in an olive oil/tomato/onion sauce that seemed so simple yet was indescribably delicious. Like the Italian seaside meets the Caribbean. We fought over the sauce-saturated potatoes, and a basket of bread served as an excellent spoon.

We then had to walk up an appetite for dinner at Brightsens. The servings at Uggy's weren't that huge, so by 9 we were ready to eat again. Had a great time taking the streetcar, and saw much more of town than I had in the past. So thanks for getting me out of the FQ chowhounds! The food wasn't too bad either.

Standouts were the appetizer of sweetbreads with wild mushrooms in a reduction wine sauce with crème fraiche mashed potatoes, and the seafood platter entree. That baby could have fed a family of four: a huge ramekin of crawfish meat in a cream sauce, oysters Rockefeller, moist spicy/blackened grilled fish, lobster-sweet gulf shrimp tossed in garlic, olive oil and parsley, a gummy spinach oyster, and what they called a ratatouille but was more of a caponata. The one oyster aside, all incredible. The squash and crawfish bisque was tasty but nothing amazing, and my entree of paneed rabbit was disappointing. It tasted like a dry chicken fried steak, and the mustard sauce was too one dimensionally mustardy. But the mashed potatoes were like some crazy savory dessert, and there was enough on the seafood platter to feed two. I'm ashamed to say I can't remember the Pinot Noir we drank, but it went well with the array of food.

And though we were stuffed beyond all reason, you all had drilled it into my head not to miss their pecan pie, so we soldiered on and were rewarded with a spectacular crispy/chewy/nutty pie floating in a full bowl of warm, caramel sauce. I had to laugh; in San Francisco "caramel sauce" would have been three artful squirts, here it was a soup bowl full. It was worth every minute of discomfort.

The service was warm and wonderful, the prices very fair, the servings huge and the food overall very good. My one beef is with the plates. While I'm glad they're not a trendy restaurant with giant dishes that dwarf the contents, it would have been nice to have a smidgen of extra space. Maybe something in a nice white that allows the food to breathe and be savored, and doesn't make one feel like they've over-crammed their clunky 50's diner plate at the school cafeteria.

Is it only day 3? Marisol's courtyard was beautiful, the food good and the jazz nice, which pretty much made up for the surly service. It seems our waiter's mission was to enforce the rules and keep diners in line, and occasionally to serve. But it was so bizarre it was humorous, and it was only brunch after all. The eggs and scrapple were fine, the breakfast potatoes out of this world. Last visit I had a love affair with NO's fried foods, this time apparently it was the lowly potato. Who knew? Hubby's asparagus parmesan came with two eggs, and he said it was the perfect thing to help Brightsen's pie on its way. The biscuits were an absolutely standout, like something I've imagined from a southern novel but never thought to experience. Flaky, sweet, chewy, light, holy cow. The other surprise was our friend's vegan chef's surprise (imagine how that threw off the gestapo service, fortunately our friend is a regular so she went straight to the chef). We turn our noses up at vegan, but her artichoke sauteed with other veggies in an olive oil and lemon sauce was magical. Can't describe it, but it was a perfect melding of soft but crisp choke, sweet fruity oil, and bright lemon. I felt transported to the Greek seashore.

Then on to a great wine shop / Saturday wine bar, Bacchanal, which was a crazy, surreal experience along the railroad tracks in the Marigny. We felt like we were in a southern short story, full of larger than life characters with super-sized intellects and no self consciousness. They were tasting (free) Australian wines that day, but people were also buying bottles and sharing in the back yard. He has a great selection, and there was an even better vibe

We had smart cocktails in the FQ at..erk, can't recall the name, a number, 201 maybe? Drinks were great (pricy), the food looked decent and the bartender was very friendly, then off for a late dinner to Bayona.

Bayona. In fairness, we had some great things. But the bad taste the service left in our mouths overshadowed the good. It was late, 10 pm. We sat ahead of a table of 8, and a table of 2, and didn't get our appetizer until they were both finished and cleared of theirs. Not a word from the waitress until I brought it up, and then it turns out they'd burned and thus redone our delicious crispy quail salad with molasses vinagrette. But not a word, or a drop by, or an apology, just us sitting there for 30 minutes watching others eat. Finally, after yet another 25 minutes, our entrees; a lackluster pepper crusted lamb in zin sauce for him (decent but with livery tasting meat), and a bright and fresh seared tuna over greens and fresh corn for me. Really good, but we were so annoyed by this time that there was no saving the evening. Our clueless waitress made things worse when, halfway through our entrees, she dropped by to finally apologize. She said, "maybe I can buy you dessert?" to which we said, "well, it's 11:15, and we had a huge meal last night, so we're not up for dessert. What about buying us the quail that took 30 minutes?" The answer, when the bill came, was...nope. "But next time dessert is on us."

Finally day four. Coffee and a croissant at CC' and Felix's brought us back (y)our roots, with a jammin' crawfish boil. What a deal at $7 for a pound, and they were spicy enough to peel our lips off. In a good way. Now I know why the local beer is so and refreshing, because it was perfect with those babies! A couple dozen raw oysters, muddy and not super tasty but SO CHEAP we loved every slurp, and a softshell crab po'boy rounded out our meal. We'd hoped for a tasting menu of Creole food at the Royal Cafe, but found it had been closed down. That's okay, we'd eaten enough to take us through the rest of spring.

Thanks for bearing with this report, and thanks for the wonderful recommendations. I dream of my next visit!

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