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NOLA Report: Very, very long

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Restaurants & Bars 7

NOLA Report: Very, very long

Noreaster | Mar 5, 2005 11:14 AM

Saturday night-Herbsaint; Shrimp and green chili grits cake with Tasso Cream Outstanding. A perfect duck confit paired with a simple but excellent dirty rice with a reduction sauce of citrus gastrique. Also excellent. Had a reservation for 4 but called slightly ahead and they were able to accommodate our party of 5 despite the fact they would have rather put 6 or 8 at our table. Service was outstanding without intrusiveness or excessive up sell (he did get us to spend an extra 18 on a bottle of Oregon Pinot but it was worth it. Quality well made sazerac too. The brown butter banana tart with fleur de sel caramel is not to be missed. Most balanced creative dessert I’ve had in years maybe ever.

Sunday-Mr. B’s brunch. Another very accomdating space. Called letting them know we’d be late. Table saved for us and seated promptly at a very busy time. Had bloddy mary (They forgot my stringbean!!) LOL but gave me a two with my second one. Gumbo ya ya had nice big, fresh white meat chicken and andouille. Tasty and not too spicy. Had to get the BBQ shrimp and they were no let down. Fresh, plump heads on (probably only 21-25 in size) but had 9 or ten in the bowl. Super messy and delicious.

Sunday night we had reservations at Upperline but our party grew from 4 to 9 and there was no way they could accommodate. Options are limited Sunday night so off to Galatoire’s we went at 7:30 hoping not to have to wait too long. Twenty minutes upstairs at the bar and they called us downstairs. Obviously, we got lucky. The one stand out thing about this place has got to be the service. Whether the hostess knew we were visitors did not seem to matter as I felt I was treated as if I was a regular. She even asked if cared for a particular server. Tony (a relative newcomer at only 2 years) took care of all our needs, did up sell a bit with a double appetizer sampler but we were happy to have the staff offer what they felt we should try. Oysters en Brochette, potato soufflés with béarnaise, fried eggplant with powdered sugar (mixed with some Tabasco, Tony suggested), cold Creole shrimp, chilled crabmeat salad (not sure about their official names of these last two) rounded out the apps. Entrée was fresh black drum fish sautéed and served with beurre blanc and topped with crabmeat and hollandaise sauce. All the food was very good but not outstanding. Actually my drum was a bit tough due to the batter used and what seems to have been sautéed too long on one side. A good New Orleans experience for those who want authentic old time cuisine. It was as though the menu was the same 100 years ago. A blue blood menu for those who want only the classic’s a la Galatoire. I would love to see some shades on those chandeliers though, it was a little too bright…In the mix of tourists were plenty of regulars since it appeared that many people were moving and saying hello table to table.

Mother’s was our lunch on Monday. I kept it simple with a cup of red beans and rice and a Half Ferdie. The Ferdie, for those who haven’t read it before is a ham and beef po’ boy with debris (kind of like a French dip with lots of braised beef shreds and dressed with cabbage, pickle and mustards. The red beans and rice were simple but good and the po’ boy didn’t really have all that much flavor except for the mustards and pickles and overcooked, grey brisket. Frankly, I don’t see what all the arguments are about this place. I realize I could have ordered something a bit more exotic but it seems that Mother’s delivers just what it professes to; ordinary, “local” dishes that are not overly expensive (Ferdie was $6.50 for a half but more than enough food) and very mainstream in flavors. I paid ordinary and got the same. It’s a must do for visitors if only for it’s history and highly debatable quality (make up your own mind) but I certainly wouldn’t wait in line for it. Having been before, I only went this time because of it’s location to the convention center and I was with NOLA virgins.

Do Not miss Papa Grows Funk at the Mapleleaf Bar on Monday nights if you’re in town. These guys are FANTASTIC!!

Tuesday lunch was at Bennechin’s, an African restaurant on Royal. Very inexpensive and moderately tasty. I needed a break from heavy lunches and this did the trick. Simple coconut rice with a braised spinach dish. Do not go if you are rushed for time, things do move pretty slowly. Try the ginger drink if you like spicy. I can still taste the heat of the ginger. This could have been better.

Tuesday night Gautreau’s-My hat goes off to Patrick, Gautreau’s owner for quickly returning calls and taking a reservation that went from 4 to 6 to 9 without so much as a hiccup (I did call several hours ahead). Had the Shrimp with Citrus gastrique for an appetizer, baby arugula, grapes and avocado with an olive banyuls vinaigrette and a pork tenderloin and pork belly entrée. Beautiful setting, well selected wine list. Fair dessert and dessert wine list.

Wednesday Lunch, muffaletta’s from Central Grocer. The only Muff of the trip but an Italian with olive salad isn’t brain surgery so I feel it fairly easy to report. Here comes the controversy. Good bread, lousy, greasy meats and the most tasteless olive salad. How hard can it be to chop the salad so it is evenly dispersed through the sandwich and the oil was simply grease soaking into the bread. It was made ahead so I am sure this didn’t help. Place was nearly empty at 12:30 p.m., no line and the sandwich was nearly thrown at us. “$10.50 (or thereabouts, including some jalapeno Zaps)” was all that was said. Paid, left and ate by the river. I wasn’t expecting miracles having been before but a total disappointment even for expecting very little.

Wednesday evening at Dick and Jenny’s. We were probably fooded out by now. Inexpensive by comparison to the other places. Very plain interior but had character. Had Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab, Shrimp remoulade and an entrée of beef short ribs in a rich, heavy stew-like preparation. We had assorted desserts for the table, wine and drinks. $50/head. Not a busy night, we must have caught the city on a quiet week as most of our places were not packed (we were late diners for the most part). Really don’t see what all the fuss is about this place.

Thursday-Palace Café for lunch. I didn’t want to go here but also was done taking cabs for meals. Good sazerac as it seems the Brennan family knows how to make these. Although we had good service (we ate at the bistro tables near the bar and our bartender was our server) it appeared to be in complete chaos with servers lollygagging about and all the manager’s (5 at least) doing all the work. Great job for the servers if you can get it! Mediocre Werlein salad with fried oysters (same as a Caesar) but wet lettuce never helps and a tasty black drum sauteed with potato shreds, shrimp, roasted tomato and corn maques choux. Finished off with a tableside bananas foster that helped us waddle back to the Marriott. Had a glass of the gruner veltliner. Good to see this Austrian wine hitting some of these restaurants.

Ok, more controversy. It appeared that we spent the week dining at some of the perceived “local” joints. Herbsaint, Gautreau’s, Dick and Jenny’s but also a mix of tourist favorites. The tourist “authentic meals” all but sucked money from the tourists while providing a very mediocre experience. So we decided to go to K-Paul’s. By far the best meal and service of the trip. If you can get past Frank, the Maitre’d, a person whose attitude is best left to washing dishes if he should be in the hospitality business at all, service at our table was totally professional and pleasant. More fried green tomatoes for me with a hot shrimp remoulade, fresh jalapeno “Parker house” rolls and delish corn bread. Had Shrimp etouffee which as also over the top delicious. Expensive but for that “authentic”, classic, local flavor, tourists would be doing themselves a disservice by not going.

One more….Acme Oyster house for lunch Friday. Sat at the bar, wolfed down 12 oysters and had an Abita turbodog and some chicken and andouille jambalaya. I’m a spoiled New Englander I guess but found the oysters relatively tasteless but fresh.

Best combo meal of the week:
Bloody Mary at Mr. B’s
Sazerac at K-Paul’s
Wines from Gautreau’s (Best values at Galatoire’s however)
Appetizer platter at Galatoire’s (Simple and fun for a group)
Small plate of Shrimp, green chili grit cake and tasso cream at Herbsaint
Duck confit and dirty rice entrée from Herbsaint
Brown butter banana tart with fleur de sel caramel from Herbsaint
Dessert wine list: Gautreau’s
Service excellence: Gautreau’s, K-Paul’s, Herbsaint
New Orlean’s Authentic: K-Paul’s
Overall: Herbsaint
Worst Bread-Everywhere but K-Paul’s and Central Grocer

Now home and lose ten pounds!

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