Just back from a delicious four days in NOLA. Mr. B's (that Ya Ya gumbo! The BBQ shrimp! The crab cake! The hot buttered pecan pie oh my! The phenomenal and gracious service! Such a perfect first meal) Liuzza's by the Track (Everything! Just everything! If I had a "place", this would be it! This spot is requisite on every trip) and Irene's (that soft shell crab over papardelle!) will remain cherished places for us. Muriel's was solid but nothing I'd have to seek out on future trips (the trio at the Easter Jazz Brunch was excellent though). Louisiana Pizza Kitchen offered some excellent and much craved big green salads on a day we wanted to be super casual (didn't get to try Domenica or Ancora as planned) but the pizza itself was forgettable. The crust was more like a pita bread which didn't work for me. Galatoire's, unfortunately, was not visited on this trip as the gents in our party wanted to go casual and did not pack jackets. Didn't make it to any Donald Link or John Besh places either. Thought the beignets at Cafe du Monde tasted dried out all three times we went and liked the ones at Cafe Beignet on this trip more for the first time ever. Loved our breakfast at the Ruby Slipper Cafe in Marginy. All in all had a spectacular time as always and enjoyed some really nice conversations with locals about food and life.
One thing that really shocked me was how flat Emeril's was. Trust me, I knew there were better options ( I was thinking Herbsaint, Bayona, Brigsten's, Clancy's, etc) but being as this whole weekend was a 70th birthday celebration for my dad and Emeril has always been one of his favorite television chef personalities, I thought it would be a very solid choice as I have enjoyed excellent meals there and at NOLA in the past. However it ended up being really Meh and the only meal I can say left me feeling cold and ripped off.
The large circular table we were seated at was super spacious and at first I liked the openness, but it did not lend itself to conviviality. I felt like I had to shout to be heard and it was tough to easily share food. The andouille/boudin appetizer that I ordered featured a paltry three inch half of an andouille sausage and a pasty flavorless boudin. The braised collard greens which I actually thought were red cabbage were the best part. The andouille crusted drum was very good but the shoestring potatoes beneath were greasy. My son's tamarind chicken seemed like it came off a spa menu; the portion was minuscule albeit very flavorful. My mom's shrimp and grits came out 15 minutes later than all the other entrees and even though we were super nice about it and the server and manager apologized repeatedly, it was annoying. My husband ordered the salmon and our server told us they had run out and were substituting a red snapper. Perfect! He preferred it to salmon anyway. When the bill came the 24 dollar salmon was listed as 40 dollars because of the snapper swap. Would have been nice if they had told us when we had ordered it, although they DID adjust it when we asked. We had to ask for more bread. The server who brought it the first time disappeared and we never saw him again. The banana cream pie that I remembered as being so decadent in the past tasted dry and featured lots of fresh banana but not enough custard cream. The "mouth feel" was lacking. The peanut butter and chocolate mousse with grape sorbet did not work at all. Again, the cake was not moist or creamy and the sorbet watery without enough depth. I noticed quite a few tables had ordered the fried chicken for two "with all the fixin's" and it looked excellent. Maybe we should have done that? Not sure. All in all, the whole experience was not memorable for the right reasons. The next day we were antiquing on Royal Street and got into a conversation about food with one of the proprietors. He said many locals had stopped frequenting EMERIL'S restaurants after Katrina because Katrina and its awful aftermath "was not his finest moment". I thought that was interesting and might explain why the food felt so flat. Perhaps the tourists' palates are not as discriminating. Not sure, but I won't be running back any time soon.
Next trip will include Cochon, K-Paul's, Clancy's, Brigsten's, Katie's, Jacque-IMOS and back to Galatoire's.
Thanks for all your input over the last week; it was much appreciated! I look forward to many more visits to New Orleans.