My wife and I just got back from New Orleans, where I turned 50 (and now feel 60!). We stayed at Maison de Ville in their cottages on Dauphine. There was a mixup in our reservation, and the cottage that had been confirmed for us wasn't available. So they upgraded us to a two bedroom cottage, with a private courtyard and pond. The building must have been over 1,000 sq. ft., and we felt like Creole elite for a week.
We had five major meals over the course of four days. All but one were close to perfect, and here's how we each ranked the restaurants:
2. Bistro at Maison de Ville
3. Bayona (lunch)
4. Brennan's (brunch)
3. Bistro at Maison de Ville
We had dinner at Stella! on Sunday. Our concierge had recommended it, and made the reservation. We were a little apprehensive because of the silly name, which made it sound like a tourist trap. But that was a mistake; we had as good of a meal as we've ever had. And with only 16 tables it's way too small to be a tourist trap. As an appetizer, we split a mushroom and lobster risotto with truffle oil that was unbelievably good. Followed that up with aspargus soup with lump crabmeat and olive oil. Cathy had an incredibly good steak that was crusted with stilton, and I had duck breast, the best I've had. No desserts were attempted.
The only (minor) flaw was a chatty waiter, who brought our entrees and then hung around to tell us the story of the restaurant. It's great that he's excited about the place, but we wanted to eat. BTW, Anne Kearney (of Peristyle) was at the next table, and seemed to like things as much as we did. You will too!
Bayona was reliably good, and less than a block from our cottage. I had the duck sandwich, which is a bargain at $9.50 (I had a beef po-boy that cost $9.50 later in the week). Cathy had the omelet of the day, which had sundried tomatoes and shrimp. I started with the garlic soup, and Cathy had a wonderful shrimp and black bean appetizer. I had peach sorbet for dessert, because it was the only thing I felt able to eat at that point.
The Bistro at our hotel was where I had my 50th birthday dinner. This place has only 12 tables, and is pretty cramped in spots. But our table was tucked around the corner from the entrance, and we sat beside each other on the banquette. Quite romantic! Cathy had a good crawfish remoulade, and I started with foie gras. I had duck soup, which was almost stew-like in consistency. I had the wild boar for an entree and Cathy had grilled shrimp, which she raved about. We shared chocolate creme brulee for dessert.
Everything that I had was very good, but nothing stood out. Cathy disagrees, though. She nearly rated this meal as our best. I think that she was seduced, in part by the atmosphere. Nothing wrong with that, of course.
Patrick, their famous maitre d', was vacationing in Monte Carlo. This was a bit of a problem at one point. My mother-in-law had given me money to have a nice bottle of wine with this dinner, and their wine list was daunting. Our waitress wasn't much help, and we bought a disappointing pinot from Oregon. That was the only problem, though.
Even though we both put Brennan's fourth, we were very happy with the meal and would recommend it to anyone. We were seated immediately at a nice table beside the courtyard. We both did the traditional prix fixe thing. I had strawberries and cream, and eggs benedict over trout over spinach. Cathy had the baked apple, and eggs benedict with marchand de vin sauce added (Hussarde?). We both had Bananas Foster, naturally.
I'm so impressed at how the Brennan family runs this restaurant. It's a big place, and crowded, even in June. But things run like a well-oiled machine. Yet we didn't feel like we were eating off of an assembly line. The food was excellent, and the courses were well paced (this was true of each of theese four places). Service was excellent.
Brennan's managed to turn around the one little incident that could have marred the meal. My wife found a small shard of glass in her dessert bowl. She mentioned it to our waitress only after we had paid the check. Addi, our waitress, saw that the glass had chipped off of the bowl, probably because the bowls clinked together while she was preparing the dessert. She had the bill redone without the bar tab (two milk punches and a glass of chardonnay), and tore up our first credit card charge. If Brennan's were just a tourist trap, once they had our money they wouldn't have given it back.
Jacues-Imo was last night, and it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. The big problem was the wait for a table. I knew that we'd have to wait, but being as it was a Tuesday in June, I thought it wouldn't be too long. My bad - we spent two and a half hours in the Maple Leaf! We had been told 60 minutes, BTW. We struck up conversations with several others that were waiting in the bar. They were all tourists that said they were told to go to Jacques-Imo because tourists never go there.
We were both a little hammered by the time we finally got seated at 10:30, and Cathy more than a little. The service was kind of poor, but the waitstaff all looked understandably exhausted. Our food was good, especially the fried chicken, but by that time we were just looking to get out of there. And while the price is right, you've gotta put a value on your time, too. Plus the Maple Leaf put a $40 value on the drinks we had there. So it wasn't really a cheap night out.
Other than those 5 meals, we had oysters at Acme (so good!), an oyster po-boy at Remoulade (just OK), and the usual beignets at Cafe du Monde. Lastly, we split a shrimp po-boy at Johnny's. The sandwich was great, but that has got to be the filthiest place I've ever eaten in! We just closed our eyes and chewed.
Sorry to be so wordy, but I hope this helps somebody somewhere along the line. And you all ought to consider Stella! for that special meal. Trust us on this one.
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