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Apr 5, 2002 08:47 AM

nyt reviews nola restaurants

  • d

I'm wondering what you all thought of the reviews of Cuvee, Restaurant August, Herbsaint and some other of NOLA's newer restaurants.

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  1. Having dined recently (last month) at Rene Bistro, I find the review to be somewhat off. I had a fabulous meal of bouillabaise (sp?) with a large glass of an unusual but very good Alsatian wine, plus a delicious creme brulee. The restaurant is lovely & the service impeccable. Also, one of the dishes on the menu was not available because the chef could not get what he considered the best ingredients, which is always a good sign. I tried to go to Herbsaint but they (like many of the places in NO) are closed on Sunday. Anyhow, based on many of the comments in the article, including the writer's hangup about desserts (he seems to have a major sugar jones & says desserts in NO are not all that. Huh????) I would take the piece with at least a box & a half of salt.

    6 Replies
    1. re: DD_DinDin

      Actually, I agree that desserts in New Orleans restaurants are not particularly interesting, creative or outstanding. I am not a fan of "tall" desserts with fancy tasteless decorations, so that's not my complaint, but most restaurants here serve variations on very similar themes -- creme brulee, bread pudding, chocolate cake, pecan or peanut butter pie, bananas foster. Those traditional desserts can be good, especially if you're visiting, but some new innovations would be welcome. Hardly anybody serves the warm chocolate cakes with flowing centers that are ubiquitous on the West Coast. My craving is the Nancy Silverton-type desserts with good pastry and fruit.

      1. re: DD_DinDin

        I cannot get into the dessert debate fully b/c I prefer to have a side dish with dinner--or more appetizers--and forego dessert but I don't see what is wrong with the New Orleans classics--and you can't beat a good pecan pie. But the recent cavil that New orleans was stagnant (also crowed by John MAriani in "Rest. Hosp" in Feb '01) is a case of applying different--and, I would argue, improper--standards. Sure, modern trasport allows a cook to combine a local item with something that would have arrived rotten years ago and this can be fun but it is also "precious" and sounds a false note. The reason New Orleans is such a great food town is that the huge majority of its diners know what the hell they are talking about, especially in the realm of the local "cuisine bourgeoise." Nothing like the classic, direct punch. So, for example, turtle soup is spicy and deep and un-subtle. this is confident cooking. To lament that the local scene has not invented another odd combination is to miss the point and to fail to understand New Orleans' role in preserving cooking when most of the rest of the nation could not have cared less. (I should like to see areas like ethnic Chicago neighborhoods and Cincinnati and Western PA--among others-- given more credit for preserving hard-hitting flavors during the Culinary Drought)

        I like it when a cook comes up with a twist on the ever-available local ingredients--fried turkey is a triumph of this sort of thing. Dropping artichokes into a crawfish or crab boil is another.

        In the end, though, I think most people would prefer a Mandina's dinner day-in and day-out to something set up by a recent CIA graduate. (Those guys always used the same salad dressing everywhere they landed until a few years ago. You could spot it a mile away in St Louis or Senatobia, Mississippi)

        A critic made the mistake of applying standards learned at Le Pavillon to N.O.. restaurants about thirty years ago. James Beard dressed the offender down and a subsequent review attempted to make amends.

        Long after the trendy joints have faded from memory-and most of them will do so--the great "riverboats" will still be plying the waters, preserving the classics, like Moorish Spain saved civilization.

        1. re: Hazelhurst

          Amen mon ami ... a good trout almondine will always beat a blackened falafel crusted chilean bass with honey mango rasberry lime sauce, and a side dish of curried mirlitons and cognac infused cumquats.

          1. re: Hazelhurst

            Quite simply: WELL SAID.

            1. re: Hazelhurst

              All true. Also these same chefs you mention are the ones who love to decorate the dessert plates w/abstract swirls of chocolate & raspberry sauce w/powdered sugar. (How much skill does this require? Well, I guess they delegate this chore.) Thankfully I did not run into that during my NO stay.

            2. re: DD_DinDin

              Normally the NYT reviewers make multiple visits to establishments before a review is printed. Mr. Grimes seems to have paid mostly single visits this trip, and of course not every menu item or meal is going to be perfect.Nice to have an experienced outside view, though?