Southern Decadence 2007 Report
Friday Lunch: August
The room was lovely, comfortable, and mostly full at 1:00, though I was the last person in the restaurant when I left (in part due to the incrdibly slow service). Waitstaff seemed a bit disorganized, though knowledgable and pleasant. The amuse bouche was a seafood sabayon (sp?) served very cleverly in an eggshell. Delightful! For an appetizer I had chilled corn and buttermilk soup. It was a very small portion, served in a shallow dish that not only made the portion look smaller but made it awkward to eat. Main course (recommended by the waiter) was blackfish. I had never heard of this fish, but the waiter said it was another name for triple tail. It was served in that same strange dish that the soup was served in, atop a delicious corn souffle, and sorrounded by some type of foam, sprinkled with lavender flowers. Interesting presentation, nice portion size and very tasty. I had 2 different glasses of wine (an unoaked chard and a sauvingnon blanc), and the wine by the glass list was fairly nice, and not too pricy. The service was really a detraction. There was a very long pause between courses (10 minutes or so, maybe longer), as well as prior to the first approach to my table by the waiter. Had the most incredible desert called the crunchy candy bar, consisting of two three-layer bars served on a hazlenut cream that was just outstanding. The check arrived (after another 10 minute interval after it was requested, found it to be incorrect (having on it some unidentified item that I didn't order) and it took 15 minutes to get the corrected check back. For a solo diner to have a 2 hour lunch was really inexcusable. At least the food was primo.
Friday Dinner: Brigtsen's
I've been anticipating this more than any place on this trip. My friend and I arrived and were told that someone would be with us soon. None other than Chef Frank emerged to say hello, and then Marna seated us. I instantly felt at home. Our waitress, Mary, was wonderful and efficient. I wasn't in the mood for wine, so I ordered a martini that was about the size of a fishbowl. Yipes! At the urging of my beloved chowhounds, I ordered the Gumbo (complete with RABBIT!!) and loved every bite of it. I have never had Gumbo like this and I'm sure that I've now been spoiled for life. We both ordered the seafood platter and honestly I wasn't wowed by anything on it. Everything was very good, but nothing blew me out of the water. It could have been that I was just too full from lunch and from the gumbo, so I will definitely have to go back and give it another try. By the way, jeans and a dress shirt were perfectly fine. I didn't feel underdressed at all.
Saturday Lunch: Galatoire's
I love this place! It is so steeped in its ways, and those ways are gracious and fun. We had the same waiter as last year, Joey, who is excellent. My friend couldn't decide between softshell crab and fried oysters, so he made up a special combination plate. What makes Galatoire's special is that the waiters are the central focus, rather than the chef. I'm sure at some places if the waiter asked the kitchen to do something special, he'd be tied and quartered. I also tried my first Sazerac, and after my second one my tongue was getting numb! Lordy! We started with fried eggplant and souffle potatoes, and I had the sauteed softshell crab meunier topped with crabmeat (another great chowhound recommendation). Joey brought a nice side of remoulade that was wonderful with the crab.
Saturday Dinner: Cuvee
This was the biggest disappointment of the trip. Arrived (solo) at 9:30. Room was about 3/4 full, and a bit dark for my taste. There was such a cold draft blowing from the AC that I had to ask the waiter to modulate it (a woman beind me was wrapped in a shawl - so it wasn't just me). He replied "That's the way our AC works here -- if you move away from the wall you won't be as cold." So I moved to another seat at my 4-top table and was just as cold. MAJOR strike against Cuvee. I don't think wearing a jacket would have helped -- unless it was made of fur. I couldn't wait to get out of there. The amuse bouche was not explained, but seemed to be a boysenberry sorbet with creme anglaise on top. Way too sweet for before dinner. I had the summer corn tasting appetizer, which was the highlight of the meal -- corn soup poured atop corn creme brulee (tasted better than it sounds) and a seafood stuffed corndog (wow!). I ordered the chicken and waffles, which was a mistake. It sounded very interesting, but was more interesting than tasty. I thought the chicken was overdone (which is why I rarely order it out). The waffles spread with boursin, served with some type of cane syrup (which arrived when I was half done with my meal) just didn't work with the heavy gravy-like sauce. I doubt I would ever go back, but I would definitely not order this crazy concoction again!
Sunday Brunch: Elizabeth's
Plans changed, after running into a long-time friend who lives in the Bywater. So I cancelled Ralphs (will have to try it some other time) and went to Elizabeth's. I have to say, that the praline bacon was one of the most wonderful things I have ever put in my gullet (and believe me, there's been alot thrown down there!). I had a lovely smoked salmon, brie grilled cheese topped with poached eggs and served with the best grits I've ever had. I loved being in a place that had a divers clientele (gay, straight, black, white, yuppie, not-so-yuppie). This place is a real gem.
Sunday Dinner: Stella!
I wan't terribly hungry, and was wary of another let-down like Cuvee. So my expetations were not high. Au contraire! Although this is clearly one of NOLA's high temples of cuisine, everyone was pefectly nice and normal, the room was comfy and not haughty, service was efficient but not hurried, and the food was Stella-r (haha). The amuse bouche was watermellon kimchee served on an asian spoon sitting atop honeydew granita. Perfect! I skipped appetizers, ordered a glass of cab franc (from a very limited and kind of pricey wine-by-the-glass list) and the Duck Five Ways. This was one of the best dishes I've ever had, anywhere. The foie gras wontons were the standout, but the lacquered leg/thigh was also wonderful. This place deserves its reputation. Certainly this dish showed the chef's artistry.
All in all, a wonderful trip (and I even found time for Decadence revelry between all this eating). Liposuction is scheduled for next week!!! Thanks to all the chowhounds for your help in planning!! --Randy
Hey Randy...were you by any chance reading "Everything Is Illuminated" during your lunch at August? If so, my partner and I were sitting at the next table (between you and the door)! We had a great lunch, but were shocked at how few diners there were. We'd moved our 1:30 reservation up an hour, and I'm glad we did because the place was pretty empty @ 1:30. It's funny how people can have such different experiences at the same time and place. We were impressed when our waiter (captain? the dude in the business suit with the chipped tooth that made him lisp) brought our first shared appetizer (fried oysters) out already split and presented on two plates. Classy. Then, after we asked what was being served under a glass at another table, he brought us out two complimentary appetizers of smoked venison.
Anyway, next time you're in NOLA, I highly recommend you go to August for dinner and order the multi-course set menu with wine. It's a great deal...and the most beautiful dining room in New Orleans is even more beautiful at night.
How observant you are (and what a small world it is)! Yes, that was me reading Everything is Illuminated (and I got through quite a few pages during that lunch). I noticed you guys, and your server seemed to be a bit more on the ball than mine. But the food was enough to bring me back again. I'll bet the room, which was lovely at lunch, has an even nicer feel at night, and the tasting menu with wine sounds wonderful! Thanks for the advice....
Re: the Restaurant August "tasting menu." It was great, and I only hope that Chef Besh, or the sommelier, read my review of the wines offered with it. I'd give the meal a pure 95+, but the wine a 70, at best. There is so much work that they could/should do in that area. Still, even slightly mismatched, it's usually a better evening, than trying to pick the one, or two, quintessential bottles, unless you have a larger group. To that end, they should kick up their half-btl. selections to accommodate a dining pair, who would like to match wines and courses. Maybe it'll just take some time, and some feedback.
AND, the room IS lovely in the evening. Only caveat that I would offer, is that the general illumination level would have been too low for me to do any serious reading... However, your eyes are probably much younger than mine, and one is more often engrossed in the spread that parades in front of them with the tasting menu. For fine-dining, I found that the illumination level, and a pair of reading glasses, were perfect!
Glad that you enjoyed it,
I had a similar experiance at Brightsens. I had a wonderful salad, got the seafood platter on the server's recomendation, and evrything was oily and breaded and with no flavor. I was disappointed because I had been waiting so long to go there and everyone talks about how good it is. I have had much better at other restaurants.