Four Delicious Days- Report from "plan of attack"
We got off the plane and headed straight for Coop's. We enjoyed a fantastic duck quesadilla (although there was so much honey mustard it was hard to taste the duck) and jambayla (wishing we had gotten the supreme).
Then it was off to Dante's Kitchen. What a cute homey atmosphere. The spoon bread was okay but set a nice tone for the meal. We started with some salads (nothing noteworthy and not enough cheese on either), gumbo (good but not amazing), and escargot that was similar to a beef bourgione. Not my favorite preparation but tender nonetheless. The table had sheepshead fish almondine which was incredibly salty, a duck dish that was tender and well flavored, and a fourth dish that was not memorable. The shrimp and grits were as delicious as the posts on CH. I am not so skilled at eating shrimp in the shell but it was the perfect first dinner in NOLA (although technically an appetizer).
We went back to Coop's for lunch on Tuesday. The slowest service in the world. The fried chicken was very disappointing after the raving on CH- it was over fried on both the tasting plate and full order. The Green Goddess salad dressing was outstanding on a crazily large griilled chicken salad.
Dinner at Stella. Sublime. Out of this world. I can not begin to describe how wonderful every single thing was. The service was a bit fussier than I expected and the waiter kind of conned me into a very expensive glass of bubbly. For starters- the asparagus puree was well balanced, the gnocchi creamy and light, tempura was out of this world, and foie gras was perfectly prepared. Two of got duck 5 ways (this was the only mistake- too much fowl after the foie gras and I wasn't crazy about the moo shu preparation). A porcini crusted veal was rich and tender. There was a scallop and shrimp dish that can not be described. I have kind of given up on scallops since I find them pretty standard at most decent to finer dining places but there they were incredible. We stuffed ourselves with chocolate cake and hot buttered pink lemonade which works in that weird way that it is supposed to but not the best thing ever. Green apple thyme sorbet as well as coconut and strawberry in an ice bowl was the perfect finish for me (I had eaten large portions of everyone else's meals). The grilled cheese sandwich dessert was as amazing as reported on CH.
Lunch at Mother's was mixed. The debris sandwich didn't live up to the raves. The fried shrimp and oyster po boy were delicious though and the fried chicken expert at the table declared it far superior to Coop's. The bread pudding was a little lighter than I was used to with a kind of fruit cocktail mixed into the batter.
Dinner at Luke was disappointing. The server was great (ask for Joe if you go) but everything else was mixed. Mussels, which I consider hard to mess up, were watery and in a not very flavorful broth. The red fish almondine was good but not anything extraordinary. The fries arrived less than hot. My portion of fresh crab was fairly small and not particularly well seasoned. I had the WORST tarte tatin of my life and the meal was only slightly redeemed by a good bread pudding (not as good at Bon Ton's in my estimation).
Lunch at Herbsaint was pleasant although service was slow. The argulua with burrata salad was delicious but I am a sucker for a fresh cheese like that. The gumbo tasted like the roux had been burned to me. The flatbread with shrimp was a standout of the meal (lots of good cheese and pesto). Pastrami was okay (but I'm from new york so I'm biased). The crawfish pasta was very good although I don't really understand paying 16 dollars for a plate of pasta that has 4 dime sized pieces of crawfish (even if it's late in the season).
Dinner was light- some oysters at Acme because I love them so- chargrilled and raw. I think their tasting plate is pathetic but my SO will get gumbo, jambalya, and red beans/rice anyplace he can.
Lunch at August was a similarly ethereal experience to Stella. The service was comfortable and warm. The amuse bouche was a sabayon that was out of this world. The bread was my favorite of the trip. The gnocchi there was tied with Stella (and when we noticed two miniscule pieces of shells towards the middle, there was profuse apologies and a new one sent out with compliments of the Chef). The crawfish agnlotti was good although a little heavy after scallops with pineapple and mint (so, so delicious- different that Stella). The chicken and dumplings was warm, comforting, with lighter than air dumplings and fresh vegetables. We had to skip dessert to catch our flight but before we left I peaked through the door of the kitchen. I've admired John Besh from Iron Chef America and Iconoclasts and spotted him. The maitre de asked if we wanted to say hello and we did. I was a little star struck (I blushed and giggled my way through it) but he and the entire staff were so gracious, apologizing for the crab shells. It was a great way to end our experience.
We ran to Central Grocery to get a muffaletta for the plane ride (which turned into a 24 hour journey because of rain) and were sad to get back to New York (which is certainly no schlub when it comes to food but it doesn' t have the heart of NOLA).
Thank you to all the CHers who helped make our trip delicious!
That's a high price to pay for the crawfish dish at Herbsaint, and it's not late in the crawfish season, the season now runs as late as July 4th, and I used to do boils for groups and I can attest to the fact crawfish are not that expensive.
As far as Mother's goes, never been a fan, totally overated, esp the debris poboy.
Just saw a new place opened up here in NYC that is a NO themed place and they have debris poboys, but no roast beef poboys, not a real NO place in my book.
The lunch menu at Herbsaint has very few of the dinner selections. I find it hard to judge many restaurants by their lunch offerings as the dinner experience is often quite dissimiliar in food as well as ambience. As for the pastrami, NOTHING in NOLA compares to what you take for granted in NY. I grew up in Jersey and visiting relatives bring us Sabretts, rye bread, pastrami, Taylor ham and pizza. I still crave these things after 30+ years. Oh yeah, they bring real lox too. All we get here is Nova.
I will never understand folks coming from out of town, eating at Coop's with so many other great casual restaurants around, miles better than it. I must be missing something. I've always thought Mother's was overrated as well. It's okay at best and I would never wait in line to eat there.
Luke seems to be a mixed bag, running hot and cold.
I also found Herbsaint just pleasant when I was prepared to be wowed - perhaps it was the lunch hour. I got the shrimp tomato bisque which was really lovely - smooth and not sour. I opted for the bique and not the duck gumbo since I was following it with the special - sauteed redfish with a tomato onion sweet pepper relish, mustard greens and herbed rice. But the redfish was overly salted - a nice piece of fish if it weren't for that, so that was disappointing. Elected the banana brown butter tart to follow, which was pleasant but not astounding. Overall, didn't rock my world as I expected.
sounds like you had a great line up planned, excellent. glad you enjoyed them.
but -- Coop's and Mother's. no dice. coops is just mediocre bar food, but they serve late. mothers was good about 30 years ago when the original owners served up tasty food to longshoremen. now its just riding Food Channel coattails... SO many better roast beef poboys in this town. next time just nead over to Parasol's or Parkway Tavern & Bakery, two of the bests (i also like the shrimp at Parasol's).