Tell me about John Besh's restaurants...good,bad,ugly?
We agree. Our one complaint - the wine pairing, is probably moot now. Back then, that was the one blight on an otherwise perfect meal. The sommelier has been changed, and reports are that she's top-notch.
Though getting long in the tooth, here's my review (part way down in a long thread) of Restaurant August: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/433877
this is a review i wrote of august this spring:
I knew that most of my trip to NOLA would be consumed with consuming traditional NOLA foodstuffs, but for our big splurge dinner i wanted something different. I wanted a fabulous place, where local and traditional Louisiana ingredients were done in an ultra modern style. Cutting edge cuisine with overtones of new Orleans. August fit that bill perfectly.
The space itself is lovely and inviting. lots of wood, bar i could see myself being a semi regular at if i were to visit here more often. I loved the wine "cellar" being overhead as a balcony in one of the rooms.
the service was perfectly tuned. Available, without being pushy or hovering, patient when patience was called for, helpful when asked.
There were 4 of us - I had the tasting menu, every one else had an app and an entree. starting with what i didn't have - for apps there was:
hand made potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and black truffle
P&J Oysters: crispy fried with Louisiana caviar "ranch dressing,"
pepper seared with truffle spoon bread, horseradish crusted
creamy white asparagus soup
crispy gulf shrimp, red pepper and garlic
i didn't taste the soup (and I'm not sure why - i love soup) but was told it was very rich and tasty. the oysters were good, but not to my taste - nothing wrong with them in any way, I'm just not crazy about fried oysters, i find it kills the delicacy of the flesh. The gnocchi was excellent, light and puffy and lifted to a near transcendent state by the truffles and crab meat.
2 of my friends had the "stuffed" speckled trout with wild onion, crawfish and morel mushrooms - good, although perhaps overly rich. i would have shot for cleaner flavors in the sauce given the ingredients. Not bad enough to dock a star or anything, just not the direction i would have taken the dish, nor what i expected it to be given the description. but delicious so no foul.
other friend had prime filet of beefwith oxtail marmalade, porcini mushrooms and smoked marrow. This was truly an excellent dish - i liked how the smoked marrow was served in a faux bone made from potato - the meat was perfectly prepared and flavorful, and oxtail marmalade is exactly as unctuous and delicious as it sounds. seriously.
on to my tasting menu:
first i did not get it with the wine pairings, as i wanted to share the same wine as the rest of the table. I like that - seems more social. I do not recall what wine we had off hand , if i recall i will edit this review to include it, but it was a lovely red, with complexity and flavor - big enough to stand up to the meat dishes, not so big it killed the seafood.
ok tasting menu:
1)warm salad of pieds du veau,
veal sweetbreads, hearts of palm and black truffle
- i was nervous about this, as i have a thing against sweetbreads, but i know it was conceptual, and a holdover from youth and not based on anything real, and i hate that; so knowing it would be done right here was a place to check an old bias. the end result - bias gone! these were delicious little nuggets of goodness, lightly fried, and full of great flavor.
hand made spaghetti alla carbonara
house cured guanciale, slow cooked yard egg and sweet peas
-this was both amazing, as one of the best pasta dishes i've ever had, and surprisingly one of the places where i might have docked these guys a half a star. Why the contradiction? The pasta - fantastic, with the perfect bit, cooked exactly al dente. a little spring and a little chew to it. the porky goodness and the sweet peas lifted each others flavors through the contrast. The poached egg was the most properly cooked poached egg ever. in the history of poached eggs. a testament to the skill of the kitchen; they ain't easy to get right like that. And it was brilliant to use a poached egg on top to make the sauce, instead of building a sauce in the kitchen to toss the pasta with. texturally a dream, with great rich flavor (can i use the word unctuous again?) swimming with umami. A great dish. but- where was the pepper? carbonara needs little black flecks of pepper to look like the carbon, or it ain't carbonara. I do not know if this was a mistake in the kitchen or if this was a deliberate omission, but it really hurt what was otherwise one of the best dishes i ever had. If you read this, chef besh, your carbonara needs pepper. the flavor would have tied it all together. (and there was no pepper on the table to make up for it)
lacquered Berkshire pork belly with Louisiana crawfish, olives and blood orange
-do i really need to say how good this was? just read the ingredient list again!
slow braised kobe beef short rib ramps, baby root vegetables and leek purée
-perfect. seriously. perfect
napoleon of nougatine with Valhrona chocolate bavarois and salted
-this was my least fave thing of the night. too high a nougatine to chocolate ratio, and the salted ice cream was too salted, and didn't really meld w/ the rest of the dish.
Ok long story short - don't miss this place.
301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
been to Domenica three times now and absolutely loved it all three times, especially for the price.
Luke has one of the best bread puddings in town...among other dishes on the menu
the Shrimp & Grits are yummy
August and Luke very good. I haven't been to Domenica yet but have heard from friends and negatives are over pluses about 5 to 1. Maybe it just needs more time.
La Provence has come up since the first months of the take over.
Once an empire gets this big you are in the hands of the chefs de cusine and GM's
I was at Domenica for the first time 2 weeks ago, and I'd give it the reverse ratio - it still has a "getting up to speed" feel, but the service was earnest and more successful than not; the food was well-described on the menu and well-prepared on the plate; the space is interesting (if not my favorite decor in the city); and the ability to slip into the decadent Roosevelt lobby in the afterglow a solid meal and a decent glass of wine is worth way more to me than what Domenica charges.
ive been a few times and would also say the ratio is the opposite -- all of my friends also really enjoyed it. wide array of small/large plates ideal for sharing, rustic northern italian done well, casual atmosphere.
my only personal note is on the decor -- its very abstract modern, which just isnt my bag and is somewhat at odds w/ the type of food being served. but whatever.
Sadly have to agree about Domenica. Don't know why, just oddly lacking for me. Didn't love anything about the experience, though nothing was outright horrible. Our table of three big time eaters all seemed to feel the same. Nothing wowed, and one gets spoiled with the spots like August in almost spitting distance. (Now that was something to wow about.)
On a note about Domenica, we had reservations there on Dec 12, the night of torrential downpours. With a wedding at the Roosevelt and a wedding around the corner and the weather there was no parking on the street or any garage near. We tried to valet at the Roosevelt but we were not a guest of the hotel nor were we a guest of the wedding, so they would not valet for us. I called the restaurant after driving around for 30 minutes attempting to find parking. We ended up canceling the reservation, and when I told the person who answered the phone about the lack of parking and how the hotel would not valet if we were only going to the restaurant, I was given an I'm sorry and that's about it (honestly what else could she say, but after driving around for so long I was not very happy so it ticked me off even more). We ended up going to Dick & jenny's and had a wonderful meal. When I returned home a few days later, I went to Domenica's website and expressed my concerns about the lack of parking and the fact that I was not able to eat there. That was sent on December 15, to date I have had no response, which surprises me from a place owned by Besh. I even emailed them again and nothing in return.
A simple I am sorry for your troubles and we will work with the hotel in the future regarding parking would have been nice. My father has been there 4 times since the opened and this was going to be the family Christmas meal when we visited.
Interesting. We were staying at the Roosevelt that weekend and had a battle to get out while you were trying to get in! The Sazerac Bar was so jammed we took our drink to the lobby and watched people before we waded to Bar Uncommon. A valet at the Pere Marquette walked in the rain for 15 minutes to get us a cab to go to dinner. Now that was service and that kid will be an entrepreneur! His tip was twice what we paid for the cab ride.
Strongly disagree. I've had many good experiences at Luke. The daily specials are great, and offered at a good price. The only entree that I've had that I didn't enjoy was the shrimp farci. You can't go wrong with any of the appetizers, and the raw oysters are fresh, cold, and 25 cents at happy hour. The wine list isn't huge, but it has decent options at price levels between $25 and $100. They do nice cocktails. The service has been a bit shaky a few times, but it's such a good value for generally very good food that I can overlook a minor misstep or two.
we didn't have many apps, but the main courses were not memorable. I would go to brigtsens instead. My dinner there was much better and the atmosphere was nicer. I can't remark on the daily specials since I'm not from New Orleans, but I lived in Nola for 4 years and I don't think Lukes has much flavor in the food or atmosphere.
There is a reason why there are over 800 restaurants in town (smile).
I like Lukes and don't care for Cuchon (don't dislike it, just don't care for it over too many others) while others whose taste I really trust like both very much.
After reading the rave review on Stella I have no interest in going there as cutting edge fusion is not high on my list.
Nowadays I think it is not that easy to find a bad "fine dining" restaurant. The food will usually be good and the service possibly good, but it may not live up to your expectations. My comments on Dominica were from people who thought it wasn't up to what they expected from Besh/Roosevelt.
I was given a Besh gift certificate over the weekend but was advised to give Dominica a year to settle down. Choosing between La Provence and August, I'm thinking we'll redeem the certificate at August.
I am a John Besh fan--not only has he done a tremendous amount of good for NOLA, but he has also resisted the draw of LV and NY that many celeb chefs cannot.
August--I have never had a bad dish or bad meal. The service is fantastic and the fact that the chef will prepare small (i.e., appetizer) or larga (i.e., main) portions of any dish makes this a wonderful place to dine. I like the light and bright deserts too. I am just waiting for the cocktail list to be reinvigorated
Luke--everything that I want for lunch/brunch/casual dinner--home style warm dishes and fantastic oyster & fruits de mer plates. Always a difficult decision
Dominica--this restaurant has grown on me every time I go-- the pizzas are amazing, the charcuterie are a great complement to the salads, and the salads are bright and fresh. I am not as in love with the pastas or roasted meats--but that may be because I love the other dishes so much. The sweet risotto is to die for
Overall, I think that Luke and Dominica are some of the best casual restaurants that are associated with a hotel in the entire world (up there with the Dali bar at Le Meurice in Paris, which is fantastic)
I cannot get to other NOLA restaurants because I spend my time at August, Luke, and Dominica!