A Fatman Eats his way through the Quarter (Long Trip Review)
I am finally getting around to posting a review of my three day feasting through the French Quarter. This was my first trip to New Orleans, and I have to say I fell in love with the place. Anyways, on to the review.
I touched down late on a Monday afternoon, and feeling hungry, I hoofed it from my hotel down to Green Goddess. This place is the epitome of a hole in the wall, if it weren't for the sign outside you would miss it. I took a seat at the bar, which there was barely enough room for me. I ordered the Meatloaf sandwich served warm and duck fat fries. They then told me they were out of potatoes(which to be fair, it was close to the end of lunch service), so I ordered the cheesy grits. The sandwich was fantastic, with the bison meat and bacon coming together nicely, and I really enjoyed the creole mustard. The grits were even better, they were creamy and the manchego cheese was great. The only complaint I have is that the bread on the sandwich was hard to cut through, and the sandwich was lukewarm at best. But still, an overall great experience and really friendly service.
Later that evening, even though I was still full from lunch, I walked over to Mila on Common Street. This restaurant is little talked about, even though it boasts a James Beard award winning chef in the kitchen. The space itself is very modern, with blue lighting and crystals hanging down throughout the room. On a Monday night, there were only three other tables occupied, kind of sad. Anyways, I proceeded to order the tasting menu with wine pairings, and also added a supplemental dish of the Sweetbreads with Truffled Grits. The bread served was a sweet potato roll and cornbread, with a lima bean puree and butter. I really enjoyed the puree with the cornbread, and the rolls were sprinkled with sea salt and were delicious. The amuse served was a Braised short rib spring roll with creole mustard aioli. The braise on the short rib was fantastic, and the spring roll itself was very delicious. But the aioli was a bit strong with the spring roll, and you couldn't taste the beef. The first proper dish of the meal was the Sweetbreads with Truffled Grits, with a Bacon and Sherry Reduction. The smell is the first thing to hit you, as the chopped bits of black truffle is almost overwhelming, but in a good way. The star of the dish are the grits, as they are unbelievably creamy and rich. On top of the grits are three big sweetbreads that are perfectly cooked and unctuous. The sherry reduction added a great flavor and big hunks of bacon just brought it over the top. I can say without a doubt, this was the single best plate of food I have ever had. Next dish was a foie gras terrine, with brioche and an apricot puree. The foie had a buttery texture, and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, a little different than I am used to but very good. The next dish was a Butternut Squash soup with porcini mushrooms and Sea Scallop. The soup itself was absolutely delicious, very creamy and rich. I loved the porcinis in the bottom of the bowl. The scallop was nicely seared and seasoned. A simple dish, but it tasted wonderful. Next up, was a Crispy Red Snapper with a Satsuma reduction, Salisfy, and Cippolini onions. The snapper was seasoned with sea salt. I found it to be a little dry, but went well with the satsuma reduction which was sweet and delicious. The final savory course was a Venison loin with chestnut puree and caramelized Brussels sprouts. The venison was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the chestnut puree was sweet and tasty. It was a competent dish, although I found both mains paled in comparison to the apps. The first dessert served was a Buttermilk panna cotta withe blood orange soup. The panna cotta was light and refreshing, and I loved the blood orange soup. The final dessert of the evening was a Chocolate lava tart and tonca sorbet with cinnamon crunch. The tart was nice and warm and the sorbet with mint was great. A good way to end the meal. Overall, I would say that my meal at Mila was my best overall of the trip, and I hope more people find their way to the restaurant.
I started my Tuesday morning at Stanley's, in Jackson Square. I could barely move after my meal at Mila, so I just wanted something small. I just ordered a small stack of pancakes. Served with tahitian vanilla ice cream, I found the pancakes just ok. The restaurant itself was nice, I just wish I wasn't so full so I could have tried something more extravagant.
After walking around for a few hours, I found myself at John Besh's new place, Domenica. Taking a seat at the bar, I started my meal with the risotto with white truffle oil and pancetta. The risotto was rich and creamy, with the truffle oil really coming through. The pancetta on top added a nice crunch. A very nice dish. After a long wait, a bacon pizza with fontina cheese and a yard egg arrived. The crust had a nice char on it, and the yard egg added a rich flavor that was just fantastic. However, for a bacon pizza, there was very little bacon on it, and the fontina cheese was nonexistent. The pizza itself was a little dry, leading me to suspect it had been sitting for a while before it was brought out. Maybe I ordered the wrong pizza, but I was unimpressed. Also suspect was the service. After I was halfway through my risotto, my waiter remembered to bring out some breadsticks. Also, the couple at a table near me ordered an antipasti plate to start, which came after their proper meal was served.
For dinner that evening I walked down Chartres Street to the Hotel Provencial and Stella!. The restaurant itself is very quaint, with two dining rooms, one facing the hotel and one facing Chartres. The bread served was a white roll with sea salt that was absolutely delicious. For my wine, I ordered a Monchaff Riesling which went nicely with the dishes I ordered. Starting off the meal was two amuses, the first being a gulf shrimp with kimchee and apricot champagne served in a spoon, the second being a shrimp won ton with spicy sauce, both of which were fantastic. The only tasting menu offered was a $175 black truffle tasting menu, which although very tempting, was a little too much for me and featured too many dishes off the a la carte, so I made my own little tasting. I started off with the Roasted Potato and black truffle gnocchi with iberico ham, scallions, and local corn. The gnocchi were light and the cream sauce and corn was a delicious combination. On top were three hearty slices of black truffle which were great. Lost in the dish, however, was the iberico ham, which added no flavor to the dish. Next up, was the Lobster, Egg, and Truffles. As the dish was placed in front of me, my heart sank a little. Costing $24, the dish was served in a single yard egg shell. My disappointment melted away, as I saw the shell was literally stuffed with black truffles which were unbelievably fragrant and delicious and went well with the lobster and cream sauce. It wasn't as good as the gnocchi, but still a very good dish. For my main, I went with the Duck Five Ways. The star of the dish was hands down the Foie Gras wontons. Rich and creamy, they just melted in your mouth. I could eat a hundred of these. The black lacquered duck leg and thigh had a nice char on it, and was cooked perfectly. Szechwan seared duck breast was cooked a perfect medium rare and the currant sauce added a nice flavor. However, the duck miso soup had a muddled flavor, and the duck pancake stir fry was overpowered by the vegetables. Still, a very good dish overall. For dessert, I thought I played it a little safe and went with the trio of creme brulees, but I was in for a surprise. Served cold, frozen with liquid nitrogen, and served with a sugar foam on top, this is not your usual creme brulee. The flavors were Cinnamon Star Anise, Japanese Green Tea, and Grand Marnier. Each was served in a yard egg shell. My favorite was the star anise, but all were delicious. After dessert, a plate with six mignardises were sat down, a great end to a fantastic meal with few missteps.
Wednesday was my last full day in New Orleans, and I wanted to hit up a few more spots. For lunch I walked the mile over to Cochon. Taking a seat at the back bar, the smell from the open kitchen was fantastic. The meal started off with an amuse of pork headcheese pate with toast squares and mustard aioli. This is the first time I have tried headcheese, and it was great. It had an overt pork flavor, and went great with the aioli. The bread served was a simple white roll with butter, that was nothing special. To start, I ordered the Paneed pork cheeks with pickled beets and arugula salad. The plump cheeks had a nice flavor to them, but the best part of the dish was the salad underneath. I loved the pickled beets, and the dish just went well together. After that, I ordered the special of the day, Fried beef ribs. Three insanely large ribs which were a bright yellow. They had a nice crust and cooked to a nice medium rare, but were insanely spicy. I didn't care, as they were so good I couldn't stop myself from burning my face off. Luckily, my nice waitress brought me a warm towel and I made my way through them. I loved this place and to me is the epitome of NO cuisine. Well worth the walk.
For my final meal of the trip, I went to Besh's eponymous restaurant, August. The space itself is absolutely beautiful, and I had a view of the wine room from my seat. I started my meal with a Mint Julep, which was very strong and had no real mint flavor. The house bread was white baguettes with creamy butter. The bread was hard but fresh and very good. Since this was my last meal, I went a little overboard and made a grand tasting for myself. The amuse served was a Seafood Custard Sabayon with caviar and brioche stick served in a yard egg shell. It was a very generous amuse, as it was similar in size to the app I had at Stella the previous night. The flavor was great, but overpowered the caviar, which was useless. For my meal, I ordered a bottle of Donhaff 2007 Riesling which was fantastic. Starting off the meal proper, I had the Foie Gras three ways. Featuring grilled, sweet, and a cake preparation, I found the dish very disappointing. The sweet torchon was nice and went well with the brioche. The cake preparation was a terrine with cake outerlayers, but was dry and just ok. However, it was the grilled preparation that was downright inedible. I don't know what it was, but the flavors were extremely off putting. It is hard to make a bad foie dish, but they somehow did it. Next up, was the Truffle Larded Sweetbreads Ricotta. Featuring two huge sweetbreads breaded with parmesan cheese and a cream sauce that was so good I was using my bread to sop it up. Underneath was a sauteed kale that added great depth and flavor, this dish was fantastic and more than made up for the foie. My next dish was one similar from Stella, being a Potato gnocchi with Blue Crab and black truffles served in a cream sauce. Served lukewarm, the gnocchi were light, the sauce had a nice flavor, and had nice chunks of blue crab and very generous portions of black truffle shavings. I thought this gnocchi preparation was better than Stella's, but I wish it were served warmer. For my main, I had the Sugar and Spice Duckling with grilled foie gras, anson mills grits, and quince reduction. Again it was served lukewarm, and per the chef cooked closer to rare than medium rare, which i had no problem with. The duck itself was a little salty, with a sugar hit coming near the end which i enjoyed. The grilled little piece of foie was miles better than 2/3 of the appetizer I had, but my favorite part of the dish were the grits, which had an almost vanilla flavor to them, and the quince, which I had never had before and was sweet and delicious. Overall, a great dish. For dessert, I ordered the Napolean of nougatine with valhrona chocolate and salted toffee ice cream. The ice cream was very good but the napolean itself was a little pedestrian, just an ok dessert. After dessert, a trio of mignardises were served including a house made brittle that was delicious. The service was very good, not overbearing, but the restaurant itself is very loud. Overall, I would say this was a very good meal with the only true misstep being the grilled foie dish from the appetizer.
Along the way I managed to find myself at Cafe du Monde a few times, and those beignets are messy but addictive. I have to say I am completely jealous of people who live in New Orleans, as it is truly one of the great food cities in the country. I am anxiously awaiting my return and dreaming of those truffled grits!!!