Ralph's on the Park
We had out-of-towners visiting, and they requested a dinner that was "New Orleans-y" and "light" and in a place that would not pose too much of a parking hassle. We were stumped for a while (the "New Orleans-y" and "light" threw us!), but decided on Ralph's, which now has a menu full of small plates. We used to go there frequently, but after a few disappointing experiences and getting bored with the menu, we haven't been much in the past couple of years.
So the six of us, three locals and three out-of-towners, went and although we didn't end up eating "light," we ate very well; in fact, the visitors couldn't stop raving about it. And we'll definitely return soon. Here are the dishes, mostly small plates, that we tried.
Cream of cauliflower soup w/ a mini crab cake: outstanding soup and crabcake, and what a surprisingly wonderful combination. A healthy sized bowl, this could almost have sufficed for my meal.
Turtle soup: I'm not a fan so I didn't taste this, but the visitor who ordered it pronounced it excellent, "maybe the best" he'd ever had (and he apparently orders turtle soup whenever he can).
Fritto Misto: this was beautifully fried shrimp, oysters, calamari; my husband loved it.
Tempura BBQ shrimp: these were also a hit, but had disappeared before I tried them.
Clazed lamb ribs: OMG, these were delicious--tender, w/a tangy glaze. I only had a taste, but one of the visitors devoured these.
City Park Salad: my husband has ordered this lettuce/apple/bacon/stilton classic every time he's eaten at Ralph's; it is consistently good.
Cajun scotch egg: an egg encased in boudin, w/salad greens and peppery vinaigrette, this was tasty enough although my least favorite of the dishes I tried. However, when one of our party noticed that I had left half mine--he had eaten every morsel of the one he'd ordered--he requested my leftovers. He loved the combination of egg and boudin.
Crabmeat napoleon: an unusual combination of crabmeat, cous cous, cucumbers, corn, and ravigote sauce that works well. I had just a bite, but it was really good.
Wild mushroom ravioli: Again, I didn't taste this but the friend who ordered this couldn't stop talking about how delicious it was. She was very happy she'd opted for the entree size though it was available as a small plate.
Duck breast w/black currant vinaigrette and spaghetti squash: two people ordered this large plate selection. Portions were large, so we all tasted this, and it was universally loved. The duck was succulent, its richness cut by the vinaigrette, and the squash was really good too. There wasn't a morsel left on either of these plates.
Not sure how they did it, but a few people at the table ordered dessert,--cream cheese ice cream, I think--but I couldn't even take a bite. They were quite pleased with it.
We all left very happy. Besides excellent food, we also enjoyed the moderately priced wines--a red and a white--recommended by the waiter. And the service was great,too.
Yes, although I've always loved the setting, we had disappointing (expensively so) experiences, but this was very different. I always love a nice selection of small plates, and that was key to our successful feed last week, I think. But I'd go back for the cauliflower soup w/crabcake alone. (I like cauliflower fine, but I'd never have thought I could get excited about cauliflower soup!)