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Some of the best eating anywhere - Trip Report May 7-10

t
txgrl99 May 18, 2010 03:29 PM

We had an amazing long weekend of eating and drinking in the fair city of New Orleans. At first we tried to pick a favorite place, but then we just gave up and picked our favorite dish from each place. Still, I’d probably put Coquette on the top of my impressive list, if forced to choose, although members of my family would likely debate me (such is the nature of wonderful food).

We arrived on time on Friday, and the folks at Restaurant August generously agreed to move our reservations up by 30 minutes, which was generous, as we were starved. The restaurant is lovely – formal, but not stuffy. We had a waitperson who was competent and friendly, but not overly familiar (a nice combination). For appetizers we had the bisque with wild mushroom dumplings and the pate. I didn’t try the pate, but the bisque was excellent. Both my mom and husband had wild striped bass, and I had breaded pork fillets with grits (I am a sucker for grits). They won the entrée lottery. The fish was perfection, as were the vegetables that accompanied it. The pork was good, but not extraordinary. I would have better grits twice on our trip (I told you, me = sucker for grits).

We each selected a different dessert. Mine was quite unique and delicious – sheep’s cheese battered with a champagne tempura and served with strawberries and honey. What isn’t to love about this grown-up version of friend cheese? Nothing, that’s what. My mom narrowly won the desert lottery with her strawberry ravioli with lemon sauce. The pasta was delicate with a light, citrus flavor. Hub-ster opted for the ricotta filled chocolate crepes with chocolate ice cream. They were delicious, but very, very rich. One bite pretty much overpowered the rest of the desserts, which meant they were a little too rich for me. Still, the meal was a resounding success, made all the more so by getting to meet John Besh in the dining room. I was in Food Nerd Heaven. We accompanied our meal with one of the best bottles of Prosecco I’ve ever had, and it was reasonably priced. Paying $21 each for three courses, we felt a little bit like Bonnie and Clyde. I practically robbed them to eat food of that caliber for that price. We’ll definitely be making a return trip. Favorite dish: wild striped bass.

Still to come: Brigtsen’s, Coquette, Green Goddess, Commander’s Palace and (somewhat tragically, as I hate to “waste” a meal in New Orleans) Court of Two Sisters (that one wasn’t on my personal list, but I agreed to make another member of our party happy. It wasn’t awful, but it isn’t in the ballpark of the other meals.)

I can't get over the amazing, reasonably priced food in the city, even though I've been before. I went to New York in October and while I loved the city, practically went bankrupt eating the same caliber food I ate in NOLA for less than half the price. New Orleans - the city, its people, and its cuisine are all flat-out amazing. I can't wait to go back.

  1. g
    gastrotect May 19, 2010 09:37 AM

    Glad to hear it went so well. I look forward to your write-ups. They include either places I love (GG) or places that are at the top of my list to try (Coquette). I am with you on the August lunch. It is an absolute steal. Not only is it awesome food for a very affordable price, they don't skimp on portion sizes. The three courses plus the inevitable amuse has left me completely satisfied every time. I recommend it whenever I get the chance, but it still seems like a bit of secret around town.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gastrotect
      t
      txgrl99 May 19, 2010 09:51 AM

      I was surprised that it wasn't that crowded at August, although we did eat late. I will definitely make a point to visit there every time we're in town.

    2. t
      txgrl99 May 19, 2010 09:52 AM

      Brigtsen's

      Our reservations were at 7:45. We miscalculated the length of time from our hotel to the restaurant and arrived about 5 minutes late. We called ahead and they were very accommodating. It turns out, there were some campers at our table. As an hour past our reservations came up, we were just about to call a cab and grab a burger at Clover Grill when they seated us. Now, I’m not sure if this is unusual, but there were people with reservations waiting all over. So either it was an off night, or they have trouble managing their reservations.

      We all started with the house salad, as we knew we needed some greens given all the cream and fat we planned to ingest over the weekend. The salad was lovely, with onions and a light vinaigrette dressing. My husband ordered the red grouper with crawfish etoufee. My mom ordered my favorite entrée, the special with soft shell crab, finished with a spicy-sweet praline topping. They were divine. I made the mistake of ordering steak. Don’t get me wrong; because the steak was perfectly good. It’s just that I can get a great steak here in Austin, so I should’ve ordered something I can’t get here. That said, the oysters on top of the steak were grilled to perfection, and the meal was accompanied by the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever put in my mouth. I could only assume they add some serious cream and other wonderfulness to make them taste so amazing. We were too full for dessert, but finished with a nice Pimm’s Cup. Overall the meal was quite good, but not such a standout I will add it to the regular rotation (regular being every year or so when we are lucky enough to make it back). The restaurant is in a charming old house, and the manager was very apologetic about the wait.

      1 Reply
      1. re: txgrl99
        k
        kibbles May 20, 2010 01:18 PM

        curious - on the reservation's hour wait, did they comp anything back? app, dessert cocktail, etc?

      2. t
        txgrl99 May 19, 2010 10:14 AM

        Coquette

        Truly, I cannot say enough good things about this place. Our lunch was so good, I almost scrapped our dinner plans and went back, but decided to put them on my dinner list next trip. First, the restaurant itself is a very charming café/wine bar. The bar is gorgeous dark oak. Service was very prompt and helpful, even offering opinions when we asked for them. Once our server realized we were game, he offered his opinions on a couple of things without prompting, which I appreciated.

        At our waiter’s suggestion, we shared the roast oysters with fennel and Benton’s bacon ragout, and horseradish for an appetizer. They came out piping hot and delectable. As good as they were, they were the weak link in a meal that treaded frequently into the sublime. We ordered separate entrees and split them on an extra plate, another lovely suggestion from our server. We tied in the entrée Olympics, as both were divine. I ordered the shrimp and grits and was blown away by the rich, full flavor of both the shrimp and the grits. The dish included red pepper, which gave it a nice zing. My mom ordered the special, the scallops, which were equally good. We ordered the fresh squeezed lemonade, which was so tasty, we were compelled to order cocktails. We each ordered a champagne cocktail that was lovely and clearly made with all fresh ingredients. Their bartender has it going on, big time.

        Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, we ordered dessert. I ordered the panna cotta, which was served with blood orange and candied fennel. I adore panna cotta, and this was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Even given that, it couldn’t compete with my mom’s chocolate pot de crème, which made us delirious with its light, fluffy chocolate taste. I like pot de crème, but sometimes it is too dense. Not this – it was light as a cloud, served with a dollop of whipped cream. Even better, it was accompanied by about eight fluffy beignets sprinkled with powdered sugar. I truly can’t think of a better dessert I’ve had anywhere on the planet.

        I’ve been dreaming of this meal, and cannot wait to go back. It’s food so good, it’s worth a special trip to New Orleans just to eat there. I was chatting with the manager, who told me the chef used to be the sous chef at August, so his talent comes with a pedigree, too.

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        Coquette
        2800 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115

        9 Replies
        1. re: txgrl99
          BayouTeche May 19, 2010 10:39 AM

          August is certainly one of my favorites in town. I still need to try them for lunch.

          While I think Brigtsen's to be very good, it never quite meets my expectations.

          Coquette is a gem of a place. Never disappointed....lunch or dinner.

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          Brigtsen's Restaurant
          723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

          1. re: txgrl99
            noradeirdre May 19, 2010 11:20 AM

            We had an amazing dinner at Coquette this past Saturday- I had the fried shrimp small plate and duck breast with collards and confit large plate, and my husband had the crab fritters and asparagus with crawfish tails (both small plates). We sat at the bar, which is always fun (the week previous I'd sat there myself and had the ramp paperdelle with braised rabbit and their cochon de lait with the beignets and chocolate pot de creme- HUMINA HUMINA HUMINA- and had a great time chatting with the bartenders.)

            My husband, at my suggestion got the beignet/chocolate pot de creme dessert and I had the off menu dessert which was AMAZING- goat cheese mousse with marcona almonds, marcona almond honey, and the first of the season's raspberries and blueberries. A-MAY-ZING!

            We live pretty close to Coquette so it's tempting to go there for every meal, but I am valiantly trying to keep trying new places.

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            Coquette
            2800 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115

            1. re: noradeirdre
              t
              txgrl99 May 19, 2010 11:39 AM

              I would easily gain 50 pounds if I lived that close to Coquette! That place is certainly a gem. I literally had a dream about it last night. I've got to start planning our next trip!

              1. re: txgrl99
                m
                mikeh May 19, 2010 11:53 AM

                ok folks, you all have finally convinced me to substitute something else out for Coquette next weekend when I'm in town. You do realize this "forces" me to eat at Cochon, Coquette, Dick+Jenny's, Dante's Kitchen, and August for my meal allotments, right? No casual po-boys, no casual fried seafood, no muffalettas, no Cochon Butcher...unless I eat like four or five meals a day!

                I suppose there are worse situations to be in...

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                Cochon
                930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

                Dante's Kitchen
                736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118

                1. re: mikeh
                  t
                  txgrl99 May 19, 2010 01:47 PM

                  I had the same problem! I keep wanting to get to Central Grocery, etc., but there are just too many places and too much good eating to be done at the finer establishments. You won't be sorry about a visit to Coquette, I promise!!

                  1. re: mikeh
                    j
                    joedontexan May 19, 2010 02:24 PM

                    a very nice problem to have but dining in new orleans can stress you out so many great places to eat and only one stomach.

                    1. re: joedontexan
                      edible complex May 19, 2010 03:56 PM

                      locals are born w/5 stomachs, one of the perks I guess.

                      that said, if Coquette ever has the cod as a special, GET IT!

                2. re: noradeirdre
                  nomadchowwoman May 19, 2010 09:38 PM

                  Amen on Coquette.

                3. re: txgrl99
                  k
                  kibbles May 20, 2010 01:20 PM

                  yes, the Beignets w/ Pot de Creme are one of my most favorite desserts. they are heaven.

                  love the cocktails. $5 on thursdays!

                4. t
                  txgrl99 May 19, 2010 11:42 AM

                  Green Goddess

                  We had a spectacular meal at Green Goddess. I think appropriate expectations are the key to having an enjoyable time here. The inside is tiny – maybe 12 seats total, plus they have four or so outside tables. It’s hot inside the restaurant, which shares its dining room with the bar and kitchen. Also, they ran out of wine glasses, so this isn’t the kind of place that is going to replace your silverware after every course. And all of this is okay with me, because their food is hands down amazing. I just think it helps to understand (a) there’s going to be a wait and they may not be able to tell you precisely how long (there were some ridiculous campers taking up three of the outside tables. They stayed for an hour after they finished. This bad etiquette is the subject of a rant for another day.), (b) it will likely be hot as Hades, and (c) it will likely be cramped. Just brush it off and enjoy the good chow, and you’ll be fine. That said, they were slammed – people were waiting in just about every nook and cranny of that ally. I asked one of the waiters how it was going and he said, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” +1 for the Jaws reference!

                  We had the tasting menu. This was a lot of food, but everything was so good we kept stuffing our faces. The first course was roasted eggplant and white anchovy bruschetta. Now, I thought I hated anchovies (expect the paste, which is fine in dressing, etc.). Boy, was I wrong! The tiny fish were briny and flavorful. The dish was wonderful. Course two was probably my favorite: shrimp tails, escargot and tasso grits (or snails, tails, and tasso, as they call it). I am a huge escargot fan but my husband detests them. He loved them in this dish. They were steaky and smoky flavored, beautifully accompanied by shrimp tails and rich, creamy grits.

                  Course three was a white andalusian goat cheese salad. By course four, the tasty gulf fish meuniere, we were chanting, “Man versus food, man versus food!” Everything was delicious; it was just generous, New Orleans sized portions. That was part of our problem. We couldn’t stop eating, even when we should. We ordered an extra course, because who could resist foie gras-stuffed medjool dates? Certainly not us! They were so creamy and delectable. By dessert, a (mercifully) light strawberries and ice cream terrine, they took pity on us and only brought us one. It was the perfect counterpoint to the previous heavy courses.

                  Chef Chris came out several times to check on us. He was a delight, and clearly relished diners who appreciated what he was doing. I told him how many good things I’d heard about the restaurant and how excited we were to be there. They are doing some amazing things in that tiny restaurant. It is more than worth the minor challenges.

                  Another note: the tasting menu was $55, an incredibly reasonable price for the volume and quality (I'm thinking maybe lower overhead helps the prices? Although I can't imagine it's all that low, being in the French Quarter). You’d have to pay at least double that to eat a meal of that caliber in virtually any other city I can think of. The reasonable bill made us glad we didn’t split the menu, even though it was a lot of food. They also boxed up the fish for us so we could put it in our hotel fridge and snack later, so it isn’t like it went to waste. Green Goddess is now on my standing New Orleans go-to restaurant list.

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                  Green Goddess
                  307 Exchange Place, New Orleans, LA 70130

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: txgrl99
                    k
                    kibbles May 20, 2010 01:27 PM

                    love it!! i gotta go back, and soon. theyre on restaurant.com so will be using some coupons in the near future.

                  2. t
                    txgrl99 May 19, 2010 01:48 PM

                    Commander’s Palace

                    I’m not going to get into a long review of Commander’s Palace, as I had the same thing I had the last time I was there and reported back (cochon de lait and bread pudding soufflé), save for the appetizer (escargot, which was good, but I prefer a more traditional preparation, or for you to put it in grits, apparently [see Green Goddess]). We took my mom there for Mother’s Day, and everything was perfect. I’m always so impressed with the service there. She must’ve had 20 people wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. The valet told us he treats everyone like he hopes people treat his grandmother. : ) The food was outstanding, and extraordinarily rich. I paced myself better this time, and didn’t end up nearly dead from caloric intake. My husband hit on an entrée that will make me give up my beloved cochon de lait. It’s called something like the Sportsman (maybe)? Anyway, it is a pancake, with sweet potato shredded to straw thickness, and topped with duck. The savory sweet combination was incredible.

                    I won’t say anything else about Court of Two Sisters except don’t go there. It’s fine, if serviceable is what you’re after, but there are so many better places to eat breakfast, that I’d choose one of those. It paled in comparison to Commander’s, but I knew it would.

                    That’s all for my long-winded reviews. Thanks to all you ‘hounds for your assistance and good guidance. It paid off in spades. I can’t wait to plan my next trip.

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                    Commander's Palace Restaurant
                    1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: txgrl99
                      c
                      Christine May 20, 2010 08:27 AM

                      I loved your reviews, txgrl (Texas girl?). They weren't "long-winded" at all IMO. Maybe because I tend to get that way myself....:) We are arriving on Monday and know we won't be able to get to every place we'd love to go to, but we're going to do our best. Definitely know what you mean about already planning the next visit. We have confirmed dinner reservations at Dante's Kitchen, Upperline, and Pelican Club. The rest of the time we're going to wing. Would like to try Green Goddess (it's right across from Pelican Club, right?), but I think that may have to wait till another time. Hey, did you know the chef there, Chris DeBarr, is married to the New Orleans restaurant fiction author Poppy Z. Brite? I read a couple of her books and loved them! Really gives you a feel for New Orleans natives and a peek into the unique restaurant biz there.

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                      Dante's Kitchen
                      736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118

                      Pelican Club Restaurant & Bar
                      312 Exchange Alley, New Orleans, LA 70130

                      Upperline Restaurant
                      1413 Upperline St, New Orleans, LA

                      Green Goddess
                      307 Exchange Place, New Orleans, LA 70130

                      1. re: Christine
                        Mytah May 20, 2010 08:37 AM

                        Gee the things you learn on CH heh. I've seen some of her gothic horror stuff from way back when.

                        1. re: Christine
                          t
                          txgrl99 May 20, 2010 09:17 AM

                          Thanks so much, Christine! I did know that Chef Chris was Poppy Z. Brite's husband. I am a huge fan of Ms. Brite's, so I had two reasons for wanting to go to the restaurant (the awesome food being the other, obviously). I managed not to nerd-out and name check her to him, though. I'm sure that probably gets old. I love her Ricky and G-Man New Orleans restaurant books. I wish she'd write another one. You are correct - the Pelican Club is right next door to Green Goddess. We had a very tasty Ramos Gin Fizz there while we waited. Have a wonderful trip!

                          1. re: txgrl99
                            c
                            Christine May 20, 2010 02:41 PM

                            Hey, I'm admiring of your restraint on not name-dropping with Chef Chris: I'm sure I would have totally nerded-out and gushed over his wife's books. You never know...he might've appreciated it. I daresay there are many people who probably don't even know that connection, or have read her books. Yeah, I wish she would write another installment of the Ricky and G-Man saga. So funny and entertaining.

                      2. m
                        middyboo May 20, 2010 12:20 PM

                        These are AMAZING reviews. Thanks so much for taking the time to report back. I have rez for Cochon, Stella! and Dante's Kitchen, but now I will totally make time for Coquette. Maybe a lunch on our last day...

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                        Cochon
                        930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

                        Dante's Kitchen
                        736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: middyboo
                          s
                          shanefink May 20, 2010 02:31 PM

                          Although I still haven't been to Green Goddess (I sweat a lot and should probably wait until winter), I have tried all the other restaurants mentioned. I have to say, you are missing one that might be better than all of them. My first time at Le Meritage last week was so good I can't stop thinking about it. I loved the small plate options which basically allowed us to create our own tasting menu. And the wine pairings were amazing. People say it's pricey, but we were stuffed and spent less than $150 including tax and tip for four courses and 3 half glasses of wine. Try to fit it in your next visit.

                          -----
                          Green Goddess
                          307 Exchange Place, New Orleans, LA 70130

                          Le Meritage
                          1001 Toulouse, New Orleans, LA 70112

                          1. re: middyboo
                            t
                            txgrl99 May 21, 2010 01:03 PM

                            Thanks so much, middyboo! I promise you won't be sorry about your trip to Coquette. It isn't often I literally dream about a restaurant!

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