Trip Report: June 8-12 (Days 1 and 2)
Wow--what a whirlwind 4-1/2 days we had in beautiful NOLA. We had a great time but, now that I'm home, I need to do some weird Gwyneth Paltrow-esque cleanse to make up for the last fews days of debauchery.
We arrived Tuesday night about 5 pm at our hotel, the Omni Royal Orleans on St. Louis in the Quarter. We barely had time to settle in before crossing the street to have a Pimm's Cup at Napoleon House (well, I had the Pimm's Cup; my husband had an Abita Amber) to commence our pub crawl. I've had PCs before so I wasn't expecting anything earth-shattering, which this PC wasn't. It was, however, very refreshing to sip on a 94 degree day. Contrary to some reports I've heard, the service was efficient and friendly. After I had a couple PC and my dear husband had two Abita Ambers, we wandered over to Pat O'Brien's for an obligatory Hurricane. I hadn't been to Pat O's since I was a energetic 20-something and remember--through the hazy memories caused by drinking perhaps too much on previous visits and by the passage of several years--having a really good time there. Now, in my 30s, it wasn't so fun. The Hurricane tasted a little like Nyquil. DH didn't even try one; he opted for Bud in a can. The chatty restroom attendants were the best part of our stop there. Following Pat O's, we walked down to Lafitte's Blacksmith for a drink. I had something completely boring-a vodka soda-to cleanse my palate after the 20 oz. Nyquil I'd had down the street. Lafitte's was okay, but no great shakes. The most noteworthy thing about the place is that I was devoured by mosquitoes there (and still have the scars to prove it). Following a relatively brief visit at Lafitte's, the DH and I strolled over to the Marigny in search of something. We ended up at d.b.a., where I had another boring drink but enjoyed the surroundings more (A/C! No skeeters!). Unfortunately, we had to leave before the band started playing--I was too hungry to stay. In search of food, we walked across the street to Yuki's Izakaya to check it out. I was extremely wary, being from the PNW and having top-notch sushi and izakaya readily available, but my DH wanted to try it. The space was very dark and small and, in my snap-judgment opinion, not the kind of place where I wanted to eat raw fish. We had two cooked small plates, the pedestrian shu mai (although these had crab, as opposed to the pork shu mai I'm used to) and the takoyaki (octopus dumplings). The shu mai were fine and the takoyaki had good flavor but the texture was off--I don't think the corn starch was cooked out of the filling. We split and decided to go with a safer bet, Coop's. What a change from Yuki's. I immediately ordered the crawfish etouffee and the DH ordered a hamburger. Both dishes were fine, nothing great, but still satisfying. Our bartender was very helpful and friendly, which was a plus, and the atmosphere was fun and laid back. It was a good way to end the evening, and we wandered back to our hotel with full bellies.
Wednesday morning, a little bleary-eyed from our pub crawl the night before, we woke up a bit later than I had planned. I wanted to go to Cafe du Monde and was worried we blown it--that there would be long lines because it was after 10. I was wrong. We had no trouble getting a table. We shared an order of beignets and--all coffee'd out by our complimentary morning beverage service at the hotel--drank them with water. The beignets were tougher than I remember, and dry.
Lunch on Wednesday was at the fabulous Mr. B's. We sat at the bar and were served by Ian, the bartender. He was friendly and talked to us a fair amount. We also spent a great deal of time talking with a gregarious local attorney who made the lunch. Well--he AND the most in-freaking-credible barbecued shrimp made the lunch. What can I say about the BBQ shrimp? That they were succulent and flavorful and that their sauce was like gravy from heaven? I think that fits. Seriously--the shrimp were out of this world. I moaned as I ate them (bad habit I picked up in childhood from my Chinese mother). I blew through an entire loaf of bread by myself to sop up that sauce. My husband had the gumbo ya ya, which he really enjoyed, but I think he coveted my shrimp. I didn't share very well. The $1.50 Bloodies were also good and--wisely--small.
Wednesday's dinner was at Patois. We arrived about an hour early and so wandered over to the next block for a couple of aperitifs at Clancy's. In planning our trip, I fretted over choosing between Brigtsen's and Clancy's. I thought they seemed very similar on paper--how wrong I was. I'm glad we went to Clancy's for drinks and glad to Brigtsen's for dinner (more in a later report). Clancy's had an impressive wine list (the best I saw on the trip) and I had a glass of champagne. DH had a nice, un-oaked chardonnay. Following that, we walked over to Patois and were seated for dinner. The restaurant was very charming and easy compared to Clancy's, where we felt like two teenagers sneaking into the country club's bar. Our server was friendly, mellow, and knowledgeable. DH and I ordered a bottle of a French white burgundy (easy drinking) and shared the pork belly and scallop appetizer and the Farmers' Market salad. The sauce (Steen's cane syrup and a spicy mustard) on the appetizer was fabulous--sweet, to offset the saltiness of the pork belly and the brininess of the scallop. The scallop was perfectly prepared, while the pork belly was a little too charred for me. The flavor combo was great, however. Salads can be boring but this one was a little more special than most, owing to its delicate, garden-fresh greens and toasted pumpkin seeds. For our main courses, I ordered the pheasant and my DH ordered the duck. The pheasant was very good and, thankfully, not dry as pheasant is wont to be. The foie gras in the sauced helped, as did the nummy nummy sunchoke puree (why do I not eat sunchokes more often?). I'm a sucker for cipolllini onions, too, so this dish was right up my alley. Unfortunately, however, my husband had a bad time with his entree. His duck was very overcooked. I don't know what happened--kind of a surprise, really, considering the high fat content of duck. He loved the Asian flavor profile and was disappointed that the duck hadn't been properly prepared; if it had, the dish would have been a star. Despite the duck being overdone, he did still eat nearly the whole thing (guess he really liked the flavor) but still mentioned something to our waiter as a tip for the next time. The waiter was very gracious about it, and I really don't think that the duck is representative of the restaurant as a whole. I think this duck was an aberration and just somehow managed to sneak out of the kitchen. Following our mains, we shared bread pudding for dessert. The bread pudding was good but I barely remember it--not because of its quality, but because right after eating it, we stepped outside and I chatted with Chef Aaron Burgau for a little while as the DH and I waited for our cab. Now THAT was a great way to cap off a meal. What a nice, personable guy. We talked about the filming of Treme and the experience of having Chefs Colicchio, Ripert, Chang, and Dufresne in the house. We talked about food. Wow. Loved every minute of it. And even better, we were picked up by a taxi driver who also happens to be a major foodie (Tommy from United Cab). He raved about Patois and Brigtsen's and gave us other tips (best po boys: Domisile's. Best BBQ shrimp: Deanie's). It was a wonderful night cap.
Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
1016 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70130
great report. looking forward to more.
a note on the cabbie's recs - they definitely represent an old school yat, and are not necessarily IMO current any longer, as you experienced via Mr B's top-rated BBQ skimps.
Yuki is good. while primarily a bar, and small & dark it is very well run by Yuki and her partner; if Japanese tapas is one's thing it's a great unique option. nothing else like it (a bar with octopus dumplings next door to great jazz clubs!).
When we had lunch at the bar at Mr B's we were entertained by a gregarious lawyer as well. Was he an older gentleman? The bartender obviously knew him and he seemed like a regular, so it wouldn't surprise me if it was the same guy. BTW, I still have dreams about the BBQ Shrimp at Mr B's. That sauce is so good!