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Emeril's, Stella!, August, Bayona, Ralph's on the Park and Mr B.'s Bistro

w
Watson May 31, 2011 12:22 PM

Thanks to all who contribute here providing some great recommendations, and to those who answered some of my questions. It has all been helpful.

In an effort to give back a little, here's my report of the restaurants we sampled over the four and half days we spent in New Orleans. This was our first visit and we sure like the friendly people and seemingly everyone's interest in food.

Emeril’s (800 Tchoupitoulas St) (website:www.emerils.com/restaurant/1/Emerils-...
)There’s a feeling of energy to this restaurant. We arrived early and sat at the bar for a pre-dinner libation before our meal. For a Monday evening, it was very busy with a number of people coming and going, and people having a meal at the bar.

The look of the place is casual, with an exposed brick wall, but distinctive, with the interesting panel treatment on the ceiling. The big windows made the place bright on a sunny evening.

This was our first trip to New Orleans and the first place we ate at. It was fun to open a menu containing items I’d never had seen before, let alone tasted. The servers were keen to give us recommendations. We tried the seafood and andouille gumbo and the arugula, endive and radicchio salad to start, then the jumbo shrimp, and andouille encrusted drum for mains. We split a trio of ice creams, which flavours I cannot now recall, but they were all interesting and tasty.

Service was excellent and our meal was thoroughly enjoyable.

Stella! (1023 Chartres St) (website: www.restaurantstella.com
)This restaurant has a beautiful formal ambience. The servers are also formal and attentive. From the moment you enter, you feel this is a place for a special meal.

We tried the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairings ($125 for the menu, $95 for the wines). That night the courses were: Local Cherry Tomato Gazpacho with Louisiana Jumbo Lump Crab and Virgin Olive Oil; Canadian Lobster, North Shore Farm Egg and American Paddlefish Caviar; Louisiana Gulf Shrimp Risotto with Caramelized Shiitake Mushroom, Grilled Ramps, English Peas and Virgin Olive Oil; Panko and Parsley Crusted Japanese Mero Sea Bass with Glazed Baby Turnips and Dill Sauternes Butter; Seared Prime Beef Tenderloin with Potato and Foie Gras Croquette, Caramelized Baby Onion, Baby Beets and Red Burgundy “Glace de Viande”; Goat’s Milk Panna Cotta with Louisiana Strawberries, Candied Orange Peel and Pistachio Glass and Bombe of Sesame Cake, Chocolate-Caramel Ice Cream and Meringue with Chocolate Sauce Sphere, Black Sesame Lace and Pink Peppercorn Powder.

I could not finish all of the last three courses but each course was excellent and paired well with the wines selected.

In terms of the setting, food, wine and service, this was the best meal we had overall while in New Orleans.

August (301 Tchoupitoulas St) (website: www.restaurantaugust.com
)I had been looking forward to this meal, but it proved somewhat disappointing.

We were seated in the back room right next to the door where most of the servers were exiting and entering and thus, frequently bumping my dining companion’s chair. It wasn’t an ideal start.

My starter of organic greens with pumpkin seed brittle, Point Reyes blue cheese and pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette did not (to me) really work. The greens and cheese with dressing were good on their own, but other than add texture, the pumpkin seed brittle did not seem to belong. The sweetness of the brittle was too strong. For mains, my dining companion had red fish which he thought was good. I had poussin with barley risotto and a blueberry sauce. The sauce on its own had a full berry flavour but was too strong for the rest of the dish overpowering the flavours of the fowl and grains.

The hot and humid weather was wearing on me and I felt tired which probably affected my enjoyment of the meal. The servers did not seem as friendly as other places we tried. I wanted to like August, but it was overall the least enjoyable of the four dinners we had.

Bayona (430 Dauphine St) (website: www.bayona.com
)We had asked to sit in the courtyard at Bayona and were told that it was not a guaranteed seating. Just as well. When we arrived, it was starting to rain and during the meal, there was a massive thunder and lightening display as rain poured buckets until shortly before we left. We couldn’t complain about not being in the courtyard. The interior with its many rooms is intimate and elegant.

We were a group of six and I now cannot recall what everyone else ate. I started with the cream of garlic soup which was very tasty but did cause me to burp up garlic from time to time for the rest of the evening. If your dining companions are tolerant, I would say it is well worth trying. For mains, I had chorizo-stuffed rabbit roulade and panéed leg, toasted angel hair, escarole, and sherry garlic sauce. I loved this dish but could not manage any more food despite lingering for some time after while others had dessert.

The servers were gracious and tolerated us being the last people in the restaurant.

Ralph’s on the Park (900 City Park Avenue) (website: www.ralphsonthepark.com
)We had lunch at Ralph’s on the Park after visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art and walking around City Park and the area beyond.

The restaurant has a lovely view of the park. It seemed to be frequented by many locals who were visiting among their tables. The restaurant has the feel of a place where you would regularly go to when wanting a special place but an relaxing atmosphere. Indeed, before we were finished two different extended family groups arrived looking like they were celebrating someone’s birthday.

I had corn fried oyster remoulade salad, which was a salad with fried oysters on the side sitting atop remoulade sauce – tasty but not too heavy for lunch. My dining companion had seafood crepe. We found the food well prepared and a lovely oasis from the heat of the park.

Mr. B’s Bistro (201 Royal Street) (www.mrbsbistro.com
)At the New Orleans School of Cooking, Mr. B’s was recommended as the place to go for BBQ shrimp. So our group of six went there for lunch.

I’ll eat one shrimp, but didn’t want an entire plate, so while my dining companions were sitting with the paper bibs tied around their necks, I had the trout amandine. The dish made me think of France as it was prepared as the French would do. I did dip some bread into the BBQ Shrimp sauce -- wow, rich.

The restaurant was very busy and the servers engaging making it a fun spot for a meal.

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Bayona
430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Emeril's Restaurant
800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

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  1. Bill Hunt RE: Watson May 31, 2011 08:07 PM

    Watson.

    Fantastic report, and thank you for taking the time to do it.

    You broke my heart, when you did not list the wines at Stella!, but I forgive you, based on the completeness of the report. You are "off the hook" this time. [Grin]

    Sorry that Restaurant August did not come through better. We have had similar tables elsewhere, but never there. It is not fun, and does ruin an otherwise good to great dining experience. I feel your pain, and Chef Besh's GM needs to hear of that!

    Have not had the brittle, but cannot image how that would help the dish. Maybe if I'd been there, I'd "get it," but from the description, doubt it. Chef Besh does try to push the envelope, and maybe I grade such attempts lower, than I should. Still, does not sound like the right combo.

    Glad that you were seated inside at Bayona. Sometimes, things work out for a reason. We have shut them down before, as we have many restaurants around the globe, and when done, we do not linger, but as we do many wine courses, and then usually a cheese course, before any desserts, it does take time.

    Still, with but a few slip ups, sounds like a good to great trip.

    Thanks again for taking the time to report.

    Hunt

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    Restaurant August
    301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

    Bayona
    430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

    18 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt
      k
      kibbles RE: Bill Hunt Jun 1, 2011 10:24 AM

      ive had the August brittle salad -- my SO and i think it's terrific. in fact it's their signature salad and we get it every time. if you enjoy salty-sweet combos, i would recommend trying it.

      as for the Bayona courtyard -- as ive ranted elsewhere, they do not take reservations for it, yet when you show up (say, on a pleasant friday lunch- no rain!) to an empty courtyard they will tell you it's reserved. i finally contacted a manager to get to the bottom of this and she explained they hold it for regulars first. annoying to me, but nobody in that Chow thread thought this unusual...ah well.

      1. re: kibbles
        h
        hazelhurst RE: kibbles Jun 1, 2011 10:30 AM

        I am not a regular there but speaking as one elsewhere, I'm OK with that... I expect to be told that we are short on soft-shells and would I please order one before that oaf in the corner gets one and slathers ketchup all over it.

        1. re: hazelhurst
          Bill Hunt RE: hazelhurst Jun 1, 2011 06:43 PM

          Hey, if that's Tabasco Spicy Ketchup, then maybe all is not THAT bad, eh?

          Hunt

        2. re: kibbles
          c
          Christine RE: kibbles Jun 1, 2011 10:32 AM

          When we first dined at Bayona for a Wed. lunch in November 09, we had made reservations, but did not specify inside or outside. When we arrived, they gave us the choice, and since the weather was absolutely lovely that day, we opted for the charming courtyard. We are definitely not locals (wish we were), so perhaps we just unknowingly lucked out, because now it seems like there's a real premium on getting to dine in the courtyard.....Glad we got to experience it! :))

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          Bayona
          430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

          1. re: kibbles
            w
            Watson RE: kibbles Jun 1, 2011 10:49 AM

            I'm not so much a sweet and salty person so that's probably why it didn't really work for me. It wasn't unpleasant, just not something that made it special for me.

            1. re: kibbles
              j
              jenniferpdc RE: kibbles Jun 1, 2011 11:46 AM

              I went to lunch at Bayona not that long ago, and they didn't seem to have a problem seating us in the courtyard when we asked. It was about half full at the time.

              Much surprised about the August experience. Every meal I have had there has been memorable. Actually won't be back to Stella after they rushed us through a full dinner with cocktails in less than an hour (we clocked it at about 50 minutes after we left). Nobody came to ask if we wanted another drink, if the meal was OK, etc. It was quite disappointing after all the raves I've heard about it - and certainly not what I expect in terms of NOLA service..

              -----
              Bayona
              430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

              1. re: jenniferpdc
                Bill Hunt RE: jenniferpdc Jun 1, 2011 07:01 PM

                Ouch! That was very bad form on Stella!'s part. We have never encountered anything similar. On the occasions, with my M-I-L, we dine early, but then my wife and I eat a tad slowly, and do many courses, including a cheese course, when available. Even in NOLA, and Europe, we close down many restaurants.

                The pacing at Stella! has always been great. I hope that this is not a sign of the times, as I flat hate to feel rushed in any way. We never "linger," as we are doing more courses, and wines, but never want to be rushed. With but a very few exceptions (Scott's in Mayfair, London recently), we never are.

                I am so very sorry to hear that report.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  j
                  jenniferpdc RE: Bill Hunt Jun 2, 2011 02:24 PM

                  I was very sorry too, because the food was quite good. I'm willing to give them another try, but my husband is not.

                2. re: jenniferpdc
                  k
                  kibbles RE: jenniferpdc Jun 2, 2011 02:14 PM

                  let me refine -- if Bayona has more reservation-requests for the patio than seats, that is when they hold the seats for (as yet unarrived) regulars first, regardless of reservation time.

                  if they have more seats than reservation-requests, then they are given out first-come, first-serve, to anyone.

                3. re: kibbles
                  FoodChic RE: kibbles Jun 1, 2011 01:29 PM

                  I've sat outside on two separate occasions and I'm no regular. In fact, I specifically requested the courtyard when I made my reservations. It sounds like one of those 'depends who you talk to' situations. I find that irritating. Either have the policy or don't, the conflicting responses make the restaurant look unprofessional.

                  1. re: FoodChic
                    k
                    kibbles RE: FoodChic Jun 2, 2011 02:18 PM

                    see just above -- it depends on how many seats vs requests. if more requests than seats, they hold for Tier I customers, regardless of res time. this irks me..

                    1. re: kibbles
                      FoodChic RE: kibbles Jun 2, 2011 06:50 PM

                      Definitely irksome, Kibbles!

                  2. re: kibbles
                    Bill Hunt RE: kibbles Jun 1, 2011 06:41 PM

                    The courtyard "reservations" issue is odd, to say the least.

                    We encountered similar at some spots in Rome recently. Sometimes, I almost think that some restaurateurs just do not want to serve on the sidewalk, or in the courtyard?

                    We've done the Chef's Tasting (full-tilt) two times, and have never had it - yet.

                    If you say that it's good, then I'll order it, even as an extra course, just to try it.

                    Thanks,

                    Hunt

                  3. re: Bill Hunt
                    w
                    Watson RE: Bill Hunt Jun 1, 2011 10:47 AM

                    Hunt,

                    Here's the wine pairings:

                    Local Cherry Tomato Gazpacho with Louisiana Jumbo Lump Crab and Virgin Olive Oil; Do Ferreiro, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain 2009

                    Canadian Lobster, North Shore Farm Egg and American Paddlefish Caviar; Dom Perignon 2002

                    Louisiana Gulf Shrimp Risotto with Caramelized Shiitake Mushroom, Grilled Ramps, English Peas and Virgin Olive Oil; Pierre Morey, Bourgogne, 2006

                    Panko and Parsley Crusted Japanese Mero Sea Bass with Glazed Baby Turnips and Dill Sauternes Butter; Jean-Jacques Girard, Savigny-les-Beaune, “Les Lavieres”, Burgundy, 2008

                    Seared Prime Beef Tenderloin with Potato and Foie Gras Croquette, Caramelized Baby Onion, Baby Beets and Red Burgundy “Glace de Viande”; Casanuova delle Cerbaie, Brunello di Montalcino, 2004

                    Goat’s Milk Panna Cotta with Louisiana Strawberries, Candied Orange Peel and Pistachio Glass; Elio Perrone “Sourgal”, Moscato d’Asti, 2010

                    Bombe of Sesame Cake, Chocolate-Caramel Ice Cream and Meringue with Chocolate Sauce Sphere, Black Sesame Lace and Pink Peppercorn Powder; La Coume Du Roy, Languedoc, Maury, 2004

                    The Burgundy with the fish was the most eye opening. So hard to match red wine and fish in my experience and this worked really well.

                    1. re: Watson
                      Bill Hunt RE: Watson Jun 1, 2011 07:10 PM

                      Watson.

                      Thank you, thank you!

                      I assume that the Pierre Morey was their Chardonnay. He also does a Pinot Noir with the Bourgogne designation.

                      Was this the "sommelier's tasting?" If so, then the changes have been worth it.

                      The wines were my one big complaint. The sommelier, at that time, was just not into wine pairings, and it showed badly.

                      As for pairing a red with fish, I often go to a Pinot Noir, or to a Grenache from the Southern Rhône. Some will depend on the sauce, and the full prep, but reds with fish are not bad pairings. Glad that you enjoyed.

                      Personally, I would have paired the Bombe of Seasme Cake w/ a Banyuls, but that is just me. One of the things that I like about a "sommelier's pairing" is that I will be surprised, and hopefully in a great way.

                      Thank you so much for taking the time to post those. Things have definitely changed, and in a very good way!!!

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                        w
                        Watson RE: Bill Hunt Jun 2, 2011 09:09 AM

                        Hunt,

                        Indeed, it was the Pierre Morey, Chardonnay.

                        Glad to know the wine pairing have improved because this was one of the better matches I have tried. I don't recall that there was any choice about a sommelier tasting versus some other wine pairing.

                        For me, the wines with dessert are usually the most educational because I rarely drink sweet wine. I've enjoyed Banyuls with chocolate so it may very well have been a good match also.

                        1. re: Watson
                          Bill Hunt RE: Watson Jun 2, 2011 05:57 PM

                          Unless things have changed, one has basically three options, though all could involve the sommelier.

                          One could go with the pairings offered for a supplemental charge.
                          One could go B-T-G and those suggestions could come from the sommelier, but would very likely be from the published list.
                          One could buy X bottles, or half-bottles, from the list, and again, the recs. could come from the sommelier.

                          Where there is a sommelier's pairing, we usually go that route, as I want to see what they pair with the dishes. On our last visit, that pairing was the one weak point of the entire evening, and it was a big one. That sommelier was soon replaced, but we've not put them to the test after that change. IIRC, that sommelier (a young lady, I believe) has also moved on.

                          Thanks for the report,

                          Hunt

                      2. re: Watson
                        noradeirdre RE: Watson Jun 2, 2011 07:43 PM

                        Oh.

                        Mah.

                        Gawd.

                        The wine pairings sound divine and I wanna go to Stella! immediately.

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