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Is Restaurant August the real deal or hype?

j
joedontexan Jul 10, 2011 07:28 AM

I will be traveling to new orleans this week for four days and will finally try August. I have wondered for a long time whether it really is that great or just another good restaurant. John Besh looks like a Hollywood model and has lots of charisma. Which leads to the question is August really great for the food or is it Besh's charm and good looks and media hype that sells this restaurant?

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Restaurant August
301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

  1. twyst Jul 10, 2011 07:39 AM

    It's very good. The restaurant was well known and considered among the best in New Orleans long before besh became a food celeb. I'd have a really hard time naming the "best restaurant" in new orleans, but August is definitely top 3 in a city filled with fantastic restaurants.

    1. N.O.Food Jul 10, 2011 08:04 AM

      Yeah, it's good, and the 20 dollar lunch is by far the best deal in town.

      2 Replies
      1. re: N.O.Food
        FoodChic Jul 10, 2011 08:07 AM

        +1! The $20 lunch is not to be missed!

        1. re: FoodChic
          h
          Hungry Celeste Jul 22, 2011 06:37 AM

          Had the $20 prix fixe lunch yesterday....possibly the best fine-dining deal in town ('cause otherwise, the prize goes to the buy a dozen, get one free bahn mi deal at Dong Phuong). Three courses for $20.11, after tax/before tip, it's $22.90. Three choices for each course...I had a watermelon gazpacho, sheepshead over a silver queen corn custard, and a fig tart. All were impeccable, appropriately sized for lunch, and delicious.

           
      2. j
        JazzyB Jul 10, 2011 08:48 AM

        Real deal. Other great lunches: Commander's (resv garden room) and Coquette's 3 course prix fixe.

        1. r
          rouxdauphine Jul 10, 2011 02:15 PM

          Don't worry about the Holllywood model looks -- he's a former marine! Haven't done dinner but heard only great things from those who have and the $20 lunch is really, really good. He's also an approachable, nice, down to earth guy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rouxdauphine
            j
            JazzyB Jul 11, 2011 08:44 AM

            Lunch at August can be a bargain (I've spent $170 for 2), I prefer the ambience in the evening. In addition, parking is convenient and free at the lot across the street (dinner only)

          2. Bill Hunt Jul 10, 2011 06:51 PM

            It's rather hard to say. I have never interviewed Chef Besh, but have have had a few private conversations with him. He seems to be real, as he has had zero reason to be otherwise with me. I have never been anything but a patron.

            Do I believe everything that he has told me? Well, I have no reason to doubt anything, though I have not investigated every comment.

            Now, we have greatly enjoyed several culinary events, with Chef Besh (my wife has done about six, if I count correctly), and have dined there twice - August, that is.

            The only complaints that I had on those, happened to be with the sommelier, and the "sommelier's pairings," but that was a rather long time ago, and the sommeliers have changed, with great reviews following. I think that both of my reviews might still be up on the NOLA Board. We did the two, slightly different Chef's Tasting Menus, one each, and both were extremely good to excellent - save for the wines.

            I have also dealt with some of his other restaurants, though not directly with Chef Besh. I cannot speak too highly of those interactions, with his staff. They were totally professional, and attentive, plus greatly accommodating. To me, this speaks of the "upper management," whether in London, or just up the street. The staff, with whom I interacted, were as good as it gets, even without 3 Michelin stars in Europe. I could never have asked for more. To me, this reflects from the top down.

            There could well be hype, but if the upper management lives up to it, I just overlook it.

            Sign me (well US) up as fans.

            Hunt

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bill Hunt
              r
              rouxdauphine Jul 10, 2011 10:19 PM

              I have only gone for lunch and sat at the bar for that matter. BTW, my only negative comment would be that the hostess was a bit snobby when I didn't have a reservation. I took it upon myself to tell her I was more than happy to sit at the bar, and indeed I was. It was a day where I had to go to work after lunch so I only wanted to have one glass of wine. My appetizer was the pate and my entree was the squid ink pasta. A waitress came up to the bar and gave me the perfect one-glass pairing for my meal. Sadly, I cannot remember what it was, but I certainly remember how well the lovely waitstaff took care of me.

            2. z
              zin1953 Jul 10, 2011 07:00 PM

              August is great!

              1. Mytah Jul 12, 2011 08:01 AM

                Toss up a review when you get back joedontexan. I just made a res for dinner there in a few weeks and will be my first time there also.

                1. toitoi Jul 14, 2011 07:25 PM

                  This review is from a couple of weeks ago:

                  The meal I had that evening at August impressed me. The amuse-boche, served in an eggshell, was a seafood sabayon with a scallop seafoam topping topped with caviar. I ordered the gnocchi with crab and black truffles, and a glass of Chablis. Zinfandel was my choice for the saddle of lamb, served with crispy sweetbreads and lamb belly. It was tasty, cooked medium rare as ordered, but was quite tough. Dessert off the tasting menu was their chocolate snowball, a granita of shaved chocolate crystals, plated with many different types of chocolate pieces, together with a scoop of white ice cream, whose flavor I’ve forgotten...

                  1. karendor Jul 17, 2011 10:18 AM

                    August from my visit in April 2011. I did the $20.11 lunch and daughter did a la carte lunch selections. The hostess was very caring, let us get settled (we were a little frazzled from a windy walk to August), and seated us in the middle of the dining room next to a full tub of iced champagne. (Not for us but it was fun to look at!).

                    Our waiter Phil told us that the staff would outnumber our party of two and he was right. I picked a glass of Anderson Valley Pinot rose and he helped my daughter pick a viognier, as she was going to have gnocci. We say the "eggs" being served but of course that was the caviar-topped fish custard in an eggshell, a very nice amuse bouche. Only criticism they took it away before I finished, oh well.

                    My starter was light frisee salad with gently pickled beets and a semi-soft cheese. DD has gnocci and I had the squid ink ravioli with a cod "brandade" filling. Fish was finely diced with some spectacular flavorings I could not identify. Lightly topped with chopped tomotoes and the tiniest basil leaves I have ever seen. A small, but very special dish. Dessert was the most impressive of the courses because of the abundance of flavors. I chose the ricotta cake which was a little bland but it came alongside a great little crostini cookie and another small salad. DD's goat-cheese cheescake was amazing and she said one of the best desserts she ever had! a thin slice of white chocolate on top, the well-balanced cheese cake on top of a loose, lovely "crust" of chopped pecans. The coffee was strong and rich and then they gave us final lagniappe treats of dark chocolate and nut brittle. So I think the combination of the coffee, the cheeses, the pecans and those lovely final tastes of chocolate and brittle made it a really amazing lunch. It is pretty sedate, it was mostly business folks on a weekday lunch time, and I felt a little boxed in in the middle of the quiet restaurant. I can see where dinner would be a different experience. it is a beautiful place and the lunch special is outstanding!

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: karendor
                      toitoi Jul 17, 2011 11:37 AM

                      I sat at that same table for dinner.

                      I looked at its placement when I was taken to it, and I guess my "Oh" factor registered with the hostess because she immediately said that she could put me in the back. I looked at that dark space and declined. Loved the openness of August.

                      1. re: karendor
                        j
                        JazzyB Jul 17, 2011 11:40 AM

                        My last meal at August neither my dining companion nor I touched the "egg" . This did not go unnoticed.Our server asked if we tried it. We hadn't. He was taken aback when he inquired whether we had it before and our response was "yes" . Really, how could we not have? They've been serving it for years. Time for a change.

                        1. re: JazzyB
                          toitoi Jul 17, 2011 11:50 AM

                          Well, that certainly taught them a lesson.

                          However, it's mighty good. Pity you didn't partake again; it's not like it's a left-over.

                          1. re: JazzyB
                            p
                            princsoreo Jul 20, 2011 08:35 AM

                            I'm with you JazzyB. So over the egg! I've had it on all my trips to August, and on my last trip had a similar but better version with lobster in it at Stella! Retire the egg, please!

                            1. re: princsoreo
                              N.O.Food Jul 20, 2011 07:06 PM

                              Agree. Time for something new. Next time I go, I'm going to ask for something different.

                              1. re: N.O.Food
                                toitoi Jul 20, 2011 07:26 PM

                                "Asking for something different" is not what an amuse-bouche is. It is a complientary appetizer - offered free of charge. It's not a matter of choice.

                                Perhaps, rather than posting your displeasure with August here, write to them telling what you believe they're doing wrong.

                                1. re: toitoi
                                  r
                                  Robinez Jul 20, 2011 08:09 PM

                                  It is certainly not free. I know that the cost is included in the meal if Mr. Besch has any buisiness sense.

                                  TC, Robin

                                  1. re: Robinez
                                    toitoi Jul 20, 2011 09:11 PM

                                    The majority of restaurants that are costly, serve their patrons an amuse-bouche.

                                    It's naive to think that the cost of it hasn't been calculated into the menu price. however, it's not on the menu; it's given to the diner as a gift for coming to dine there.

                                    One can always refuse the item, but to think that you can order something in its place is artless.

                                    1. re: toitoi
                                      z
                                      zin1953 Jul 21, 2011 06:53 AM

                                      Agreed.

                                      1. re: zin1953
                                        uptownlibrarian Jul 21, 2011 06:57 AM

                                        Yes the amuse bouche is a "gift" to the diner, but it should also be a showcase for the chef's creativity and a risk-free opportunity to experiment. It's strange to me that it's been exactly the same at August for so long.

                                        1. re: uptownlibrarian
                                          twyst Jul 21, 2011 09:06 AM

                                          I dont really find it that strange, its become a signature type item. If you go to The French Laundry (voted best retaurant in the world several times) you know you are going to get salmon cornets as an amuse bouche, it hasnt changed in well over a decade.

                                          1. re: twyst
                                            uptownlibrarian Jul 21, 2011 10:32 AM

                                            That's a good point, and I'm sure Besh and the staff at August would appreciate a comparison to TFL.

                                          2. re: uptownlibrarian
                                            c
                                            collardman Jul 24, 2011 11:05 AM

                                            I just returned from Miami where we had a fantastic amuse. The server commented that they have had so many great comments on the amuse that they are thinking of making it into an app.

                                            That may be a solution for a situation such as August's where an amuse is kept by popular demand

                                        2. re: toitoi
                                          r
                                          rouxdauphine Jul 21, 2011 03:53 PM

                                          I am surprised and in fact grateful that an amuse bouche is offered to all with a $20 prix fixe lunch. I get to August so seldom that I am pleased to know I will enjoy this again.

                                        3. re: Robinez
                                          Bill Hunt Aug 14, 2011 08:20 PM

                                          Nothing in life is free. There is a fare to be paid, at some level.

                                          An amuse bouche is just that, something that one is not directly charged for, and is something that the chef wishes to offer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amuse-bo...). Is it free? No, it figures into the price for the dinner, but is not charged for individually.

                                          If one does not appreciate it, then an e-mail, or note to the chef would be adequate, though the chef might choose to ignore it.

                                          Hunt

                                  2. re: JazzyB
                                    k
                                    kibbles Jul 23, 2011 10:59 AM

                                    while i could eat an entire tray of the "egg" and have no problems with it, true it would be nice if Besh's flagship could innovate and deliver us other, equally impressive amuses.

                                2. p
                                  princsoreo Jul 20, 2011 08:37 AM

                                  In general, I will say August is totally worth the hype. I've gone once for dinner and twice for the awesome lunch and every visit has been great. I've also had great luck with waiters pairing wines for me, even for wacky dishes such as watermelon gazpacho. I dare say I've done a lot of high end dining in NOLA and in other places and August is hands-down one of my top favorite restaurants. I wouldn't go back to New Orleans without going there at least once.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: princsoreo
                                    j
                                    joedontexan Jul 20, 2011 03:34 PM

                                    Without going into a long drawn out review count me as a fan. It is everything people say it is and more.

                                    1. re: joedontexan
                                      karendor Jul 20, 2011 05:41 PM

                                      That is so great it exceeded your expectations. But, chowhounders generally savor a long drawn out review, right? When you have a chance.[Thank goodness I kept a journal to remember the details of my April visit; others refer to their receipts which is also super smart.]

                                      1. re: karendor
                                        Bill Hunt Aug 14, 2011 08:23 PM

                                        I agree on the review. A few, nice, well-placed words are good, but a full review is much better.

                                        Hunt

                                  2. s
                                    secondsplz Jul 21, 2011 09:13 AM

                                    Overall for me and my husband, the meal was forgettable. It was good food and pleasant service but we werent impressed. And it's unfortunate, we were really looking forward to it

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: secondsplz
                                      k
                                      kibbles Jul 23, 2011 11:02 AM

                                      what did you have? your experience is definitely not the norm so I'm curious...

                                      1. re: secondsplz
                                        Bill Hunt Aug 14, 2011 08:23 PM

                                        Can you post a review of your meal?

                                        Much can be determined from a review, rather than a few words.

                                        Thank you,

                                        Hunt

                                      2. thew Jul 22, 2011 07:19 AM

                                        i ate there is 2010, and it was one of the top 5 meals i had that year

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: thew
                                          k
                                          kimfair1 Aug 14, 2011 08:49 AM

                                          Same here, it was the highlight of our NOLA trip (well maybe except for the BBQ Shrimp at Mr. B's)!

                                        2. toitoi Apr 18, 2012 04:55 PM

                                          For those who posted on this thread about their displeasure with the amuse bouche served at August. (mine was with a scallop; it is now topped with Louisiana bowfin roe) Zagat has proclaimed August to have one of eleven's most awesome amuse bouches in the United States.

                                          http://blog.zagat.com/2012/04/11-awes...

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: toitoi
                                            Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2012 06:50 PM

                                            Interesting. Amazing how one's perception differs, from those of others.

                                            At a great, highly-acclaimed Phoenix-Metro restaurant, some complain that they do 5 amuse bouches during the course of a long meal.

                                            Thank you,

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: toitoi
                                              j
                                              JazzyB Apr 18, 2012 09:05 PM

                                              I am not a fan of the amuse at August. I always decline and the chef sends out something different.

                                              1. re: JazzyB
                                                toitoi Apr 18, 2012 09:35 PM

                                                When did you last eat there?

                                                1. re: toitoi
                                                  j
                                                  JazzyB Apr 19, 2012 03:28 AM

                                                  Three weeks ago.

                                                2. re: JazzyB
                                                  FoodChic Apr 19, 2012 06:59 PM

                                                  We eat there maybe four or five times a year, and I'd be sad to to receive the sabayon. Yeah, it's been a staple for years, but it's something we don't get anywhere else.

                                                  1. re: JazzyB
                                                    k
                                                    koogle Apr 20, 2012 12:47 PM

                                                    If I am not mistaken, wasn't the crabmeat gnocchi and truffle app also an amuse when August first opened?

                                                  2. re: toitoi
                                                    f
                                                    fat harry Apr 25, 2012 12:11 PM

                                                    Just ask for the vegetarian amuse bouche next time.

                                                    1. re: fat harry
                                                      g
                                                      glecroy May 8, 2012 11:55 AM

                                                      We just had the 20.12 lunch, which was fantastic! We sort of shared everything and both loved everything. Luckily we each liked what we ordered better. We had the English pea soup and the strawberry/pistaschio salad, then the sheepshead and crab BLT, which was a soft-shell crab buster over some bread croutons, marinated tomatoes, and with some bacon. It has a $10 upcharge, but still such a bargain. We then for dessert had the dark chocolate and blueberry sorbet. Since it was our first visit, we were pleased to get the egg and the dark chocolate and brittle. Overload on dark chocolate, but what a way to go! Just as an aside, we had the 3 course prix fixe lunch at Commander's Palace yesterday, but although CP was really good (turtle soup, snapper and bread pudding souffle) we preferred August, perhaps since we've been to CP many times and this was a first at August. What a great visit! Although we planned to go to the last day of Jazzfest, it was raining when we got here about 3:30 Sunday, and since we had not bought advance tickets we decided to skip it. We went to Preservation Hall Sunday night. After our big lunch at CP we had a couple of small plates at 3 Muses and went to Snug Harbor for Charmaine Neville's show. Since it was right after Jazzfest, her dad was here as well as a great former band member, and a fabulous young singer with her dad's band from Massachusetts who sang "At Last". Leaving tomorrow with an 8 hour drive :( I'll try to find a place we can get a muffaletto to take on the road for lunch before we leave, but it might be too early in the AM. What a great food city!

                                                      1. re: glecroy
                                                        t
                                                        tjinsf May 8, 2012 01:54 PM

                                                        Had lunch there today and was impressed by both the food and service. The egg amuse did remind me of Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park with their egg shell treats but it was still quite delicious. Service has been a bit slower in many place here than I've gotten used to in NYC, SF and Vancouver so it was nice to attentive professional servers and a well paced prix fixe courses. Thinking I might have to go back for dinner.

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