New Orleans trip report from a Boston foodie and Louisiana native (La Foret, Mr. B's, Green Goddess)
My wife and I visited NOLA for a quick trip last weekend. We visit NOLA 2-3 times a year and try to hit some of the highlights in the area. After visiting Brigsten's, Dante's Kitchen, Cochon, Restaurant August, Gallatoire's, among others over the last few years, we were excited to try the "best new restaurant in NOLA" from 2010, La Foret on Saturday night. We also brunched at Mr. B's on Sunday and lunched on Saturday at a little hole in the wall with a nice patio called Green Goddess. Our culinary journey ended at the Bunker Club at the Superdome for game night against the Colts.
I had high hopes for this meal given the reviews I had read on Chowhound and elsewhere. My hopes were partially met, but I do not understand what all the fuss is about at La Foret. The food was very good, though not "best of NOLA" good, and the service was friendly, but decidedly uneven throughout the night. My wife is a tougher critic on food than I (I guess culinary school will do that), and I am tougher on service than she is...she and I agreed: La Foret was 2.5 stars out of 4.
The room is beautiful with soaring ceilings, wide planked hardwood floors and floor to ceiling windows. We were seated at nice table near the front of the house, though I don't think there are many bad tables here.
We began our meal by choosing a wine. Unfortunately the sommelier had the night off (on Saturday?) so we were helped by one of the managers. Although he may have been knowledgeable about wine, he clearly was helping us select a wine that he liked rather than listening to how I was describing what I was looking for in a wine and recommending a wine that would fit that spec. I ultimately chose to overrule his recommendation and was pleased with my choice, a half bottle of pinot noir from Oregon. I think the server chose stemware for the chosen wine based on price point rather than wine type as I was offered a small white wine glass, rather than a burgundy glass, when the bottle arrived. I asked our server for the appropriate glass and their original choice was quickly corrected.
For our meals, I chose the quail to begin and the duck for my main course. My wife had the foie gras and the scallops with some sort of pesto, I think, for her main. The night began with an amuse-bouche consisting of two dishes, a rabbit rillette and warm tomato bisque. The rillette needed salt in the worst way and was dull. The bisque was delicious and well balanced with what seemed like a touch of cayenne to offset the natural sugars and acidity of the tomato.
The quail was the highlight of my meal. I am forgetting the accompaniment, which is too bad, but I remember being very pleased with the flavor and it paired beautifully with my wine. The duck was served with spaetzle and was good, if typical in preparation. I asked for duck to be served medium rare, but it came out on the raw side of rare, which was not ideal. I did not send it back because we had already waited at least 45 minutes between the appetizer and the main course, another example of the choppy service.
My wife's foie gras was served with a cocoa gastrique and a fig mostarda on a pain perdu. It sounded amazing, but tasted like nothing special. I thought the price point of $19 was more in keeping with Boston than New Orleans given the portion size was very small. Her scallops were flawlessly cooked and were 5 in number. My bite of her scallops was very good, but she became bored with the dish halfway through it.
All in all, it was a pleasant evening out but La Foret did not live up to the hype for me.
We went to Mr. B's on a lark. In all of our years of visiting NOLA together, my wife and I had never been. Twelve years ago we had visited Brennan's and continue to remember the turtle soup, so we expected that Mr. B's would do its signature dishes very well. I'm happy to report that Mr. B's was a success.
We visited Mr. B's on Sunday for brunch at noon. The place was packed but we managed to get a table after a 25 minute wait. The room was full of character and Saints jerseys. Our son (3 years old) joined us and we were seated towards the rear of the restaurant on the bar side (near the jazz band set up) in a comfortable little nook.
We started with the fried oysters and the fried livers. The oysters (6) came out of the half shell with what I think was a type of hollandaise sauce. These were delicious and perfectly seasoned. The hollandaise was spot-on and the lemon in it complimented the savoriness of the oysters wonderfully. The hollandaise also contained bacon and horseradish, according to the menu, but I only tasted the bacon. All together, this dish was a success.
The livers were served with a pepper jelly and these were also wonderfully seasoned and perfectly prepared. The livers were accompanied with brioche toast points, but these were beside the point and went uneaten.
For our mains, we agreed to share the BBQ shrimp and the blackened red fish with grits. The shrimp was superlative, if very messy. My wife had the unenviable task of shelling the shrimp, wearing the bib! I watched and ate my red fish before trading with her. My red fish was ok, but needed more flavor and heat. It was cooked perfectly. The grits were light and fluffy in a way that it seems only great kitchens in the south achieve; I was impressed, but overall the red fish was the weakest dish of the meal given the lack of flavor for the fish.
The BBQ shrimp lived up to its billing as one of the best dishes in all of NOLA. We asked for a spoon so as not to miss the spicy, rich (tomato?) sauce in which the shrimp were swimming. The sauce was the true star of the dish and superbly seasoned.
I have not yet mentioned service, but at its best service is noteworthy only for its unobtrusive anticipation of your needs. Mr B's tag-team server approach was flawless and the tempo of the meal was spot on. I would recommend Mr. B's heartily for brunch.
We arrived in NOLA early Saturday afternoon and went in search of a late lunch and happened upon this quaint little spot. We waited longer than necessary for a table as the servers took a while to get people's checks to them and tables cleared.
I had a nice Belgian styled beer from California called Brother Thelonius, which was terrific. We started with a sweet potato soup with local boudin, cocunut milk and substantial black pepper. I've had better boudin, but, overall, the soup was excellent and the highlight of the meal for both of us. For our mains, we ordered the pressed crab sandwich, the shrimp and pork belly bahn mi and the pork belly and red eye gravy. The two sandwiches were each served with an arugula salad topped with green goddess dressing. The salad was nice but needed more dressing. The sandwiches were both ok, but nothing to write home about. Each of them lacked flavor, which was especially surprising for the bahn mi. Our son got the winner with the pork belly dish. The gravy was tasty!
The service was relaxed, which was ok for us, but if you're in search of a quick bite, this is not the place for you.
Bunker Club at the Superdome
I doubt that you chose to visit Chowhound in search of a review on ballpark food, but I thought it worth a mention for those who might catch a Saints game. The Bunker Club is open during games and available for ticketed patrons sitting in sections 113-115 and 141-143. The food offerings were varied and much more than I would have expected for football food. We chose the fried green tomato sandwiches with french fries. For the context of ballpark food, I thought it was ok (my wife disagrees, calling it basically a bridge too far for a ballpark). Compared with a real restaurant, it would have been a poor example of a fried green tomato sandwich as there was too much breading on the tomatoes. There was a shrimp remoulade served on top of the tomato, which made it ok. I "helped" the sandwiches a lot with tabasco. We saw they were serving alligator sausage "hot dogs" elsewhere...the line there was very long, but the sausages looked great...I will try those next time.
We return to NOLA post-Thanksgiving and are building an itinerary now. We are visiting Boucherie, Clancy's and Cochon (repeat) and Central Grocery for muffalettas (repeat). Any other suggestions or replacements??
301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118
307 Exchange Place, New Orleans, LA 70130
8115 Jeannette St, New Orleans, LA 70118
Thanks for the report. I'm actually very interested in the Bunker Club information, as I'll never be able to afford tickets in those sections ;)
Have you tried Patois yet? I think it would be right up your alley. It's quite casual in feel (I mean not diner casual, rather fine dining bistro type casual), but the food and service are excellent. I feel that it's one of the best value-for-money places around. The wine list is good and well-priced also.
First, thank you for taking the time to report.
Now, as to the stemware, I feel that this is a major short-coming, and with far too many restaurants: "I think the server chose stemware for the chosen wine based on price point rather than wine type as I was offered a small white wine glass, rather than a burgundy glass, when the bottle arrived. I asked our server for the appropriate glass and their original choice was quickly corrected." When ordering my wines, I first tend to look around the room, to see what the various stemware options are. That the server made a correction, after your request, is a good sign. In some instances (not just in NOLA), I have had other responses, and a few have not been good ones. I see more issues with B-T-G selections, and this usually indicates to me, that the restaurant is not at all serious about their wine program. Were I the chef, I would want the diners to get 100% of the enjoyment of the wines, with my cuisine.
PS - I have encountered some mixed reviews on La Foret from some family members, who are "in the business," so a few others have been a tad critical too.
re: Bill Hunt
l posted sometime back on a local restaurant of mine where the glasses for the restaurant's wines were of one quality and the BYOB glasses were a vastly lower level. Yes, BYOB was permitted and encouraged. l just stopped going, too much hassle. This trip to N.O. in January will include Herbsaint , Luke's, and Mosca's