NOLA Restaurant Report
We were in NOLA last weekend leading up to the Sugar Bowl (GO BLUE!), and benefited a great deal from the threads here on Chowhound in planning our restaurant itinerary, so I wanted to share our thoughts on the places we ate for others planning future trips.
Right of the plane, we went to Restaurant August. Had heard mixed things - one friend said it was the best meal of her life, another said it was wildly overrated. We were really impressed with both the food and the service at August. It's a lovely space, with dim lighting, vaulted ceilings, and a stunning wine room where lucky patrons can dine. One of us had the "tasting of market vegetables," and the rest of us ordered a la carte. We started with house-infused bourbon; bourbon was good quality, but infusions were a bit strong and overpowered the alcohol. They make a lovely old fashioned, though - it's got some sort of plum puree that isn't overpowering. It was really good.
Highlights from the evening included the broccoli rabe, which came streaked with zippy green chile harissa and speckled with the sweetest, softest feta I've ever had; the tagliatelle with truffle-cured egg yolk, which made for an incredibly silky, rich sauce for the pasta; and duck, served a perfect medium rare, with a nugget of foie gras on the side and a sauce of quince and probably red wine. It was pretty fantastic. Desserts were good not great, but in all, I'd go back to August in a heartbeat.
Second day we went to Cafe Beignet. Beignets were great; everything else was aggressively mediocre. Still, those beignets were bigger and fresher than the ones at Cafe Du Monde. I'd go back just for them.
Had second day lunch at the only place on Magazine that was open - Mahoney's Po Boy. It's nothing special, and the wait was an hour AFTER we placed the order. Fine, but with other options, wouldn't go back. Next time, we'll have to try the other Magazine spots (Lilette, Cocotte, La Petit Grocery, etc),
Second night we had dinner at Gautreaus. Pros: could accommodate a large party; had plenty of non shellfish, non pork offerings. Cons: food was unimaginative and generally mediocre; no espresso machine. We had a couple rounds of Sazeracs, the tomato crab soup (soup good, crab out of place), the pierogies (great), the halibut (not the best rendition of "halibut with Middle Eastern flavors" I've had, certainly not the thing to order), and the grouper special (fish ehh, ratatouille great). Probably wouldn't go back.
Last day lunch we went to St. James Cheese Co. Lovely selection of cheeses, and those sandwiches are wicked. The Raclette is their version of a Reuben, and I'd like another right now, thank you.
Last but not least, just before the game we were roaming the area near the Superdome in search of a bite, and stumbled upon a restaurant next door to the Hyatt. Turns out, it's a brand new restaurant from John Besh. When we waltzed in, they seemed overly eager - then we learned we were their first official customers. Yes, Chef Besh was at the bar with friends and investors, making rounds to check on everything. Yes, he's even hotter in person. And yes, he basically offered to take a picture with us. And how was the food? Well, it was the restaurant's first night, so it's definitely too soon to pass judgment. But the oyster stew and the gumbo were both deeply flavorful, the sazeracs were serious, and there's all sorts of interesting-looking stuff on the menu (Caldo Nunez; Ya Ka Mein; Frogmore stew; etc); next time I'm in NOLA, I'll be giving it another try.
Thanks again for so many helpful threads on NOLA restaurants. Hope to be back before long.
Sounds like culinary fun.
Now, I am a fan of Chef Besh's offerings, but obviously, this one is new to me.
We have done several, plus a few sessions at events, like the NO Wine & Food Experience, with Chef Besh. He does seem to be at many of the various locations, when we have dined, and spends time listening - too many chefs only want to hold court.
In some of his locations, his staff has really made our days/nights.
Glad that you enjoyed, and now I have a new Besh place to try.
Unfortunately, we will miss him at a favorite venue of ours, Blackberry Farm, but hope to catch him there next time.
Bourdain speculated, in his "Cajun Country" episode, that it would not be long until chefs were offering their twist on the hangover-preventer, Ya Ka Mein.
Chef Besh must have been watching!