LA Recap - The Good, the bad, and the disgusting
I just returned last night from a three day trip in LA. This is a recap of the food I ate, most of which was in Nola but I drove from Dallas and am including some of the cajun country items as well (especially cause they're more delicious).
Friday Morning (I'm driving down from Nathitoches which is as far as I made it Thursday night).
-Boudin Balls at cafe in the Exon that's also connected to Gator Gold Casino, just north of Opelousas. Amazing, and a little spicier than I expected which I really enjoyed. I actually ended up there again on the way back and both times they fried 'em up fresh which made it that much more delicious.
-Fried Shrimp Po Boy and Roast Beef w/ Cheese Po Boy at Olde Thyme Grocery in Lafayette. These were both amazing and probably my favorite food on the trip. Bread was thinner than other po boy varieties. It was also very soft and chewy, perfect to capture the sauce without falling apart or being too bready. The shrimp po boy had a generous portion of perfectly fried shrimp. The roast beef had a distinct Arby's flavor (kinda sweet) which worked amazingly well.
-Hot Boudin at Johsnon's Bouciniere in Lafayette. The only non ball form boudin I had on the trip so I have no frame of reference other than my established taste. And on that scale, this was awesome. Very rich in a livery sort of way.
-32 oz. Mango Colada daiquiry from Cupid's in Lafayette. $6 for a 32 oz Daiquiry and they threw in a jello shot. That carried me to Nola.
-Friday night for dinner in Nola, we went to August. This one requires a few bullet points of it's own. My general take though was unimpressed. Everything was cooked perfectly and was delicious but nothing had a wow factor. When I go to restaurants like August, I expect at least 1/3 of the dishes to be on that next level of deliciousness where you can't help but moan when you take a bite and it revolutionizes the possibilities of the ingredients used (at least to you, the eater). 1/3 is a minimum for a destination fancy restaurant while great one's might hover closer to 3/4 or 4/5. I'd also rather have 2 to 3 courses that blow me away and a few average ones that have them all be great but none earth shattering. The courses:
-Amuse was a truffle cream in an egg shell with caviar on top. There were one or two more elements but i don't remember what they were. This was delicious.
-First course was watermelon and pork belly salad. I'm used to this combination from a place called Fatty Crab in NYC, and their (FC's) version is way better. This was still delicious though, the grilled watermelon and pork belly combined to have an extremely smokey flavor. A friend likened it to eating a cigar, in a good way.
-Second course was popcorn shrimp with creole sauce on top of risotto. Delicious, but nothing much more to say.
-Third course was duck breasts with blueberries. Another example of perfectly cooked, perfectly paired, nothing out of this world.
-Fourth course was hangar steak with peas and tortellini. Same as above. I also just remembered that the service, while fantastic, did a poor job explaining the dishes in a way that everyone at the table could hear and understand. Maybe some diners get annoyed by the explanation which is why they rushed it but I prefer to know what i'm about to eat.
-Fifth was dessert and I had bread pudding. Make sure you notice that there was no palate cleanser or cheese course. Straight from steak to dessert. That's poorly thought out. Also, i just remembered that one person in our group of five got the vegetable tasting menu (he's a vegetarian). His menu had one less course which made for a very awkward 10 minutes while four of us are eating steak and he's picking at the bread basket. That's another poorly thought out menu issue.
-Lastly, they brought out candy items. Those were all delicious.
-Breakfast at The Old Coffee Pot in the FQ. I had a "eggs benedict" but with a creole sauce and chicken livers. It was pretty delicious. Also had a Calla cake which was awesome.
-Charbroiled oysters at Drago's. Nothing special about getting them there versus making them at home or eating them anywhere else. But they were good (though $18 for a dozen).
-Dinner at Mahony's. This place is not good. They have variety, which we needed for our vegetarian friend (who got an eggplant parm po boy). I had a half a muffuletta which was okay and half of one of their special po boys, The Peacemaker, which has fried oysters bacon and cheddar cheese. I would have thought that combination would be horrible but it was recommended. My original instinct was right, that's a horrible combination. That aside, their bread and all around po boy situation wasn't good.
-Breakfast at Stanley's in the FQ. I like the vibe of this place a lot and the food was very good but slightly boring. I had the Eggs Stanley which was described like Eggs Benedict with fried oysters and that's exactly what it was. A very conventional eggs benedict and some fried oysters on the plate. I mean, the oysters combined with the egg and hollandaise well but I thought it would be slightly more creative than that.
-Lunch at George's Diner in Baton Rouge. I had an okay catfish po boy. Next to Olde Thyme, the other po boys I ate just didn't seem that good. I also bought a roast beef po boy which i ate in the car a few hours later and it was nothing special.
-Boudin Balls from the same gas station. Still amazing!
That was my trip. I think the food in and around Lafayette blows out of the water the stuff I ate in Nola but I only had a few meals in each location.
I like the flavors in the Peacemaker, but it would be better if Mahony's could get the textures/temperatures down. Personally, I like melted cheddar a lot better than refrigerator-cold cheddar that's obviously been thrown on just before the sandwich is dressed. I think if they toasted the cheddar on the bread before putting anything else on there, they'd really have something special.
Faster, friendlier service wouldn't hurt, either. I understand that "good food takes time," but I'm not sure why it would take two to three times longer there than at Parkway or Guy's or Domilise's. Those onion rings, though--yum.
Along those lines, we had another issue there with the service time. When we ordered the muffuletta hot, the lady at the counter was kind enough to warn us that it would take an extra 20 minutes. Accordingly, we asked her to bring out the other sandwhiches first and assumed by the time we finished the po boy we could start on the muffuletta. Those instructions got lost between the cashier and the kitchen and so all of us had to wait around 45 minutes for our sandwhiches. I think my biggest problem with mahoney's though was less the combination (Arby's roast beef > oysters, cheddar and bacon combo) and more with the bread. Maybe it was stale and I certainly don't have much experience with po boys but i thought the bun should be soft and chewy. At Mahoney's, it was hard and very crusty. Possibly intentional or maybe it was just a bad day, I don't know.
new orleans french bread is supposed to be crispy & flaky on the outside while soft on the inside. a proper poboy load will leave a litter of flaked crust debris on the table.
while i do not like the cold cheese Mahoney's uses, i do enjoy the combo of oysters, bacon and cheese. it's not uncommon (from an item like a poboy to soups & appz) and is quite good.
thats two recent reports that the August tasting menu is "meh". this is troubling for a top-tier destination restaurant. after hearing and experiencing R'evolution, i do think August is about to be toppled for the #1 or #2 spot in the city. Besh's empire hath grown too large?
as for the poboys -- please dont judge nola based on Mahoney's; they arent very good and dont have a rep (imo) for excellent poboys. just long waits and...onion rings.
I think August tends to get by on reputation. I had lunch there last week. The amuse and the gnocci were amazing, but the three course lunch was good, but not great. There was no wow factor in any of it, but I guess for $20, you can’t expect wow. My biggest issue was the service. For the 10 tables in the main dining area, there was one waiter/maitre’d and two back waiters. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the service a 4. There was no personal touch and just about everything was slightly off (ie. no offer of coffee with dessert, no wine menu offered at the beginning of the meal, plates not cleared in a timely manner). Overall the meal was an 8.
That roast beef you had at Olde Tyme that tasted like Arby's? Standard grocery store deli roast beef.
George's Diner is just that, an old Diner. It has sentimental value, but it's nothing special or anything. The best place for PoBoys in the Red Stick is probably Rocco's. Rest assured that George's isn't considered really good poboys or anything.