R'evolution's napoleon of crawfish and flounder.Back in July, I enjoyed a terrific FAM to New Orleans hosted by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Back in July, I enjoyed a terrific FAM trip to New Orleans, hosted by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. Needless to say, I dined well in the Crescent City, where the love of food borders on religion. Here are the highlights of my Louisiana gastro-adventure.
Launched in early June, in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, in the heart of the French Quarter, elegant R’evolution restaurant is a collaboration between chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto.
The kitchen reimagines classic Cajun and Creole dishes – say, in a smooth, sophisticated gumbo with roasted quail; a ‘napoleon’ of flounder layered with crawfish, paired with a rich stew of oysters and artichokes; and a white-chocolate bread-pudding crème brulee that balances all three elements in perfect harmony. A private room seats 10.
Also in the French Quarter, on Decatur Street, sits Crescent City Brewhouse, an airy, high-ceilinged, exposed-brick room that bustles day and night. I’m a big fan of their sandwich stuffed with moist cochon de lait (suckling pig), with slaw, on a crispy baguette. True to its name, Crescent City brews five beers (four regulars plus one seasonal offering). An upstairs private room seats 130.
Also on Decatur is Olivier’s, an authentic French Creole restaurant serving up dishes handed down through five generations. Loved the medallions of eggplant flash-fried and served in a sauce of garlic, basil, brandy and studded with chicken sausage and crawfish tails. The peach cobbler, five minutes out of the oven, is heaven-sent. An upstairs private room seats 70.
For breakfast, don’t miss Brennan’s, a New Orleans institution since 1946. Its traditionally elegant surroundings are the perfect setting for such classics as turtle soup; gumbo (thickened with okra instead of the traditional flour-based roux); Washington State baked apple with double cream; (poached) eggs Hussarde, with bacon and reduced red wine sauce; (poached) eggs Nouvelle Orleans, with lump crabmeat topped with brandy cream. And, of course, the desserts: bananas Foster (invented at Brennan’s), rich bread pudding; and crepes Fitzgerald (also a Brennan’s original), filled with cream cheese and sour cream, topped with strawberries flamed, tableside, in Maraschino cherry liqueur. The Napoleon Room private space seats 80.
Considered the best restaurant to open post-Hurricane Katrina, chef Donald Link’s Cochon is hugely popular. The room – exposed brick, bare-wood tables, busy open kitchen – buzzes. Must-try dishes include the wood-fired oyster roast; smoked ham hock with red beans; creamy-textured fried chicken livers with pepper jelly; and the pineapple upside-down cake, made, brilliantly, with cornmeal, lending an appealingly rustic texture. A second-floor space can host 150 for seated dinners.
Uptown, at Pascale’s Manale, a casual resto with paper-covered tables, the specialty is barbecued shrimp, which the restaurant has been serving since 1913. The shrimp, in fact, aren’t barbecued, but cooked in a peppery butter sauce that is terrific sopped up with the crusty house bread (served in a brown paper bag).
Located in the Hyatt Regency, Borgne is part of the empire of New Orleans star chef John Besh. It’s a bright, airy space, and the food riffs on New Orleans classics deliciously. Sausage/shrimp gumbo, for instance, features subtle heat. The sandwich of fried oysters and pork belly, on thick-sliced Texas toast, is deeply satisfying. And don’t miss the sophisticated, not-too-sweet chocolate/hazelnut pudding (Nutella for grown-ups). A private room seats 35.