Archive for the Restaurants Category

Restaurant: Santa Fe

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , on 20 April, 2009 by la fille

Santa Fe is a new place that opened up on the corner of Esplanade and Mystery in Fauborg St. John (where La Vita used to be). Apparently, this is a new incarnation of a restaurant that used to be down on Frenchman, and it’s being run by one of the original owners and utilising their pre-K menu.

Now, of course I never visited the first Santa Fe, so I can’t do a comparison, but I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly thrilled with my experience at Santa Fe Redux. None of the offerings really stood out as interesting to me, and I felt the menu itself was designed poorly. Under each heading (appetizers, salads, etc.) was written a wine suggestion that was supposedly meant to go with every dish in that section. I found that problematic for its generality–if you’re going so far as to suggest wine, do it for every dish, not every section; also, the way they worded the wine advertisements sounded a lot more like they were trying to upsell me rather than suggest the best accompaniment for my meal.

Our server was serviceable, but obviously inexperienced. None of the tables had salt and pepper on them, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed–I rarely use them when provided–but Brother O’Mara likes to salt his tortilla chips, and it turns out I did have to ask for salt once I got my entree, unfortunately.

The complimentary chips proved somewhat more oily than one would expect, and the salsa tasted a bit like canned tomato sauce. The food arrived, and was plated beautifully, but both Brother O’Mara’s beef burrito and my taco salad were unexceptional. Not bad, simply fine.

Now, I almost titled this post “Santa Fail”, but I know that it takes time for a new restaurant to work out its kinks, and I’m sure some of the things I didn’t enjoy about Santa Fe will resolve themselves in the coming months. Maybe I will give it another chance once they’re a little more settled, but for now I’m sticking with Juan’s Flying Burrito.

I’ll leave you with something postive about the place, the lovely presentation of my taco salad:

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(photo by lafille)

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Gluttony Saturday: Dan Stein’s Deli

Posted in Beer, Cheese, Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , on 15 April, 2009 by la fille

Stein’s Deli is one of my favorite places in New Orleans, for many reasons.

First and foremost, the food. They make the best Reuben I have ever stuck in my mouth, and everything else I’ve had there is mouthwateringly delicious. Case in point, this past Saturday when we went with Cap’n Will. Here’s what we ordered:

lafille: The RobĂ©rt — Imported Prosciutto, House-Made Fresh Mozzarella, Aged Balsamic Vinegar on Ciabatta

— This was the first time I’d had the Ro-Berrrrre, and it turned out to be filling but not too heavy. The homemade Mozzarella was awesome, as were all of the other ingredients.

Cap’n Will: The Fernando — Imported Prosciutto, House-Made Fresh Mozzarella, Pesto on Ciabatta

— Great combination of flavors!

Brother O’Mara: The Kelly — Imported Prosciutto, Triple Creme Cheese, and Apple on Ciabatta

— One of Brother O’Mara’s favorites. The apple and triple creme go so well together!

Another great thing about Stein’s is the beverage selection, both alcoholic and non. Any time I’m craving an interesting or hard-to-find soda I head over there. Since Brother O’Mara and I have been enjoying drinking Dark and Stormies lately, we each drank ginger beer–Barritt’s for him and Boylan’s for moi. The Boylan’s is technically ginger ale, I think, and it was definitely not as spicy as Barritt’s or our current fave, Regatta. More in the Canada Dry style, know what I’m sayin’?

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Barritt’s Ginger Beer and the Fernando

(photo by Brother O’Mara)

Stein’s also has –hands down– the best retail beer selection in the city. They don’t have an on-premise permit, so you can’t drink it there, but damned if Mr. Stein isn’t responsible for my current home collection of good beer. The man knows his brews. Whether you’re looking for a Belgian or an American microbrew, this is the first place you should look. They have beer classes on a pretty regular basis as well, which I highly recommend. I went a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Friday Night Food- Hitting the Ground Running

Posted in Cocktails, Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Restaurants, Sweets, Words with tags , , , , on 12 April, 2009 by la fille

I picked up mon pere (henceforth to be known as Cap’n Will, as per his request) from the airport early Friday evening and met Brother O’Mara back home for a cocktail before dinner. The Cap’n put down his bags while we opened a bottle of Spanish white wine and chilled out for a few minutes. Soon enough though, the call of the city became too much for our bellies to ignore and we headed over to the first place on Papa’s food to-do list, the Parkway Tavern.

I’ve extolled upon Parkway’s virtues before, so I’ll cut right to the chase. As always, the po’boys were terrific. Cap’n Will had the Surf’n’Turf–roast beef and fried shrimp on the same sandwich— Brother O’Mara had hot ham and cheese, and I had the barbecued beef, all dressed. Papa was super-pleased, and Yours Truly may have found her new favorite sandwich. Their barbecue sauce is fantastic: thick and sweet and a little spicy and oh-so-messy–just the way it should be.

In a modern day Good Friday miracle, my clothing managed to remain unsoiled by barbecue and we headed over to visit our friends at the New Orleans Creative Glass Institute to watch some rock and roll glassblowing for a few minutes. They have free demos semi-regularly, and I strongly urge y’all to drop by some Friday night and take a look. They are doing some truly beautiful work over there.

After digesting our sammiches a little bit, we walked over to Angelo Brocato, the Italian pastry and gelato shop on North Carrollton.

brocato3

This is a perennial favorite for Brother O’Mara and I, and all visitors are required to partake in its confectionary joys. Usually Brother O’Mara gets a pastry while I go for gelato, but we were all three feeling the ice cream that evening: Stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip), mint chocolate chip, and Sicilian pistachio, to be precise. All three were terrific, but I specifically loved the pistachio–it was much less sweet than any other pistachio ice cream or gelato I’ve had, even the pistachio-almond they serve alongside it at Brocato. Sometimes sweet things can be too much for me, so it’s always exciting to find a dessert that combines sweet with savory, salty, spicy, or sour. Sicilian pistachio definitely brings a little salty to the table.

Feeling not-quite-uncomfortably stuffed, we headed home for a nightcap. The menfolk had fun comparing Herbsaint with Ojen and making cocktails thereof, whilst I enjoyed a Dark and Stormy with Regatta Ginger Beer and Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.

Cap’n Will was immensely pleased with the gastronomic delights of the evening, and we made it an early night in order to prepare both mentally and physically for the epicurean olympics in store for us on Saturday.

Nom.

In Praise of the Po’Boy

Posted in Eat, Restaurants, Reviews, Words with tags , , on 30 March, 2009 by la fille

Since moving here, I’ve been inducted into the Cult of the Po’Boy. I love those delicious, ubiquitous sammiches so much, both at home and when I go out to eat, and find myself partaking at least once a week, if not more. I just made one for lunch, actually, thus inspiring me to begin this post.

The beauty of the po’boy lies in its simplicity. It’s pretty hard to screw up a recipe that consists of bread, protein of some kind, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (or just bread and the meat if you don’t like it “dressed”). This is not to say that you can’t screw up a po’boy, but you’ll probably be all right as long as you follow a few simple rules. As with any recipe that consists of only a handful of ingredients, you must use the best. No skimping and using “lite” mayo, or not-quite-ripe tomatoes, oh no. The bread should be a freshly-baked French loaf, crusty on the outside and soft in the middle (Leidenheimer brand, if you’re a purist, and I am in this case), and your lettuce must be shredded or chopped up into little pieces.

vicnnatly

As for the main attraction, it can be pretty much anything from fried seafood to barbecue to roast beef to fried green tomatoes. When I first moved here, I automatically thought, “fried shrimp or crawfish”, but now I’m an equal-opportunity diner and have a particular soft spot for the po’boys of the hot sausage variety. Nothing beats that bit of extra spiciness.

I screwed up a po’boy one time, and it was because I tried to get too fancy with it. I fried up some green tomatoes to go on the sandwich, which was tasty, but for some reason  decided it would be better if I made a cajun remoulade with which to replace the mayonnaise. I will not be doing that again.

Leidenheimer bread. Blue Plate mayonnaise. Lettuce. Tomato. Meat.

Simple, cheap, delicious, and filling, which is what every sandwich should be.

It goes without saying that New Orleans has her fair share of terrific po’boy restaurants. There’s Liuzza’s by the Track, Liuzza’s on Bienville, Mandina’s, Domilise’s, Casamento’s…you get the picture. Everyone has his or her favorite, and I’ll gladly admit that Brother O’Mara and I are Parkway junkies all the way.

The Parkway Bakery and Tavern is on the corner of Hagan and Toulouse at Bayou St. John. Not only is the food mouthwatering, the atmosphere is supremely pleasant. There’s nothing I like more than riding my bike down by the Bayou and enjoying a meal on the patio while the sun sets. It’s totally no-frills– order and pick up at the counter, serve yourself at the soda fountain, eat off paper plates. Outside, there’s a covered section with ceiling fans and an open concrete area where folding tables are put up as needed. All this combines to make me feel like I’m at an outdoor party hosted by a friend rather than a restaurant. You can’t quite see the bayou from the Parkway, but just knowing it’s nearby is good enough.

Oh, the food. Right. There’s that, too. Here’s an out-of-date menu, but you get the idea:

parkwaymenu1menu2The menu’s been expanded since this one was printed to include BBQ, alligator, hot dog, and sundry other po’boy delights. I’m itching to go by on a Monday to scarf down a fried chicken po’boy, but the stars have not yet aligned to get me there.

Brother O’Mara also digs that they have Barq’s in a bottle, meaning you can eat local at the Parkway from tip to toe: Leidenheimer’s bread, Zapp’s chips, Hubig pies, and Barq’s root beer. Works for me.

3371944138_be0b4e80aeYum.

(photo by Brother O’Mara)

Restaurant: Martinique Bistro

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Restaurants, Reviews, Sweets, Veggies, Wine with tags on 28 March, 2009 by la fille

Brother O’Mara sold his old bike the other day, and we both got new ones in the last week, so we decided to go have a nice dinner last night in celebration of two-wheeliness. Choosing rather randomly from our list of to-eat places, we ended up at Martinique Bistro on Magazine street. An associate of Brother O’Mara’s has said that this is the closest thing to an authentic French bistro New Orleans has to offer, and after enjoying a relaxed, slow-paced weeknight dinner there, I’m tempted to agree.

We sat outside, despite the threat of rain, on a patio surrounded with plants, tiny sparkling lights, and flowing water. The service was just the way I like it–attentive and knowledgeable, but not pandering and hover-y. The menu was gorgeous, and the wine list had a tremendous selection of stuff by the glass, by the bottle, and by the half-bottle (much of it imported by Brother O’Mara’s company, holla).

Here’s a rundown of what we enjoyed (forgive the incomplete descriptions of what we ate–I didn’t make a point of remembering verbatim because I knew the menu was online. Turns out it was last autumn’s menu and was not quite the same):

Brother O’Mara

Wine: 1/2 bottle 2002 Muga Rioja Reserva

Appetizer: Handmade gnocchi with shallots, mushrooms, cured ham, and cream sauce

Entree: Pork loin with Steen’s cane syrup/apricot sauce, chive mashed potatoes, and haricots verts

Dessert: Profiteroles filled with Guinness ice cream, topped with Bailey’s and Jameson sauces

la fille

Wine: Glass of Sancerre

Appetizer: Pecan-crusted goat cheese served over field greens with raspberry dressing

Entree: Seared scallops served over spinach, goat cheese grits, and creamy corn

Dessert: Black forest cookie sandwiches filled with black pepper-cherry ice cream

Everything was supremely delicious, and since our server didn’t hurry us at all, we were able to enjoy each course with a little break in between. The highlight for me was the black pepper-cherry ice cream. The pepper really stood out, but blended so well with the creamy cherry flavor. Brother O’Mara says he enjoyed his entree best of all.

This is definitely on the list of places to go whenever we have guests. I’d be perfectly happy going simply for wine, appetizers, and dessert. Anytime.

Restaurant: Chill Out Cafe

Posted in Eat, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , on 29 January, 2009 by la fille

The quest for good Thai food in NOLA continue, and may not be futile after all.

Chill Out Cafe, which apparently just opened, is Uptown at 729 Burdette St, between Hampson and Maple. They bill themselves as “Breakfast and Asian Fusion” but it’s really just a mom-and-pop Thai joint that serves American style breakfast all day. It reminds me a lot of the Thai place I worked at in undergrad– definitely a family operation. I ordered Pad Thai, which is what I always do on my first visit to a new Thai joint, and it was some of the better I’ve had in this city so far. Still on the orangey side (you can read about my issues with orange vs. brown Pad Thai here), but all around tasty. Our spring rolls were different from most I’ve had–egg roll sized and more pork than veggies, but, once again, quite delish.

Here’s the best part:

The owner (hugely pregnant) was incredibly nice and we had a brief conversation in which I mentioned that I used to work at a Thai restaurant. She admitted that their menu was pretty standard and Americanized but if I ever wanted more traditional Thai fare, they’d be glad to whip up whatever.

AWESOME.

Restaurant: Cafe Minh, Mid-City

Posted in Eat, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , , on 22 January, 2009 by la fille

I met Brother O’Mara at his place of work for lunch today. We had planned on dining at the ol’ tried-and-true, Pho Tau Bay, for our Vietnamese food fix, but luckily remembered it was closed on Thursdays before we crossed the river to the Westbank. Still craving Asian, we took a promenade over to Cafe Minh on the corner of Canal and David in Mid-City.

Here’s a blurb from the Times-Picayune:

Cafe Minh is a folksy New Orleans version of a type of restaurant that you tend to find wherever large herds of young professionals graze: the affordable, stylish cafe specializing in Americanized Asian cuisine. Namesake Minh Bui comes upon the style honestly, having instinctively merged his native cuisine with that of his adopted home. He was the first local to fix Vietnamese cuisine with new American wings, and when the kitchen is on its game — as it is with its nut-crusted oysters and lacquered ducks — the fusion still tastes fresh.

We were there around noon on a weekday, but thankfully it wasn’t crammed full of people shoveling food into their mouths on their lunch hour. The decor was nice–contemporary and clean, yet unobtrusive. We sat near the bar, which appeared welcoming and well-stocked. I bet it’d be a pleasant place for Happy Hour. The bland Top 40 floating in over the speakers was mildly off putting, but easily ignored.

I don’t know if we came just after the rush or what, but when we walked in the door we were met by a host who was running around like it was 7:30 on a Friday night. He brushed passed us at a rapid pace and pointed to a table without even stopping to see if we were behind him. Not a word of greeting, whatsoever.

We got our menus and drinks, then ordered our food. Pho for Brother O’Mara (I think he could be relatively happy eating nothing but good pho for every meal), and chargrilled pork soup for la fille. The host took our orders and again displayed not a lick of interest in us and gave us no more conversation than, “Are you ready?”

Brother O’Mara, pho connoisseur that he is, approved of his meal. He’s a ruthless judge of the Vietnamese soup, and this one passed muster, for sure. The broth was flavorful (if a tad salty), the beef of good quality, and presentation satisfactory (hoisin sauce, sriracha, basil, lime all supplied). Mine was tasty as well. I love the way Vietnamese restaraunts prepare their pork, but I’d never had it served in a soup. It used a different broth that wasn’t quite as full of interesting flavors as pho, but was definitely serviceable. (I did, however, add some sriracha and a little hoisin.)

The service continued to be utilitarian, but nothing more. Our water glasses were refilled, but no one wasted any energy on making sure we were pleased with our meals. The financial transaction was completed in almost complete silence and our receipt dropped off without a word at all.

Bottom line: the food was great, but the atmosphere created by the staff made me feel rushed, herded, and not particularly welcome or appreciated for being the unique flower that I am. I’ll probably stick to Pho Tau Bay, even if I do have to cross the Mighty Mississip to do so.