Dining Out in New Orleans, Part Two By John Mariani

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REDFISH GRILL
115 Bourbon Street
504-598-1200
www.redfishgrill.com

It is high praise to say of a restaurant, “I’ve never had a bad meal there,” which can apply to the grandest of haute cuisine restaurants as much as to storefront eateries. Redfish Grill is that kind of a casual place where every dish belongs on this menu of traditional and modern Creole cookery.
Ralph Brennan is one of several family members of the Brennan clan who separately run restaurants in and out of New Orleans, including Brennan’s on Royal Street, profiled last week. This is a far more homey place with a canny road-house look of peeling brick walls, folkloric murals, and a funky fake palm tree in the middle of the dining room.
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Best way to go is with Chef Austin Kirzner’s seafood sampler: barbecued crab claws; alligator boudin balls with peach pepper jelly; and Creole fresh Gulf shrimp with red pepper and onions ($29.95). There are plenty of oyster offerings, of course, and the Redfish bisque ($7) and alligator sausage and seafood gumbo ($8.50) are as good as any in the city. The crabcakes are made with true sweet lump crabmeat ($28), and shrimp and grits are lavished with parmesan cheese, roasted tomatoes, fried okra and a jalapeño buttermilk ranch dressing ($25).
Otherwise, stay simple with any of a dozen local fish ($21-$34) cooked over a wood-fired grill, with a selection of six sauces. Then finish off with double chocolate bread pudding ($9.50) or a bourbon-laced pecan pie ($8.50); there’s also a bananas foster ice cream cake with rum ice cream flamed tableside ($9).
I could eat here three times a week and take a couple of months to go through the menu, and it would always be with enormous pleasure.

Open for lunch & dinner daily.

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HERBSAINT
701 St. Charles Street
504-524-4114

I put Donald Link in with chefs like Mike Lata of Fig in Charleston, Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta and Frank Stitt III of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham who have truly changed the way Southern food is regarded in their cities. When Link opened Herbsaint more than a decade ago, he not only went beyond the entrenched clichés of Creole cuisine, but he lightened things up and brought in global influences, not least French and Italian notes.
The restaurant itself has always been one of the cheeriest and brightest, with yellow and white colors throughout, big windows on the corner, a nice small bar and a small peek into the kitchen. Alas, like Link’s other restaurants, Cochon and Pȇche, Herbsaint can get very very loud, piped in music included, so go early or late (New Orleans restaurants start to empty by 9 p.m.), and you’ll probably get a window seat.
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Then tuck into Executive Chef Rebecca Wilcomb’s sumptuous dishes like an excellent duck and andouille gumbo ($8) and some of the small plates, like marvelously lusty beef short rib with roesti potatoes and horseradish cream ($15), or baked asiago cheese with a sprinkling of oregano and a touch of lemon ($11) to slather on warm country bread. Gnocchi with tomato, pancetta and purple hull peas ($14) is a bit overwrought; the spaghetti with guanciale ham and a fried-poached egg ($14) is a better choice as pasta.
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For entrees there’s always a fish of the day, simply prepared, and I most recently favored jumbo shrimp callaloo with tomato-chili vinaigrette and crispy rice ($29), and the very rich, slowly roasted kurobuta pork belly with bacon-braised field peas and pickled chilies ($28). It was also good to see fideo, a Spanish thin pasta dish cooked in broth with a tomato confit ($9), as a side dish.
For dessert you won’t go wrong with any ($8-$9): coconut custard pie with buttermilk Chantilly and orange caramel, a brown butter banana tart, and especially a malted milk chocolate mousse with malted crème anglaise. Consider one of the many dessert wines suggested on the menu with these sweets.

Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly.

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Loew’s New Orleans Hotel
300 Poydras Street
504-595-3305
www.cafeadelaide.com

The Adelaide in question is one of the Big Easy’s legendary grande dames, Adelaide Brennan, aka “Queenie” and “Auntie Mame,” described by her family as “a striking redhead who marched to her own drummer.” Her favorite saying was, “Sparkle plenty.”
Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, who share their aunt’s irresistible exuberance, opened this tribute to her with verve. Café Adelaide has certainly won its bona fides in a post-Katrina world. Still, it’s a big colorful room with striking artwork, the effervescent bonhomie of New Orleans waitstaffs, and, now, a new young chef, Meg Bickford, a rare woman in a top kitchen position, who has brought the restaurant even further into the city’s high firmament.
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While maintaining Café Adelaide favorites like white shrimp remoulade on celeriac slaw ($12), Commander’s turtle soup ($8.50) and “Duck, duck, duck…” with sugar-cured duck ham, confit salad with dried cherries and blackberry duck fat vinaigrette ($27), she has added dishes that are among the most inventive and admired in the city, starting with her Poor Man’s Foie Gras of creamy chicken liver pâté with blueberry-sherry jelly, hot boudin beignets, spicy mustard, sourdough bread and pickled “stuff” ($16). Her New Orleans East Style BBQ Shrimp & Grits includes seared wild white shrimp over crab boil kimchi, charred chilies, pork belly and creamy stone ground grits with a spicy Asian style barbeque glaze ($24), and she really ups the ante on salads with her Louisiana blue crab and heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella, lemon oil and a cherry balsamic dusted with herbs ($8.50).
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Don’t fill up–portions are large–because you need room for the superlative Creole cheesecake with blackberry sugar cane syrup.
If you want to know what the expression “let the good times roll” means, you’ll find it at a dinner table at Café Adelaide.
Open for breakfast daily; lunch Mon.-Fri.; dinner nightly.

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Dining Out in New Orleans, Part Two By John Mariani

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