Monday, September 27, 2010
1117 Restaurants Open Around Town
Last Oktoberfest Begins At Old Deutsches Haus
The Oktoberfest has been underway for almost two weeks in Munich, where it all began. They get the jump on the namesake month to sell more beer, while it's still a little warm. Here in New Orleans we don't have that problem, but we start Oktoberfest in September anyway.
The Deutsches Haus is the longest-running Oktoberfest celebration here, but this one will be poignant. The old German club (it's been around since the late 1800s) is having to give up the historic brick building it's occupied on S. Galves Street for decades. (It's in the way of the new medical center.)
This year's celebration will be the last at that place. But it will roll along as always, with over a dozen German beers on tap, plus more in bottles. Schnapps served by costumed waitresses. An oom-pah-pah band. And a varying menu of German food, cooked by the members of the club. It's family-friendly at the beginning, less so when the college crowd shows up later in the evening.
The fun begins at four in the afternoon on Fridays, and one on Saturdays, until midnight both days. It's prosit! for the next five weekends. Then auf wiedersehen.
Deutsches Haus. 200 S Galvez. 504-522-8014.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
A well-educated student of Italian cooking, Joe Segreto's take on Southern (and some Northern) Italian food is fascinating. Especially among the daily specials, dishes you're not likely to see outside of Italy appear. The regular menu is filled with the Creole-Italian food Joe has served for fifty years. All this keeps Eleven 79 busy at all hours, with a very loyal bunch of regular customers.
WHY IT'S GOOD
More thought goes into the menus and recipes here than in most Italian restaurants. The specials reflect the seasons of fresh food, and always include some exciting, unique concoctions. If you like veal prepared in the many ways that used to be common in the 1970s and 1980s, you'll find all of them and more here. You can assemble a classic meal in the Italian style by splitting the enormous courses.
After a lifetime of managing some of the best restaurants in New Orleans history (Elmwood Plantation and Broussard's, to name two) Joe Segreto settled into this little trattoria on the edge of the Warehouse District in 2000. Chef Anthony DiPiazza had a lot of history with Segreto, and the two of them clicked again to create a phenomenally hot restaurant. Anthony died in 2004, but his spirit lives in the food.
The building is much older than you might imagine, dating back to the early 1800s. The lofty height of the ceilings is the giveaway. The front room has a busy bar and a number of tables, which are among the most popular. As you enter, there's a complimentary antipasto bar on a sideboard. A second room has quieter, more intimate tables and the feel of an old library.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Panneed oysters with caviar and remoulade.
Tomato and mozzarella salad.
Fried or grilled calamari.
Any of the pasta dishes, especially in half-portions as an appetizer.
Veal Eleven 79 (roasted peppers, asparagus, and mozzarella).
Veal Sorrentina (eggplant and tomato).
Veal chop Milanese.
Filet mignon pizzaiola.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Have the pasta as a small introductory course rather than as an entree. Know that it will take longer for the food to come out than you might be accustomed to. The kitchen is too small for the volume they do here, and it's always a little backed up. It's worth waiting for.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The servers are not as knowledgeable about the food as they should be. Fortunately, Joe Segreto is constantly making the rounds, and there's not much he doesn't know.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Service +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +2
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Sidewalk tables
- Small private room
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Free valet parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
This review was updated with new information on 11/11/2009.
Filet Mignon Pontalba
This is a variation on chicken Pontalba, a dish created by the legendary chef Paul Blange in the early years of Brennan's. I used the idea with steaks for a charity dinner where I didn't think I could get away with serving a chicken dish as an entree. It was almost as good as with chicken. And the chicken version is so spectacular that a slight downtick still leaves a magnificent dish. It sounds like a lot of work (and maybe it is), but none of it is hard, and the dish wows people.
- 3 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and sliced into small cubes
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 6 filet mignons, 6-8 oz. each
- 1/2 lb. smoky ham, cut into tiny dice
- 4 green onions, sliced thinly
- 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
- 1 1/2 cups bearnaise sauce (see recipe)
1. Heat the oil to 375 degrees and fry the potato cubes until browned. Drain and keep warm in a 200-degree oven.
2. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and broil the steaks, three at a time. They will stick to the pan, then release somewhat. At that point turn them with a metal spatula (not a fork) and cook the other side to the preferred degree of doneness. Add the remaining butter and broil the remaining steaks. Remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven.
3. Lower the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Add the wine to the pan and whisk to dissolve the pan juices and browned bits. Let half the wine boil away, then add the ham, green onions, mushrooms, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Cook until the mushrooms are tender--about three minutes. Lower the heat as low as it will go.
4. Add the fried potatoes, and toss with the other ingredients to distribute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Place a filet mignon on each warm serving plate. Scatter the pan contents around the steak. Spoon about 3 Tbs. bearnaise sauce over everything and serve immediately.Serves six.