Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 November 2010 17:28
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
If you are intrigued by the hip cooking style and ingredients of Chef Emeril Lagasse but your taste runs more to traditional Creole, Delmonico is the place for you. Its food is not as classical as, say, Galatoire's, but it does have a certain retro quality. That fits right into the restaurant, which was a century old when Emeril took over in 1998. It has an unambiguous antique charm. While Delmonicio has not seemed as sure of itself as it was before the hurricane, more than a few people say that it's their favorite among Emeril's three New Orleans restaurants.
WHY IT'S GOOD
It's never been stated, but it's always seemed to me that Delmonico is Emeril's version of Commander's Palace, the restaurant the first brought him to town and fame. The menu rarely strays far from famous old Creole flavors. The Emeril touch is in using ingredients and techniques that appeal to current tastes. Those ingredients are of superb quality, a fact most notable in the beef department. Here is Prime beef, dry-aged in house. That's a rarity, and it results in a strong contender for the honor of best steak in town (the New York strip). The wine list keeps up with the one at Emeril's flagship restaurant in its distinction.
One of our four remaining restaurants from the 19th century, Delmonico had just completed its first century when Emeril Lagasse bought it in 1998. It was opened by Emile Commander, who came to New Orleans after working in Delmonico in New York City. That Delmonico is regarded as the first grand restaurant in America, and was so influential that its name became synonymous with "restaurant." That's how this Delmonico got its name.
For most of its pre-Emeril history, Delmonico it was managed by the La Franca family. Most people who remember dining there then knew it as an old-fashioned, excellent Creole restaurant run by the hospitable Angie Brown and Rose Dietrich, whose father made the restaurant what it was. When Emeril bought it, he performed a deep and expensive renovation, much of which had to be done all over again after Katrina, for as much money.
The front dining room's lofty ceilings create rich spaces, and its windows allow diners to keep track of the streetcars. (The view may be better from the streetcar.) On the other side of a large open door are more tables, the bar, and a piano--sometimes with a pianist. You can walk through the kitchen to the Cornstalk Room, usually employed for private dining and only occasionally for a la carte service, is the most atmospheric room in the house, one section of it skylit. Two private rooms upstairs best reveal the centenarian age of the rrestaurant. The service staff is a bit less formal and skillful than before the storm, but that's true all over these days.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Grand charcuterie tasting
Barbecued shrimp with grits cake
Shrimp remoulade with fried green tomato
Crispy pork cheeks with dirty rice
Marinated golden beets with yogurt and date molasses
French bread crusted oysters
Orecchiette pasta pomodoro
Rabbit crepes with pancetta and corn
Confit duck leg with lentils
Slow roasted pork shoulder with onion-sweet pepper hash
Grilled fish of the day with asparagus and garlic fried potatoes
Moroccan spiced lamb sirloin with merguez sausage
Roasted chicken bonne femme
Dry-aged New York strip steak
Dry-aged bone-in ribeye
Strawberry tasting: turnover, semifreddo, doberge
Spiced chocolate crème brûlée
FOR BEST RESULTS
Avoid busy times in the city (holidays, big conventions, etc.). Emeril's sends its overflow here, and that sometimes overwhelms the place. Arrive early to have a great cocktail in the very appealing bar. A very solid menu plan is to build your own tasting menu out of the lists of small plates and medium plates, without an entree.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Delmonico never quite recovered from the storm, before which it was one of the two or three best restaurants in town. The menu could be improved by backpedalling a bit into the restaurant's past, I'd say, and toning down the experimental part of the menu.
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 +3
- Consistency +1
- Service +1
- Attitude +3
- Wine and Bar +3
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Live music some nights
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday dinner
- Open some holidays
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- Reservations honored promptly
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