Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 November 2010 17:45
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Until a new kind of magnificent dining in the New Orleans style grabs hold, not many restaurants will be able to equal the pleasures John Besh offers here at his flagship restaurant. At the same time French, Creole, American and original, Besh's kitchen represents the state of the art of contemporary local gourmet cookery. The memorable moments string together in a tantric way in the fascinating tasting menu. Always impressive, often unforgettable.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Chef-owner John Besh has been in the forefront in his sourcing of locally-raised ingredients. He gets no small amount of it in his own farm at La Provence, one of his five other restaurants. But he has many other small farmers contracted to sell him product of unusually high merit. This gleams in all the cooking here. Meanwhile August's environment, service, and wine are all at the top levels, too.
John Besh began his career of cooking in his hometown of Slidell. High points of it included a stint as Chef Chris Kerageorgiou's favorite protege at La Provence (which Chris sold to Besh right before he died), a fecund period at Artesia that brought him national attention, and--somewhere in there--action on the ground in the first Gulf War as a Marine. His articulate, gentle style and good looks made him stand out, and now he has twice as many New Orleans restaurants than Emeril or any branch of the Brennan family. He partnered on August in 2001 (he later bought out the partner), and was one of the first gourmet chefs to get rolling after Katrina. With all this going on, Restaurant August remained on an even keel, and is one of the most consistent restaurants in town.
In an early-1800s building, the restaurant has towering ceilings, antique-wood walls and columns, large windows, and a general feeling of antebellum grandeur. The wine room and the bar look a bit more modern, but are equally comfortable. The service staff is exceptionally knowledgeable, and the sommelier is one of the best in town, too.
The menu changes with such frequency that not even the restaurant's own website keeps up with it. You should try new dishes here, anyway.
Foie gras trio.
Heirloom beets with crabmeat.
Gnocchi with crabmeat and truffle oil.
Fried oysters with Louisiana caviar ranch dressing.
Acorn squash mezzaluna pasta (like ravioli).
Seared scallops with olives, garlic, and rouille.
Sweet and spicy duckling with grits and foie gras.
Label Rouge chicken cooked two ways with smoked paprika.
Rabbit cassoulet with andouille.
Parmesan crusted blackfish with lobster “bouillabaisse” jus.
Filet mignon with oxtail marmalade and smoked marrow.
FOR BEST RESULTS
The five- and ten-course degustation menus are the best possible meals here. The latter is devised more or less on the spot with the day's best ingredients.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The bar is too much less attractive than the dining rooms for that not to be noticed. More range is needed in the dessert course.
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 +2
- Service +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +3
- Wine and Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Free valet parking
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