Last Updated on Thursday, 09 August 2012 09:43
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Eman Loubier--a skillful, imaginative chef-owner--cooks unique food. His ingredients are local and offbeat, and his techniques are novel. In surroundings that could almost be called ramshackle, these eats go off at prices well below those paid for comparable food in fancier establishments. Orleanians love that formula, which has brought a wealth of good dining to the Riverbend area.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Cooking only for flavor and avoiding pretenses, Eman seems never to run out of surprises. His longer-running specialties (like the grilled chicken under a brick) hearken back to his Nouvelle-Creole roots. His newer works will expand your horizons. Here is the first local restaurant dish featuring beef hearts, for example. Although the ingredients sound complicated, the cooking is straightforward and vivid-tasting. The menu changes with the seasonal foodstuffs. Free from having to keep certain things on the menu all the time, Dante's can use vegetables around only now and then. Recently the chef has shown an interest in variety meats--cheeks, bellies, sweetbreads, etc.
Cooking only for flavor and avoiding pretenses, Eman seems never to run out of surprises. His longer-running specialties (like the grilled chicken under a brick) harken back to his Nouvelle-Creole roots. His newer works will expand your horizons. Here is the first local restaurant dish featuring beef hearts, for example. Although the ingredients sound complicated, the cooking is straightforward and vivid-tasting. The menu changes with the seasonal foodstuffs. Free from having to keep certain things on the menu all the time, Dante's can use vegetables around only now and then. Recently the chef has shown an interest in variety meats--cheeks, bellies, sweetbreads, etc.
Chef-owner Emanuel "E-man" Loubier opened this place in 2000 after a long stint at Commander's Palace, where he was one of Chef Jamie Shannon's top guns. That background almost never shows up in his cooking anymore; he has moved far down the road, and agreeably. For a few months in 2012, a pop-up barbecue operation covered the lunch hours, but that's gone now.
The main building is a converted cottage built of massive wood beams at least a century old. It has high ceilings but smallish windows, lending a somewhat closed-in effect. Less substantial additions lend those parts of the place an inside-outside feeling. An outdoor dining area is very casual.
»Boudin rouge, pickled carrots, green beans, smothered bell peppers
Escargots bordelaise, roasted marrow bone
»Seared scallops, smoked peach puree, basil oil
»Grilled shrimp and stone ground grits - andouille red eye gravy
Slow cooked duck neck-stuffed buckwheat crepe, vinegared currants, farro, chicken cracklings
Beef heart Ssam (chopped beef heart, sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, chimichurri criolla)
»Braised beef cheeks, celery root puree, apple and celery leaf salad
»Milk braised lamb belly, orzo, mint, pickled onion, spiced yogurt
Crème fraiche pickled Gulf fish, pumpernickel crumbles, fresh herbs
»Steamed mussels, green curry, mint, cilantro, thai basil
Arugula and butter lettuce salad, brioche croutons, candied pine nuts, preserved lemon, cane vinegar and olive oil
Cheese plate (American artisanal cheeses paired with fizzy fruits,
pickled mushrooms, and tomato toast)
»Hog head ravioloni, white bean salad, grilled radicchio
»Wagyu oxtail, heirloom tomato sauce, pickled corn grits cake, okra chips
»Bubble and "squeakbreads" (pan-fried sweetbreads, housemade sauerkraut, dark beer, corned beef broth)
»Roasted duck breast, root beer fig sauce, lyonnaise potatoes and turnips, sriracha
»Herb-rubbed whole roasted fish, panzanella salad, Chilean extra virgin olive oil, citrus slices
Pan-seared Gulf fish, kimchee jasmine rice, coconut vinaigrette, torn herbs
Local farm vegetable plate, marinated grilled tofu
Confit pork steak, Creole potato salad, garlic scented greens, mayhaw pepper jelly
»Chicken under a brick (below), maple glazed, potato and bacon hash cake, fried farm egg
»Three filets mignon with debris, worcestershire, Stilton cheese sauce, caramelized onion mashed potatoes
»Fried cucuzza, melted cheese curds, brown gravy
»Eloté (grilled corn, cayenne, cotija cheese)
Marinated summer vegetables, smoked eggplant puree, olives, flatbread
»Field peas, Chisesi ham, fresh chiles, cumin
Duck fat-roasted smashed new potatoes, bacon, onions, rosemary stone ground grits
Caramelized onion mashed potatoes
»Peach tartelette, peppered mascarpone
Chocolate goat milk pudding, chevre and candied pumpkin seeds
Cardamom ricotta cheesecake, peach blueberry sauce, pistachio toffee
»Blueberry brown butter upside down cake, Creole cream cheese gelato
FOR BEST RESULTS
This is a great restaurant for ordering many dishes and passing them around, especially given the number of offbeat creations that a single diner might be reluctant to commit himself to. The brunch menu is one of the city's most original. Remember that they're closed on Tuesday.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The dining rooms on the outdoor edge of the restaurant are so casual as to feel uncomfortable for some of us who equate fine dining with formality. those who haven't arrived.
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
- Consistency +2
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness +3
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday dinner
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended