Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:44
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Tommy Andrade--the last of the well-dressed, suave maitres d'hotel in the classic manner--continues to insist that it's possible for a grand French-Creole restaurant to survive in the modern age. Like other ambitious kitchens around town, Tomas Bistro cooks local foodstuffs in current styles. Still, reading the menu takes one back to a time when many restaurants claimed to purvey "fine dining"--a descriptor embraced by relatively few restaurants anymore. It's nice that Tomas and its namesake still do.
Although there's enough seafood to satisfy that hunger, the menu is dominated by red meats: not just beef and lamb but venison, sweetbreads, and duck, all prepared with modern versions of classic sauces, yet still unambiguously robust. Despite that, the lighter dishes are the most impressive, with the fish and chicken very deftly sauced and presented. It all stops short of tableside preparation, but that might scare people away these days. What won't: the prices, a touch lower than I'd expect. They have entrees in the teens.
Tommy Andrade made his name as maitre d' of the Sazerac in its golden decade in the 1970s. He co-opened Irene's Cuisine with Irene. He left that partnership in 2004 to open Tommy's Cuisine, just as its neighborhood (around Emeril's) was becoming a magnet for diners. Tommy's did so well that he bought the building across the street for parking. He converted a corner store that came with the package into an upscale Mexican restaurant. That didn't catch on, so he hired Chef Guy Sockrider (formerly of Muriel's, among other places) to build out a tradition-dependent menu which, at the very least, could cash in on the overflow from Tommy's.
"Bistro" isn't exactly right, except in terms of price. This is a handsome, comfortable dining room, with full napery, baskets of bread, and other welcome fine-dining gambits left behind by most new restaurants. The music is very entertaining, a collection of French jazz and cabaret from the 1920s and 1930s. As is the case across the street at Tommy's, the service staff includes more experienced people than typical. Tommy knows where to find them. He's also a wine buff, so the list is pretty interesting.
»Risotto Tomas (prosciutto, parmesan, peas
»»BBQ oysters (fried, Abita Amber beer butter)
Jumbo lump crab cake, lemon tarragon aioli
»Crawfish and goat cheese crepes
Pecan crusted duck, fig marmalade
Fried calamari, tomato tarragon cream
Chicken and andouille gumbo
French onion soup
House salad, Creole mustard and cane vinegar dressing
»Lobster salad, tomatoes, fresh basil, avocado and goat cheese
Sweetbreads salad (veal sweetbreads, butter lettuce, lime-ginger vinaigrette
»Grilled airline chicken breast, green peppercorn cream sauce, risotto
»Rabbit Creole, mustard chardonnay demi glace, spatzle, haricots verts
»Pecan crusted drumfish, crabmeat relish, lemon butter
Duck Julia (roasted breast and confit leg of moulard duck, raspberry fig sauce, wild rice, Swiss chard
»Gulf red snapper meuniere, almonds, asparagus, parsleyed potatoes
»Tournedos marchand de vin, pinot noir thyme demi glace, broccolini
Bouillabaisse with mussels, shrimp, lobster, red snapper, saffron, rouille crouton
»Colorado roast rack of lamb, sauce dijonnaise, tomato Provençale
»Venison short loin, juniper berry-peppercorn burgundy reduction
»Warm flourless Maracaibo chocolate torte, milk chocolate truffle, raspberry and crème anglaise sauces
»Warm white chocolate bread pudding
»Burgundy poached pear, crème chantilly, raspberries
FOR BEST RESULTS
The entrees are larger than one expects, so a four-course dinner here might be a bit much. The restaurant has become busy, so a reservation is a good idea.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The chef goes overboard whenever heavy cream enters a dish, and the richness of such dishes can be over the top.
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 +2
- Consistency +1
- Service +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar +2
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Pay valet parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The Tchoupitoulas Street restaurant row grows more populous and more interesting. Emeril's started the trend 22 years ago, and Cochon and its national-media friends gave the area a big boost after Katrina. In the past month alone we've learned that Steve Manning--longtime chef at Clancy's--is renovating the old Deanie's into a gourmet bistro. And the peripatetic Chef Rene Bajeux is taking over the former La Cote Brasserie. No wonder they're repaving Tchoupitoulas through the Eat Zone!
In the middle of all this came the quiet opening and slow development of Tommy Andrade's new restaurant across the street from his first one. (And diagonally across from Emeril's.) We could almost hear the sound of its gears engaging a few months ago. It's the best sleeper in town.