Tuesday, February 23, 2010
1069 Restaurants Open Around New O. The whole list.
One Little Restaurant. Ritz. Vitamin. Rotary. Banana Bread. Bread Springs. Colossal Squid. Tootsie Rolls. Boudin Noir.
Eating Around New Orleans Today
Today is the fifth anniversary of the opening of One Restaurant and Bar. Chef Scott Snodgrass and front-of-the-house chief Lee McCullough both came up through Clancy's. When that restaurant opened a second restaurant on Lee Circle, they ran it. When the Lee Circle closed, they opened One. It was a dice roll. The space--around the corner from the Camellia Grill on Hampson Street--was so small that it had prevented a string of previous restaurants from making it. A worse problem, one they didn't know about, loomed six months ahead: Hurricane Katrina. One--unflooded--opened soon after the storm, and got so many eager customers that its reputation was established.
The food has always been refreshing and delicious, with an evolving menu that makes it seem a different restaurant every time if you only go two or three times a year. I like to sit at the food bar, across from which nearly all the cooking is done. In this tiny space they manage some amazing feats. (I can't figure how they can bake their own bread, for example.) Today One is having a customer appreciation party all evening. I don't know what this will turn into, but I'll bet it's worth going to.
One Restaurant And Bar. Riverbend: 8132 Hampson 504-301-9061. Contemporary Creole.
Famous Names In High Living
Cesar Ritz was born today in 1850. Every use of the word Ritz that implies luxury and excellence derives from his career. After managing hotels in Monte Carlo and Switzerland, how founded his own ritzy place in Paris. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel here is a direct descendant. I wonder how he'd feel about Ritz crackers.
World Food Records
Today in 2007, a group of New Zealand fishermen landed the largest colossal squid ever caught. It was just under forty feet long, and weighed almost a thousand pounds. These fantastic creatures have been known for a long time, but almost never encountered live. They can fight a sperm whale to the finish, the winner not a foregone conclusion. Not enough breading and oil could be found to fry this calamari, so it was grilled and served with aioli instead.
Physiology Of Eating
The man who invented the word vitamin was born today in 1884. Casimir Funk was a biochemist who worked on figuring out which parts of our food did what in the body. Good thing he didn't name these essential nutrients after himself. Can you imagine taking a multi-funk every day?
Annals Of Lunch
The Rotary Club was founded today in 1905, in Chicago, by Paul Percy Harris and three friends. Rotarians are nice people who accomplish much, and I have spoken at their breakfast and lunch meetings many times. But eating delicious food is not one of their goals. I usually respond to their invitations bsaying that I'd be happy to speak, as long as I don't have to eat the lunch.
It is National Banana Bread Day. As nugatory as that may sound, it rings a bell because if you buy bananas, it's almost a certainty that you buy too many. When bananas become overripe, they're in the perfect state for making banana bread. It's great for breakfast, and makes a pretty good late-night snack.
Annals Of Candy
Leo Hirshfield, an Austrian immigrant who owned a candy shop in New York City, made up the basic formula still used today for Tootsie Rolls. The year was 1896. He named the candy after his daughter. It was the first hand-wrapped penny candy, and was obviously a big hit, even though it tastes chocolaty, not like chocolate. Some sixty-two million Tootsie Rolls are made every day, says the company that makes them. (Does that sound right to you?)
Gilbert Moxley Sorrel, brigadier general in the Confederate army, was born today in 1838. . . Pro golfer Cindy Figg-Currier teed off her life today in 1960. Later she was able to add a second food word to her name. . . Football linebacker Jerod Mayo got the Big Snap today in 1986.
Words To Eat By
"Hunger makes you restless. You dream about food--not just any food, but perfect food, the best food, magical meals, famous and awe-inspiring, the one piece of meat, the exact taste of buttery corn, tomatoes so ripe they split and sweeten the air, beans so crisp they snap between the teeth, gravy like mother's milk singing to your bloodstream."--Dorothy Allison, contemporary American writer.
Saturday, February 13. Mal De Mer. Back Into Winter. Even with all the pitch, yaw, and roll the ship experienced through the night and into the morning, I slept well. On the other hand, I had to get out of the cabin and onto the deck quick. I was closer to mal de mer than I've been since a rough whale-watching expedition twenty-seven years ago. I hate to think which shade of green Mary Ann would be if she were here. The captain says that the seas will moderate as the day goes on.
I sat out on the deck and implemented the trick that restores one's sense of equilibrium. Fixing a gaze on a spot on the horizon and holding it there somehow locks in one's sense of balance. Soon enough, you're back to normal, unless it's really bad. It worked well enough that my focus shifted to a young couple strutting laps around the ship. They were both in good shape, and passed me five or six times with a look of intense seriousness.
They inspired me to get moving. I had breakfast first (I never let my priorities slip). Fresh fruit and some smoked salmon from the buffet, followed by a not-very-good waffle and bacon from the kitchen. Orange juice and cappuccino (the server let me have it free again!).
Then I hit the deck. The NCL Spirit has an open deck all the way around the whole ship. At one time this was universal, but many new ships--notably on Carnival--lack it. The Spirit's promenade deck is about a third of a mile around. I made three circuits. Not a big deal, but it got my blood moving and no doubt brightened this overcast day. The wind was now coming convincingly from the north, making the deck temperature much lower than the eighties we enjoyed in the four ports. We're unambiguously headed back into winter.
I spent the morning writing in The Café with its bad cappuccino. En route to the stateroom I passed through the Blue Lagoon Café--the ship's twenty-four-hour eatery, serving hamburgers and fish and chips and the like. I saw a sign that offered oysters for eleven dollars a dozen. The manager assured me that indeed these were fresh, live raw oysters, shucked to order. I sat down and ordered. They took a long time to come out--a good sign, because I'm sure they emerged from somewhere deep in the galley's coolers, and that a shucker had to be found.
Captain Peterson chanced by. I told him what I was about, and he sat right down. We each had a dozen raw oysters. We agreed that they were certainly not Louisiana oysters--too small, and the shells too delicate--but that they were very good indeed, and with a cup of soup made the perfect light lunch.
While we made these observations, the maitre d' from Le Bistro passed by. I keep running into him around the ship, and he always greets me by name. He noted that we were drinking Red Stripe beer from his native Jamaica, giving him another reason to like us. I told him we had a reservation in his dining room for dinner that night. "Yes, at seven, for four--correct?" Exactly. Now there's a guy who knows his job.
The Richardsons, Jane Jurik and I had drinks in Champagne Charlie's, where the ship's most ambitious musical ensemble--the grandly-named Gennadi Orchestra, a sextet from Belarus--played jazzy numbers in a somewhat old style, but listenably enough. The Richardsons were off to Windows tonight. I was determined to return to Le Bistro. Jane was on my list there, as were Elaine Boudreaux and Captain Peterson. But when we arrived at the restaurant, the maitre d' said that the captain had been there a half-hour ago, waited awhile, then left. I guess he had the time wrong. So it was the two unattached women and me.
It was a fine dinner. First the mussels mariniere. An elegant salad with blue cheese. And a chicken breast stuffed with foie gras. The first bite of that reminded me that I had this very dish last year--but it was easily fine enough to have again.
I am of the generation of men that can't imagine splitting a check with a woman. Or even two women, as I had here. So dining in this restaurant during this voyage has cost me $350. This is the hidden part of the deal on our cruises that makes them an even better deal than they appear to be. It kills me that some of my detractors say I lead these cruises only for the money. What money? If Mary Ann hears about this, she'll chew me out for it. "They ought to be buying you drinks and dinner," I can hear her saying.
We were done by about ten. I went up to my stateroom by way of the open deck, where it was so cold and windy I could hardly walk. I turned the thermostat up a notch and settled in for the night. We are almost home.
Sunday, February 14. Goodbye To Spirit. Welcome To Mardi Gras. Valentine Dinner At Nuvolari's. Up around seven, I showered and set about packing. That done, I went up for one more breakfast of those great crab cake eggs Benedict again. When I came back, my bill for incidentals was in my door: a shade over a grand, more than I liked but about what I expected. Add to that the thousand dollars' worth of stuff purloined from my by the mugger in Belize, and this became a very expensive trip. Probably the last cruise in the Caribbean for me for a long time. Indeed, the way the cruise lines discount individual fares these days at the expense of groups, I think we may be coming to the end of Eat Club cruising, after eight fun years. I can't imagine we'll keep doing three or so a year the way we have been.
Both in boarding and exiting a cruise ship, the earlier you move, the longer you wait in lines. I remained in my stateroom writing until almost ten o'clock, when they made last call. (I'd tipped the room stewards pretty well, so they were leaving me alone.) I rolled off with all my luggage (that also saves a lot of time), through customs, and down to the pick-up zone. Mary Ann by that time had made several passes through, getting into an argument with the traffic cops each time. Nor was it easy to get out of the downtown area, what with the first shift of Mardi Gras parades clogging the arteries. She was bent out of shape.
To take her mind off all that vexation, I let loose my conversation-stopper. "Guess what? I got mugged in Belize!" If these were a novel instead of the truth, I'd have her say in response to the part of the tale where the mugger tried to pull my pants down, "What? If I had been there, I'd tell him he was wasting his time with that!"
It's Valentine's Day. Mary Ann requires that it be observed. We talked about having brunch. But it would have been a nightmare getting to the usual places today, so we just headed home.
Mary Leigh was not waiting for us there, but in the middle of a deliciously long, fun weekend hanging with friends at the parades. She is in the middle of one of the three epochs of life when one loves Mardi Gras. (The other two are when you're a little kid, and when you have your own little kids.)
Our daughter's menu limitations out of the way, we went for an early Valentine dinner to Nuvolari's. They tucked us into an intimate corner, where manager Wally Simmons says that many proposals (and probably even more propositions) have been made.
Our dinner was less romantic, but delicious enough. For the first course, we ordered all three of their soups. The best was the turtle, followed by the roasted garlic and the crab and corn. The latter was made in the old country style, with no cream and not a lot of crabmeat.
Mary Ann asked whether the salmon were wild-caught. Fishmonger Harlon Pearce told her that farm-raised salmon doesn't have the omega-threes she's interested in. This diet of hers is really getting out of control. I was surprised to learn that Nuvolari's salmon--at least that day--was indeed wild-caught Atlantic fish.
On my side was a great dish created from classic Creole flavors by Chef Thomas Smith. Redfish, green beans, dirty rice, and crabmeat. A great combination, ending a very good dinner. I'm glad we went early, because the restaurant was packed by the time we finished. But that's Valentine's Day.
And now, back to work. Even if not very hard. It's Carnival time!
Nuvolari’s. Mandeville: 246 Girod St. 985-626-5619. Contemporary Creole.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
All the Little Tokyo restaurants are different. This one is the most atmospheric and largest. It's also the only Little Tokyo offering teppanyaki (hibachi) grills, although as usual this amounts to ordinary grilled food being served at premium prices with a show you've probably already seen. The sushi bar is good enough, but is less consistent than the Little Tokyos in Metairie and Mandeville.
WHY IT'S GOOD
A knowledgeable and insistent sushi lover can press the chefs into revealing which selections are of particular interest. They do indeed bring in a great deal of beautiful fish here, but that may not be what you get in a routine combo order. On several occasions I've had items that were new to me. On the other hand, I've seen more deftness in the cutting of the fish.
Little Tokyo is a loose, local chain of Japanese restaurants, was created in 1986 by Yusuke Kawara in his Causeway Boulevard location. This one took over the former Chateaubriand Steakhouse following the hurricane. (A long time ago, it was a Shoney's, but you'd never know that now.)
The dining rooms are large to begin with, and the wall of windows adds to the spaciousness. One of them is largely devoted to teppanyaki tables, where the chefs play their usual games with what winds up being ordinary grilled food. A large sushi bar dominates another room, and the bar--windows on two sides--is pleasant for a cocktail or light dining.
Baked salmon or scallops (photo above; not recommended, as good as it looks).
Beef negimaki with asparagus or green onions.
Salmon, tuna, or beef tataki.
Sunomono salad with seafood.
Steamed monkfish pate.
Shu-mai or gyoza (steamed dumplings filled with a variety of meats or seafoods).
Sushi and sashimi, particularly specials.
Burning Man roll.
Black Jack roll.
Bye-Bye Katrina roll.
Tuna and tuna roll.
Chocolate City roll.
Rice paper roll (photo below).
Hibachi: steak, chicklen, shrimp, lobster, calamari.
FOR BEST RESULTS
If you let the sushi chefs know that you're open to trying the unusual, they'll start pulling out some extraordinary fish.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Not all the sushi chefs are adept. I found a bone in a piece of toro once.
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 -1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
A new or updated review of a restaurant specializing in seafood will appear here every day throughout Lent. List of all 320 current restaurant reviews.
Ten Best Seared Tuna Dishes
Slabs of fresh tuna are in almost every restaurant these days, to the point that it's almost become everyday eating. Heck, you can even buy the tuna in the supermarket and do it yourself. These restaurants, however, are pickier than you or I can be in choosing their fish. And they're probably better cooks, too.
1. K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. French Quarter: 416 Chartres. 504-524-7394. Chef Paul Prudhomme said once that as good as blackened redfish is, he thinks blackened tuna is better. And so it is.
2. Iris. French Quarter: 321 North Peters . 504-299-3944. Chilpotle-rubbed tuna with shaved fennel. This is a spectacular dish, with a combination I've always loved: seafood and anise-flavored ingredients.
3. Gautreau’s. Uptown: 1728 Soniat.. 504-899-7397. Tuna however they're doing it today will almost always involve thick blocks of the fish, seared to crusty and cool within, surrounded by interesting garnishes.
4. Brigtsen’s. Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610. Blackened tuna with smoked corn and roasted red pepper sour cream is one version I've liked, but they're always having fun with tuna here.
5. Cafe 615 (Da Wabbit) . Gretna: 615 Kepler. 504-365-1225 . Blackened tuna is one of the best surprises in this excellent neighborhood joint in Gretna.
6. RioMar. Warehouse District: 800 S. Peters. 504-525-3474. Serrano-ham-wrapped seared tuna. What a great idea!
7. Rambla. CBD: 221 Camp. 504-587-7720. Seared tuna with smoked romesco--a sauce made of tomatoes, red peppers, and almonds.
8. Jacques-Imo’s. Riverbend: 8324 Oak. 504-861-0886. Cajun bouillabaisse. With a slab of seared tuna on top. Best dish in the house.
9. Dakota. Covington: 629 N. US 190 . 985-892-3712. Rare-seared ahi tuna salad with wasabi aioli. Light enough to feel good about, big flavor.
10. Ristorante Del Porto. Covington: 205 N. New Hampshire. 985-875-1006. Fennel-scented grilled tuna. Here's that flavor again, from an Italian angle.
If you have additions to or subtractions from the list, I would love to read about them. Post your opinions on our
Mussels Italian Style
There are two common ways you can go with mussels: wine sauce or red sauce. This is the latter. The hardest part is cleaning the mussels (get all the sand out of them) and seeing that you don't overcook them.
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 28-oz. cans of whole Italian tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 2 cups red wine
- 80 mussels in shells, scrubbed and debearded
1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add onion and garlic and cook until they brown at the edges.
2. Add the red wine. As soon as it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes and their juice, lemon, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
3. Check the mussels to make sure all are tightly closed. Add them to the pan, cover and cook over medium-high heat about ten minutes, or until all the mussels open. Agitate the pan to slosh some of the sauce inside the shells. Serve mussels and sauce in large bowls with soup spoons, oyster forks, and toasted Italian bread (or garlic bread!) on the side.
Serves four appetizers or two entrees.