Tag Archives: Lunch

Mr. B’s Bistro — Lunch on 14 February 2020

Mr. B's Bistro

Mr. B’s Bistro

The “B” in “Mr. B’s Bistro” stands for “Brennan”, and in the New Orleans restaurant world, it signifies that you’re in good hands. The extended Brennan family owns and operates more than a dozen of the city’s best restaurants, including Red Fish Grill, Cafe Adelaide, Napoleon House, Ralph’s on the Park, and the jewel in the crown, Commander’s Palace.

Salad

Salad

This is Mr. B’s Royal Street Salad, made with whole leaf baby Romaine lettuce tossed with crumbled bleu cheese, bacon, and a fresh herb market vinaigrette.

Steak

Steak

And for the main, I had roast beef, cottage fries with more of that bleu cheese, and string beans. After a week of French, Cajun, and Creole cuisine, it was a very Anglo-American meal.

Galatoire’s — Lunch on 13 February 2020

You’ve probably read somewhere that “Sixty percent of restaurants don’t make it past their first year and 80 percent go out of business within five years” or “The average lifespan of a restaurant is five years and by some estimates, up to 90 percent of new ones fail within the first year”.

Urban legends—none of that is true.

According to Forbes, “…only 17% of restaurants close in the first year, not 90%.”

And then there’s New Orleans, which is probably the home to more “centenarian” restaurants—restaurants that are still thriving more than 100 years after their founding—than any other city in the country.

They must be doing something right to last 100 years. Whatever that “something” is, Galatoire’s, on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, is doing it particularly well.

Galatoire’s

Galatoire’s

Founded 115 years ago, Galatoire’s is yet another New Orleans centenarian restaurant, like Commander’s Palace and Acme Oyster House. Five generations of the Galatoire family and descendants have been involved with the running of the restaurant.

Shrimp Remoulade

Shrimp Remoulade

For my simple Shrimp Remoulade starter, the shrimp were boiled and served on iceberg lettuce. The authentic, definitely-not-from-a-bottle remoulade sauce was a quintessential taste of New Orleans.

Chicken Bonne-Femme

Chicken Bonne-Femme

Somewhere under that luscious mound of bacon and caramelized onions is a perfectly seasoned roasted half chicken, complemented by cottage fries.  Highest possible praise for this one. Looking back, it was my favourite main course in a week full of great meals.

Acme Oyster House — Lunch on 12 February 2020

Acme Oyster House

Acme Oyster House

Acme Oyster House, founded in 1910, has been around almost as long as Commander’s Palace, but in many ways, they’re worlds apart. Commander’s Palace is in New Orleans’ elegant Garden District, while Acme Oyster House is in the raunchy French Quarter. Commander’s Palace is quiet and refined; Acme Oyster House has the look and feel of a good ole honky-tonk. Commander’s Palace provides the most superb service you could find in a restaurant, while Acme Oyster House features a neon sign that reads: “Waitress Available Sometimes”.

What they have in common is that they both serve wonderful food.

Acme Oyster House Interior

Acme Oyster House Interior

Acme doesn’t take reservations, and the line to get into the restaurant starts forming before its 10:30 AM opening. Service is non-stop through an 11 PM closing.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Another day, another rich and filling Gumbo. This one featured chicken and andouille sausage.

Boom Boom Shrimp

Boom Boom Shrimp

This was the main reason I was here. It’s called  Boom Boom Shrimp, and it tastes fantastic. I didn’t count, but I think there were somewhere between 30 and 40 shrimp in that bowl, and I gobbled down each and every one of them. Eleanor Shellstrop would die of envy, if she weren’t dead already.

The fried shrimp are coated in Acme’s homemade sauce, and its sweetness made me think one of the sauce’s ingredients might be honey. I later found some recipes online, which said it was made with mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, and either toasted sesame oil or Sriracha.

The recipes look easy, and if I ever have a fully-functioning kitchen again, I’m certainly going to try this at home.

Commander’s Palace — Lunch on 11 February 2020

Commander's Palace

Commander’s Palace

Nothing lasts forever. The polar ice caps are melting, the West is in decline, and there will eventually come a time when Commander’s Palace is no longer the definitive New Orleans restaurant, if only because New Orleans itself has sunk beneath the waves.

But happily for us, we’ll probably all be dead by then.

Commander’s Palace has been serving fine food since 1893. It has won seven James Beard Foundation Awards, and the list of some of its other awards and critical appreciations goes on for screen after screen on its website.

Amuse-bouche

Amuse-bouche

After being greeted by what seemed like most of the restaurant’s staff, I was given this little amuse-bouche. It’s a miniature king cake, filled with caramelized onion and pepper jack cheese and decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colours of green, yellow, and purple. Two delightful bites.

Gumbo

Gumbo

Gumbo has an infinite number of variations. The server said that this one was called “The Three Little Piggies” because it contained three different forms of pork. (Bacon, sausage, and pulled pork, if I remember correctly.)

Satsuma Glazed Duck

Satsuma Glazed Duck

Love me my duck confit, so when I saw it on the menu, I didn’t bother to read further. The dish was described as “Crispy duck leg confit over Camellia white bean, andouille, and Cajun ham cassoulet with brown butter, turnips, spicy greens, and Louisiana citrus.” I had to see what Commander’s Palace would do with this classic. Would it be the best duck confit I’d ever tasted?

Well, no. It wasn’t.

The problem with setting expectations so high is that anything less than perfection is a disappointment. There was nothing wrong with the dish,  but nothing to remind me that I was dining in one of the most celebrated restaurants in America, either.

Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake

Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake

While the main didn’t live up to my very high expectations, the Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake dessert wildly exceded them. I mean, just look at it!

Those are first of the season Louisiana strawberries macerated with a touch of cane sugar, served on a warm buttermilk biscuit.

And I am beginning to wonder why I don’t spend all winter in New Orleans every year.


The 25¢ Martini

25¢  Martini

25¢  Martini

I think the last time I tasted hard liquor was before I was old enough to drink it legally, which was, eh, some months ago. A glass of wine, once or twice a week, is about my speed these days. Nevertheless, when in New Orleans…. I had to try the famous Commander’s Palace 25¢ Martini special. (“Limit three (3) per person ’cause that’s enough. Available with the purchase of any Entrée.”)

But what to order? I glazed over when the server recited the list of possibilities, because being ignorant of what the names meant,  that didn’t help me at all. I knew that I didn’t want a Cosmopolitan, because that was what people drank on Sex in the City, and at the time it slipped my mind what Patsy and Edina would drink. (Answer: Almost anything.} So I asked the server to surprise me.

It seems that cocktails are an acquired taste, and it’s a taste I’m unlikely to acquire. I don’t remember the name of the drink in the picture, but I only drank half of it.

Looks like Windex, doesn’t it?

Pêche Seafood Grill — Lunch on 10 February 2020

Pêche Seafood Grill.

Pêche Seafood Grill

Founded in 2014, Pêche is a newcomer in a city that measures the longevity of its restaurants in decades. It got off to a brilliant start, though, winning that year’s James Beard award for Best New Restaurant in America. The same year, Pêche chef Ryan Prewitt took the James Beard award for Best Chef: South. Pêche regularly turns up on lists of the 10 best restaurants in New Orleans.

The restaurant is a big, airy single room. No dress code here; the accent is on casual comfort.

Fish Sticks

Fish Sticks

I joked, a few weeks ago, about preparing for an elegant homemade gourmet dinner by first defrosting the fish sticks. Fish sticks! How silly of me.

When I started to research restaurants for my trip, I noticed something unexpected about the reviews of Pêche: the food critics kept raving about the restaurant’s fish sticks. “You can skip the shrimp toast …but not the beer-battered fish sticks (really)”, wrote one. “Don’t miss the shareable beer-battered fish sticks”, said another. Who’d a thunk it?

Pêche’s fish sticks are indeed excellent. They’re worlds away from the elementary school cafeteria staple that gives fish a bad name.

Now if only someone would reimagine tater tots and chicken nuggets….

Smothered Catfish

Smothered Catfish

“Smothered”, in this context, describes a cooking method used in Cajun and Creole cuisines. It’s basically stove-top braising, and in Louisiana it’s used to tenderize and flavour all sorts of game, domestic animals, seafood, and vegetables.

For my main, I had a fine serving of Smothered Catfish. Or so I thought….


A Disturbing Discovery

I left the restaurant happy and satisfied, a mood that lingered until I took a close look at my receipt and noticed something shocking.

Smothered cat? My god, what had these maniacs served me?

Lincoln — Lunch on 30 January 2020

Lincoln

Lincoln

Last stop on the January 2020 Restaurant Tour: Lincoln. Lincoln is the sister restaurant—brother restaurant?—of Teddy & The Bully Bar, our previous stop. The restaurants are owned by the same people and have similar menus. Lincoln actually came first, with Teddy opening a few years later.

If the owners ever decide to open a third restaurant with a complementary theme, they could name it after President Eisenhower. “Ike’s Place”, possibly.  After that, they’d be in dangerous territory, because they’d have pretty much exhausted the list of Republican presidents who don’t cause at least mild nausea and indigestion among a sizable portion of the population. Tricky Dick’s Cafe? Donnie’s Wall-burger?

Bacon & Apple Croquettes

Bacon & Apple Croquettes

Brussels sprouts were on the menu here, too, and because I’d so liked the Brussels sprouts at Teddy’s the other day, I was tempted to try Lincoln’s variation. I went with the bacon and apple croquettes, with brown butter-pear puree, pickled cipollini onion, and fried sage instead, because I’d already decided to have steak for the main again, and repeating both the starter and the main seemed a little too OCD.

Grilled New York Strip Loin

Grilled New York Strip Loin

This time, the New York Strip Loin came with smoked fingerling potato, grilled broccoli, and a sherry-mushroom fricassee. Nicely done.

Heirloom Carrot Cake

Heirloom Carrot Cake

Dessert was carrot cake and salted caramel ice cream.

Teddy & The Bully Bar — Lunch on 28 January 2020

The restaurants I wrote about in January featured cuisines that spanned the globe, or at least the part of it that’s in the Northern Hemisphere. We went from France to India to Georgia to Italy to the Philippines, with quick stops in Korea and Thailand. Now we’re near the end, and we’re going to finish with two places where the food is so American that the restaurants are named after US Presidents. First up is Teddy & The Bully Bar.

Teddy & The Bully Bar

Teddy & The Bully Bar

The “Teddy” in Teddy & The Bully Bar is Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, and the restaurant is decorated 21st-century artwork commemorating his life and times. It only takes seven minutes to walk there from my place at Dupont Circle, but the vibe in the area is much more professional and business-like than the more free-spirited atmosphere at Dupont.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Best bowl of Brussels sprouts I’ve had a quite a while, and I’m really fond of Brussels sprouts. These came with a balsamic gastrique, spiced hazelnuts, and pomegranate seeds.

 Creekstone New York Strip Steak

 Creekstone New York Strip Steak

My main was perfectly cooked Grilled New York Strip Steak with roasted shitake, confit pearl onion, brandy beef jus, big chunky frites, and a delicious puree that I couldn’t quite identify, which turned out to be parsnip. I made a note to research parsnip recipes in anticipation of the time my kitchen is restored to the point that I can revive my currently dormant Cookery Project.

Slow Poached Pear Crisp

Slow Poached Pear Crisp

Poached pear with salted caramel ice cream and granola crumble. It was all right, but not as exciting as the rest of the excellent meal.

Modena — Lunch on 23 January 2020

Modena

Modena

We’ve been here before.

The restaurant that used to live here was called Bibiana, and it served very good Italian food. It was part of Ashok Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, the same organization that owns Rasika and Rasika West. Even though Bibiana was still successful 10 years after opening, Bajaj decided that it was time for a change.

He closed Bibiana last Fall and, in the space of a few weeks, renovated the site and brought in a new chef with a new menu. The result is Modena, and it’s sensational!

The bread basket was full of surprises. It was–well, it was “curated”, although nobody used that overly-familiar word. Four or five slices of bread, each of them different from the others, each a minor revelation.

Polpette

Polpette

I’m a creature of habit. If I’m dining in a French restaurant, I’ll usually have French Onion Soup as a starter, even in the warmest weather. If the place is Italian, and if Polpette is on the menu, I look no further.

The base here was polenta, with dandelion greens. I liked the beef, pork, and veal combination in the polpette, which was fortunate because the main I’d ordered also featured it.

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Tagliatelle Bolognese

The Tagliatelle Bolognese was yet another marvel. I’d always liked Bibiana, but Modena has taken modern Italian cooking to an entirely new level.

Dolci Budino

Dolci Budino

When I was placing my order, the server warned me: “Don’t tell me you’re ordering anything other than the Budino for dessert.” She told me that the bittersweet chocolate in the budino was “not children’s chocolate, it’s chocolate for adults.”

Dessert was served in a small glass. The chocolate was decorated with Chantilly cream and fresh passion fruit. And my first taste made it official:  I’d dined very well since the beginning of 2020, but lunch at Modena was the finest meal I’d had all month.

But wait, there’s more.

First of all, have another look at the budino. Beautiful, isn’t it?


During the meal, that helpful server who had recommended the dessert noticed that my IPad cover was a reproduction of Bruegel’s “Children’s Games”.*

She was a Bruegel admirer, and she’d lived in Bruegel’s Brussels for several years. Most of the customers in her section had departed by then, so we had time to chat. I showed her some of the blog postings from my 2018 adventures in Belgium, and she reminisced about the familiar sites. We talked about chocolate and waffles.

I was getting ready to leave when she came back to the table.

She brought me a second serving of that fabulous dessert.

Made my day, and then some.


* Here’s a website that lets you enlarge all or parts of “Children’s Games” so that you can zoom in on the action. According to Wikipedia, 80 games are depicted in the painting, but the word “games” is very loosely defined.

Convivial — Lunch on 21 January 2020

Convivial

Convivial

Convivial has consistently found a place on The Washingtonian’s annual “Washington, DC’s 100 Very Best Restaurants” list since the year it opened, but I’d somehow never got around to visiting.  TripAdvisor lists 2,750 dining options in Washington, and with my limited daily food consumption—just the usual four meals a day, plus snacks, and an extra dessert now and then—it’s impossible to keep up.

So I was off on another trip to Shaw, to find out what I’d been missing. Turns out, I’d been missing quite a bit.

Onion Soup Gratinée

Onion Soup Gratinée

A week earlier, I’d had a stupendously bad lunch in a restaurant that had never been less than perfect in the past. (Let’s call it Restaurant X.  I may write about the experience in a later post.) My starter at Restaurant X was French Onion Soup, but the cheese, instead of being melted and stringy, was a big solid blob with the consistency of chewed and solidified bubble gum. Ever have to cut your soup with a knife?

The Onion Soup Gratinée at Convivial was the very model of what French Onion Soup should be. I relaxed; it was an excellent start.

Trout Amandine

Trout Amandine

Trout Amandine, my main course, was also a stunner. It was served with roasted almonds, haricots verts, lemon brown butter, and capers. I took a lot of time with this dish, savouring the taste and thinking about Julia Child and that famous Trout a la Meunière that changed her life.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

The only problem with my Key Lime Pie was that there wasn’t enough of it. I could have eagerly devoured three or four pieces.

Service was both friendly and efficient. Delightful place!

Rasika West — Lunch on 19 January 2020

Rasika West

Rasika West

Rasika is not only the best Indian restaurant in Washington, but, according to many food writers, the best Indian restaurant in the United States. Rasika’s Vikram Sunderam is a winner of the James Beard award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.

A few years ago, Rasika’s owner, Ashok Bajaj, opened a second site in DC’s West End, serving many of the same dishes, and many new ones as well. I have fond memories of any number of great meals at the original Rasika, but somehow hadn’t tried its offspring until now. I finally made it to Rasika West.

President Obama celebrated his birthday at Rasika twice, and the Clintons celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary at Rasika West. Other repeat customers include Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, and Julia Roberts.

Palak Chaat

Palak Chaat

This is it.

Palak Chaat is the star of the show, the dish that made Rasika famous.

The main ingredient is fried spinach, but that’s just the beginning.  Here’s a brief description, taken from an NPR article, of what comes next:

“He also makes a beautiful yellow-orange batter with gram flour, turmeric and chili powder. He pours this over the spinach, almost like a salad dressing, and lightly tosses it. Once the spinach is perfectly crispy, it gets a cascade of toppings, including roasted cumin powder, chili powder and black salt; drizzles of yogurt and tamarind chutney; and sprinkles of chopped red onion and tomatoes. The restaurant makes about 200 bowls of this a day — every other table orders it.”

The combination of ingredients makes every bite unique. This dish is a stunner, and should rank high on anyone’s try-it-before-you-die list.

Lamb Mirchi Korma

Lamb Mirchi Korma

I knew I wanted lamb for the main, so I asked my server to explain the difference between Lamb Mirchi Korma and Lamb Bengali Curry, the lamb choices on the menu. He told me that Lamb Mirchi Korma was the hotter, spicier of the two.

I like to live dangerously.

My fork-tender Lamb Mirchi Korma featured caramelized onions, Kashmiri chili, and Sichuan pepper, and came with the customary rice and naan. Delightful.

Honey Fig Ice Cream

Honey Fig Ice Cream

The honey fig ice cream palate cleanser was like the calm after a storm.