James Tissot "La Partie carrée"
NEW ORLEANS, PART TWO
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
from the Brewery
By John Mariani
The French Quarter, New Orleans
2900 Chartres Street
The most exciting new restaurant in New Orleans, located just next to the French Quarter in a gentrifying neighborhood called Bywater, is Mariza, where Chef Ian Schnoebelen and Laurie Casebonne have fitted impeccably into a new apartment building carved out of an old rice plant by developers TJ Iarocci and Sean Cummings, retaining as much of the industrial look of concrete and cement walls, tall ceilings, and old woodwork as possible. The dining room echoes that design both in the bar and dining room and smaller eating room off to the side. However, way too many tables and chairs are counter height, more appropriate to a wine bar than a serious restaurant, and I hope someone just takes a handsaw to the legs and brings them down to dining level.
Schnoebelen and his wife Laurie (right, seated at the right) fell in love with Venetian seafood, and the Crescent City is not unlike Venice in its curving waterways and access to the sea. There's a raw bar here, and you see homage to Venetian cuisine in dishes like squid ink linguine with crab, shrimp and mussels and seafood carpaccios, and since there is now a pizzeria on every block of Venice, there's no harm in serving a couple as good as those at Mariza.
The pasta dishes may be gussied up with slices of bread (starch on starch?) but they are truly delicious, not least the duck ragôut [sic] pappardelle with smoked duck breast and liver mousse, and the potato gnocchi with kale and ricotta.
Goat's milk ricotta is also added to the standout bruschetta with kale and balsamico, and the pepperoni soup with salame and Gorgonzola is easily one of my favorite dishes of the year. A simply grilled fish with a fennel salad and lemon vinaigrette could not have been more expertly cooked. For dessert go with the chocolate terrine with sea salt and candied blood orange.
The wine list might be a bit larger--just 40 selections now--but they are well priced, with plenty of bottlings under $40.
Mariza adds measurably to a developing neighborhood and serves as a beacon for what's to follow.
Mariza is open for dinner Tues. Sat. Starters run $6-$10, main courses $12-$20.
dominique's ON MAGAZINE
4213 Magazine Street
The overnight demise in 2012 after only a few months in operation of the first restaurant by this name caused many to wonder just what had happened to a place that seemed to do booming business. Whatever the cause, Dominique Macquet, the Mauritius-born chef who first lent his name to a restaurant in New Orleans a decade ago and fled to Houston after Hurricane Katrina, has returned to the river city he loves and, with new investors, opened a larger, 200-seat version of Dominique's in an old fire station on Magazine Street. It's been a smash hit since opening this spring, and although it's a pricey cab ride out here, tourists have found it well worth the time and money.
Except for the high ceilings, there's not much more to remind you this was once a 1909 fire station. Indeed, it's just about the most modern, classiest place to open in town in years. Excellent lighting and soft colors, mixed with wall art and, to the rear, potted plants in the patio section, make it very. very comfortable, and the staff is well trained to attend to the rush that begins by seven o'clock.
The 180-label wine list is substantial and globally mixed. Cocktails--always a requisite in New Orleans--are well wrought.
Macquet's handling of tropical spicing has always been key to his cuisine, and it's good to see he has brought back many of the dishes that were hits on his former menus. Start off with sautéed sweetbreads with pommes puree and a dash of chimichurri--yes, it is an appetizer but the portion is just right. Seared shrimp remoulade--a dish everyone in town does--is given life here with the nuances of crispy kohlrabi and oven-dried tomatoes in the sauce, with a hint of mint oil in the background. The lobster and celeriac salad with fennel, basil aïoli and lime oil is distinctively Macquet, as is the entree of seared wild conch with peas and rice, whitewater clams nage, coconut-tamarind chutney and green mango relish--a dish you only wish were made this well anywhere in the Caribbean.
Among meat dishes the grilled lamb t-bone is amazing, with basil-mint pommes puree, cracklings and a hot harissa sauce. Grilled wagyu-style beef coulette (albeit from Nebraska) is a good choice, especially at only $26. It's stuffed with Creole cream cheese and accompanied by cream peas, watercress, carrot flan and red wine jus. That same beef goes into Macquet's spaghetti and meatballs with over-dried tomatoes, veal jus and shaved piave cheese--good and substantial and a dish no one will allow him to take off the menu.
There's no decrease in fine taste with dessert here, led by goat's cheese cake and honey, and a terrific almond nougatine.
I'm glad Dominique's is back, bigger and better than ever, and trust he will be so for a long long time.
Dominique's is open for dinner Tues.-Sat. and for Sunday brunch. Prices for starters run $8-$10, entrees $22-$26.
For three decades, restaurants run by the Brennan family, including Mr. B’s Bistro, The Bourbon House, Palace Café, and others, have regularly made Esquire’s list. This year, sisters Ti and Lally Brennan, who also run the revered Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide, have returned to the post-Katrina French Quarter to open SoBou (South of Bourbon Street), where Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez brings bar food to a taste level I just have never encountered before, like jarred blue crab mousse with ghost pepper caviar; duck “debris” and butternut beignets napped with a foie gras fondue and chicory ganache; Cajun andouille sausage and tasso ham meatballs; and cherries jubilee bread pudding laced with brandy. Add to all that, one great bar with one smart, sassy bartender, Abigail Gullo, serving rigorously classic and brashly innovative cocktails, and you have what the Brennans call a “Modern Creole Saloon.” Oh, hell, let Ti tell you about it:
“Katrina is something we tried to put behind us as quickly as possible and not dwell on it. But you do not forget times like that. Katrina did make us want to come back stronger and say, `let’s show the world that, contrary to popular myth, we are roaring back to life.’
“It took us two years to build SoBou. When you open up walls and floors in the French Quarter, huh, you find interesting things. There was one wall where a worker touched a pipe that literally crumbled in his bare hand.
“With SoBou we wanted to re-capture the atmosphere of the Old Absinthe House, the drinks place where we Brennans began in 1943, but with a modern edge. Y’know, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are singing, there are only people you love at the bar, and there are no hangovers at the saloon in the sky? So for us, while the food will always be center stage, the cocktails are stage right and the wine is stage left.
“We serve Louisiana street food,
inspired small plates, along with Juan Carlos’s Puerto
Rican street food, but `Creolized’ for us. Around here
we all remember going fishing and stopping at a gas
station where the guy had two ice-chests behind the
counter. One with bait and one with the best boudin
you ever ate. I don’t know how we didn’t all die.
Well, I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you, and I
need to go celebrate anyway!”
SoBou is open for breakfast,
lunch and dinner daily. Small dishes $7-$12,
large dishes $17-$20.
777 Bienville Street
The partnering of
The Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans with two of
America's most notable chefs, John Folse and Rick
Tramonto, was cause to rejoice in New Orleans for
months before their restaurant R'evolution opened last
June. While Folse is one of the true authorities
on Creole and Cajun cuisine and a restaurateur, food
producer, and author, while Tramonto set sail on his
own culinary career as one of Chicago's most
innovative chefs, at Tru. The combination, together
with loads of money poured into the huge premises,
shows that grandeur is not dead and ambition on a
large scale still flourishes.
is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and for dinner nightly.
Appetizers run $10-$26, main courses $22-$48.
THE RELIGION OF Galatoire's
209 Bourbon Street
was not always a fan of Galatoire’s, for there was a
long period in its 108-year old history when the
food was merely mediocre.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
1032 Lexington Avenue (at 74th Street)
For reasons not difficult to discern in the NYC food media, restaurants on the Upper East Side get pounded more for their clientele than their food. Critics seem to love nothing more than to shower praise on cramped, inhospitable eateries in Red Hook and on the Lower East Side while raining down scorn on UES restaurants with a sure degree of posh and a guest list teeming with the kind of people for whom a $10 million condo is merely a pied-à-terre. So, what did Arlington Club expect when it tacked "Club" onto its name, suggesting that it seeks only a exclusive breed of affluents for whom steak and a baked potato is more than enough choice and where pricey Martinis are ordered by the round?
Then, Arlington is owned by the people who run the monster Asian lounge/restaurant Tao in NYC and Vegas, so dropping several hundred dollars per person is almost de rigueur in such places. What the Tao Group did do in the kitchen was to install star chef Laurent Tourondel, formerly of the BLT steakhouse chain. Tourondel has a lot of cred in NYC, so the assumption was that he could draw more than the fleeting UES crowd it got right out of the chute. For the time being, that crowd is still jammed tight at the bar, well dressed, loud, and given to barking things like, "Well, hell, that's why you're such a good lawyer!' and "We're opening the Hamptons house early this year." This creates, of course, a pecking order that the front desk of lovely young women is hardly able to handle, so waits even for a reserved table can go on and on and on.
Still, when you sit down you will be well treated by a hospitable staff and begin to peruse a menu that is largely steakhouse fare with some sushi thrown in. Cordial hospitality has rarely been a hallmark of most NYC steakhouses, which play a much brasher form of favoritism than can be sensed at Arlington Club. We were first shown upstairs to the mezzanine, which is very beautiful and comfortable, then, when Tourondel spotted me, he insisted we have a big booth downstairs-- The noise, however, was fearful when we got there, already tamped down from Day One. Surprise, surprise! At the next booth were food writers from Vogue, New York Magazine, and the restaurant's meat supplier; across the room were the food critics from GQ and Time Out--talk about pressure on a chef and kitchen!
And then there are Tourondel's popovers (left): if any food item has ever been perfected by man, these huge, puffed-up, crispy, riddled with three kinds of cheese are one. They are irresistible, wholly decadent, and one is never enough. For a Frenchman who probably never saw a popover till he got to NYC, he has certainly trumped all others in this Anglo-American classic.
Steak and sushi is hardly a novel idea, but the surf-and-turf go well enough together. It's not the best sushi in town, but it's well done and abundantly proportioned. The yellowtail with jalapeno is particularly good. The beefsteak tomatoes--if in season--will make a good salad, lavished with Stilton cheese, and the jumbo crab cakes live up to their billing.
The roasted chicken is everything you could want in that ubiquitous dish, accompanied by good shoestring potatoes. Colorado lamb chops are big, full-flavored and braised with a parmesan crust, while the Dover sole is as fat and sweet as that fish can possibly be, swimming in butter with preserved lemon.
When it comes to the beef, there’s no sense debating the provenance or aging, since Tourondel has never served any but the best. The steaks are slipped under a 1,200-degree broiler, allowed to rest, then quickly re-seared. Given the quality here, these steaks are certainly not out of line price-wise with competitors around town, though the 34 ounce côte de boeuf—a massive, beautiful cut—is up there at $130. The quirk is, it’s listed as serving two people, but believe me, three will easily be sated on this dish and you might even take some home. (For the record, the much-ballyhooed côte de bouef at Minetta Tavern is $140.)
What about apps and sides? They are sumptuous, from Gouda-rich mac-and-cheese to luscious truffled gnocchi (think butter, cream, cheese). The house fries have been perfected and they come out hot and stay that way, and the creamed spinach is excellent.
You won't need dessert but go ahead and order the crêpe soufflé for the table. Everyone will happy you did.
So, if you don’t wish to make the ride for a 3 PM reservation at Luger’s in Brooklyn or endure the embarrassment of being snubbed at Spark’s, Arlington Club is one of the best steakhouses in the city right now. And if the crowd somehow makes you antsy, sit upstairs and just enjoy yourselves.
Arlington Club is open for dinner nightly, for brunch Sat. & Sun. Appetizers $14-$26, main courses $26-$59.
NOTES FROM THE BREWERIES
Savvy public gets crafty about beer
by Mort Hochstein
the first day of February, thousands of beer lovers
camped out on the
streets of downtown Santa Rosa, CA, waiting to plunk
down $4.50 for a 10-ounce pour of Pliny the Younger, a
triple IPA (India Pale Ale) available for only two
weeks each year. Some stood in line as long as six
hours to sample the coveted quaff from a pub operated
River Brewing, producer of Pliny the Younger, Pliny
the Elder and a dozen other capriciously christened
beers. For three days this October, about
will jam the Convention Center in Denver for the 32nd annual
Great American Beer Festival. The event,
which has sold out for the past five years, is
expected to attract 50,000 beer fans who will have
their choice of 2,000 offerings from some
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