Notes from New Orleans: Atchafalaya, Broussard's, Mena's Palace and Tableau

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Atchafalaya dining room

Some dining notes from a recent trip to New Orleans

Atchafalaya



You’ll find some wonderful Cajun and creole cuisine at this small corner restaurant in a neighborhood setting, but you’ll have to get past the host stand first. That’s not as easy as it should be.

My companion and I stopped in for brunch on Sunday and were both impressed with the food of chef Jacob Cureton.

Atchafalaya tomatoes

We started with an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes, which were the best FGT I’ve had in quite a while. The firm tomatoes were jacketed in a crisply fried, well seasoned breading, drizzled with remoulade and accompanied by simple, sweet crabmeat.

Atchafalaya eggs

For my main I had Eggs Treme, poached eggs with boudin sausage on French bread accompanied by breaded and friend crawfish.

Atchafalaya omelet

My friend had the Etouffee Omelette, made with a blond roux and dotted with cubes of tasso and chunks of crawfish, it sufficiently smothered the fluffy omelet underneath.

Atchafalaya sazerac

Almost as good as the food was the sazerac cocktail I sipped throughout my meal. That’s because it was made with rye that had been infused with duck fat, which gave it a wonderfully rounded mouthfeel.

One of the bartenders explained how he used the rendered fat supplied by the chef to infuse the rye over several days. I can’t wait to try it myself — just have to get myself some ducks to cook off first.

We had a pleasant chat with the bartenders because that’s where we ended up sitting, but not after an artificially long wait.

We arrived ahead of our 2 o’clock reservation and were told by one of three hosts at the front door that they would not be able to seat us early. That’s fine. We stood in the very small and very cramped space in front of the bar, which is also where the band was playing. It may have looked like we were dancing but we were just jostling to move out of the way of the staff and the customers going to the bloody mary bar (which featured green tomatillo juice).

Then two seats opened at the bar. We asked the host if we could sit there — we love dining at the bar. Sorry, he told us. It’s reserved.

Then two more seats opened up. Then, soon, all six stools at the bar were empty. No one was being seated there. Finally, one of the bartenders told us to take a seat, saying he would tell the host.

And this is what we learned at the end of our meal. It was the last day for the two bartenders. One was leaving to go to New York and the other was going to work at Ted Brennan’s Decatur restaurant, which will open this summer in the French Quarter (with Lazone Randolph, former executive chef at Brennan’s, in the kitchen).

I’d hate to think that the hosts were keeping the seats vacant just to spite the two departing employees and keep them from earning some final tips. Especially at the inconvenience of all of the customers who were also waiting for a table.

Atchafalaya is in a corner building that at one time was a grocery in a neighborhood known as Irish Channel, just a couple of blocks from the newly popular Magazine Street. It’s more casual than I expected it to be, but still has a pleasantly upscale casual vibe.

I hope it finds some good new bartenders.

Details at he Atchafalaya website.


Broussard’s

Broussard room

The most exciting thing about our meal at Broussard’s, one of the old-school French Quarter restaurants in the vein of Brennan’s and Arnaud’s, was the rat on the patio outside the window. Its presence was announced by a woman at a nearby table in the relatively drab side room.

Unfortunately, a wedding rehearsal dinner party had booked the entire front and much more elegant dining room.

There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the meal, it just wasn’t very noteworthy.

Broussard gratinee

Crabmeat Gratinée was served hot and creamy with a few cauliflower florets curiously on the plate. Candied Pork Belly, drizzled with cane syrup, was ho-hum.

Broussard duck

My Black Drum Rosalie was a very nice piece of fish with a crumb crust seasoned with rosemary and mustard. My companion’s Duck a l’Orange was perfectly fine.

Service was officious and aloof.

Broussard’s needs something to stir things up a bit. Ratatouille, perhaps.


Revisits to Mena’s Palace and Tableau

Mena palace

Had solid food, as always, from Mena’s Palace, a fun place to pop into for breakfast. Classic Jambalaya and an omelet with buttery grits, served in a bustling diner atmosphere.

Tableau oysters

And I continue to enjoy Tableau, the oversized restaurant near Jackson Square. We had crisp Fried Oysters and a richly rouxed Gumbo, served with crusty French bread. Say what you will about the Brennan family — this one is owned by Dickie — you know when you dine in one of their restaurants you’ll experience not only delicious food but gracious service, unforced or pretentious.