Thursday, July 15, 2010

Short Order Review: Brigtsen's and Dine Out Tonight

Frank Brigtsen can cook. Brigtsen's cooking is not the refined technicality of Le Foret or the whimiscal creationism of Stella! You won't find any dishes celebrating the simplicity of a fig or crowned with a micro green emulsion. Brigtsen's cooking is a textbook example of what was haute cuisine fifteen years ago. I had originally held that against him and as a result never visited until two weeks ago. Boy, was that a mistake.

What I found was that the food coming out of his kitchen is some of the best in New Orleans. Brigtsen's cooking reaffirmed that dining out is supposed to be fun, enjoyable, and above all else, an experience. Where other restaurants may dial back the flavor or remove a component, Brigtsen adds to a dish.

Witness his shrimp remoulade with its perfectly poached shrimp resting on top of spice laden cold corn relish. A creamy and well-seasoned guacamole ties the the two elements together. And just to gild the lily, 5 deviled eggs ring the plate. A chef in a newer restaurant would have chopped that dish into 4 or more separate "tapas." At Brigtsen's it all gets served together and with a splendid result.

This is lusty, full on cooking with nothing held back. His sweetbreads, rich as they are, join forces with a leek and potato cake before being crowned with mushrooms. The accompanying sauce zings with enough acidity and complexity to make you hoard the plate. Or try the veal with its crisp crust loaded with spices and (more importantly) salt. It is served alongside grits laced with fontina cheese and an osso bucco sauce. I can't wait to come back here on a cold January night and eat heartily.

The tuna dish is a journey through the Caribbean, of which New Orleans is the crown jewel. Tuna pulled from the Gulf of Mexico is blackened in a nod to Brigtsen's mentor Paul Prudhomme and gets just rewards with a smoked corn sauce, red bean salsa, and fiery, pepper laced sour cream. It's cooking like this that makes sushi look lazy.

When you walk into the Brigtsen's cottage in the Riverbend, you immediately sense that you are dining at a friend's house. That friend removed all the furniture and crammed tables into every nook and cranny while employing every cook and nanny in the household to serve as staff. Drinks and wine arrive quickly; as do the fresh loaves of french bread. Service is relaxed but maybe a little informal given the price points. For instance, both with our appetizers and entrees, Lindsay's dish arrived about five minutes prior to mine. But with food this good, a bottle of Robert Foley Charbono, and a vibe this comforting, who cares?

Preliminary Assessment Only

Brigtsen's-Birdie on the Fine Dining 18th.

Dining Out For Life, Tonight

It's Thursday. For us, its pay day (for real jobs not this fake ass non-paying gig). You don't feel like cooking, do you? Besides no reason to make the temperature inside your house match that of the exterior. So go eat out tonight and support the NO/Aids Task Force. All you have to do is dine at one of the over 60 restaurants participating, and they will donate 25% of your check to the NO/Aids Task Force. For more info and a list of participating restaurants check out their website.

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