Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Look: Three Muses

Three Muses is Frenchmen Street's newest neighbor that (as the website puts it) "brings together pro­fes­sion­als in culi­nary, hos­pi­tal­ity, and music to cre­ate a chic, unique envi­ron­ment com­mit­ted to qual­ity and verve."

Right about now you are probably thinking, "This sounds like a place where everyone will be wearing a fedora except me." Trust me, don't be put off by the perceived hipster description. Three Muses draws an eclectic crowd ranging from tourists to residents of the Marigny and spans the age bracket from young Turks to retirees (and maybe even a few kids running around).

As you enter the building, a stage is perched up on the left with sun shining through the windows looking out onto Frenchmen, and a long bar runs along the left wall. Standard height tables occupy the front portion of the restaurant, but I prefer the hightop tables along the right wall, as patrons at the lower tables at times looked like they were dining on Poydras Street after a Saints victory. Menus are stocked at each table, but both food and drink orders are placed at the bar. Bartenders keep track of your tab by table number, which is also how runners know where to deliver orders from the kitchen.

Chef Dan Esses is the culinary muse in the kitchen, and while he is perhaps best known for his handmade pastas and sauce, the menu is all over the place (in a good way). We tasted 9 different dishes on our first and only visit, many of which are not listed on the current online menu. As such, it seems that the menu is still in a state of flux, but if my experience is any indication, the food will consistently impress diners.

Immediately after ordering we were served a table amuse of popcorn drizzled with what tasted like a curry flavored yogurt. Marinated olives are a very large serving for $4, but the overwhelming majority are the tiny ones as opposed to large, softer flesh olives (which are my preference). I missed the crustacean component of the lobster eggrolls (pictured), but they were still tasty with a crispy wonton shell and plenty of crunchy veggies.

Shrimp in a cup is quintet a tempura fried shrimp each placed in a single lettuce leaf and napped with a creamy pineapple sauce. The light batter of the shrimp matched perfectly with the overall dish by not weighing down or overpowering the other components, and the flavors were crispy and vibrant. Lamb sliders are a duo of medium rare burgers on a soft baked roll with goat cheese and tomato chutney with a little spice. Who doesn't love a good burger?

We sampled two pasta dishes. The crab and artichoke ravioli had a delicious filling but I would rather the pasta be boiled rather than baked/fried; the pesto cream sauce was freaking delicious. The day's special (pictured) was braised rabbit reduced to shreds in a thin but flavorful broth and placed atop Esses’ pappardelle, with a lagniappe of roasted rabbit loin. Just an excellent dish from top to bottom.

Approximately one third of the menu is devoted to vegetarian dishes. Chinese broccoli is woodsy and dressed with a thin garlic and sesame dressing. Favorite dish of the night was thickly cut grilled bread topped with plenty of roasted eggplant, dollops of housemade ricotta, and a drizzle of olive oil. If not for an underestimation of the ricotta’s salt component transferring to the eggplant, this was an almost flawless dish and one that I would still recommend. My only question is why does the $6 small order come with 2 bruschetta and the $10 large order come with 3? I’m not a doctor, but that math does not look right.

Dessert was labeled as a “banana marscapone streudel,” but the pastry reminded me more of a cannoli in a pool of buttery rum sauce and was paired with a scoop of Mexican chocolate ice cream. This was rich but not heavy, and overall a phenomenal dessert.

Three Muses really is a unique and fun dining experience, with food to match the ambience. The music is an important component of the restaurant, but the volume is not so loud that it prohibits conversation. Ordering at the bar can be a moderate hassle when the crowds are thick and every bar stool is taken, but the staff does an excellent job running food to the correct tables and picking up empty plates in an efficient manner. Not sure how many dishes to order? Not a problem because you are free to order as many or as few as you like at any pace you like. When you’re done, you can either pay at the bar or someone may bring you the check.

We will definitely be returning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I did enjoy their food for the most part. My only problem with the place was the chef and the lady who runs the front. I tried to talk to both of them one afternoon and got the brush off! PR people, PR!