Monday, February 28, 2011

Mr. John's

As many of you already know, the etymology of "carnival" roughly translates as "farewell to meat." This comes as no surprise to most locals, whose study in linguisitics is simplified by the customary knowledge that when Lent rolls around, we turn our taste buds toward boiled crawfish and fried shrimp instead of roast beef po-boys and muffulettas. Last year, in honor of the carnival season, we authored a series of blog entries which asked locals the question: "What would be your last bite of meat before Lent?"

This year, we fell victim to laziness, and therefore the "Farewell to Meat" series is on hiatus until 2012. But I could not let the Carnival season pass by without scribbling a few words about steak.

Several of my co-workers have been singing the praises of Mr. John's Steakhouse for quite a while, proclaiming that I must visit taste what they proclaimed to be the best steak in New Orleans. After my lone visit two weeks ago, I can't say that Mr. John's serves the #1 steak in the city, but it's Italian side of the menu deserved equal if not more recognition.

The restaurant is masculine, but in an old school Italian manner. The wall in the entryway is covered with framed and signed photographs, while the main dining room is dark and loud with sound echoing off the black and white tiled floor. The service is young, male, and professional. The wine list is surprisingly affordable for a steakhouse, with plenty of bottles under $60.

Meals begin with a basket of light, crisp, and buttery toasts of french bread. Do not forego the eggplant parmesan ($9), which is presented as a cube of thinly sliced paneed eggplant stacked intermittently with layers of mozzarella cheese and covered in a smooth marinara enriched with cream. When Lent rolls around, my default Friday dinner may be 10 orders of the dish. The house salad ($9) is a nice mix of greens, grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and shaved parmesan tossed with a red wine vinaigrette, with the only missing ingredient being a sprinkle of salt. The opposite was true though with the French onion soup, whose scalding hot base had been salted to an overkill.

The waiter touted the prime New York strip ($37) as the house specialty, and I took his advice even though I prefer the tenderness of a ribeye. The massive slab of beef arrived on a plate so sizzling hot that I could have used a bib to protect against the melting butter splattering off the plate. I can't deny the tastiness of the beef or the precise execution of the warm-pink, medium-rare center. But the strip is just not my cut of beef.

The Folk Singer out did me again with her Veal Alyssa ($26). whose duo of baby veal cutlets were pounded so thin that only the slight pressure from a fork was necessary to cut individual bites. The white wine, lemon, caper, and butter sauce draped over the veal was lipsmacking delicious, and the small tangle of fettucini was lightly tossed in a minimalist alfredo sauce that consisted of not much more than butter and parmesan with a slight touch of cream.

Midway through the meal, The Folk Singer passed me her plate for a taste, and I promptly polished off every last morsel of veal and drop of sauce. It was not until our way home that she said, "You know I just realized that I wasn't finished with my dinner when I handed you my plate. But you didn't seem too concerned with whether or not I wanted any more."

"Sorry," I said. "Do you want to go back tomorrow night? I'm craving that eggplant parmesan."

Mr. John's Steakhouse - Birdie/Eagle
2111 St. Charles Avenue
(504) 679-7697
Dinner Tues-Sat; Lunch Fridays


BBD said...

A little recognition would be appreciated on the suggestion for the eggplant parmesean.

Anonymous said...

Never been a fan of a strip steak, no matter how much it is talked up by a server.

kibbles said...

their filet is where it's at. im hard pressed to name a superior... Morton's, perhaps, but i give the nod to MJ for being local. plus the sizzling chive-butter plate, the sauteed mushroom, the italian...