Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sylvain

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hur
If I were a tourist strolling through the Quarter near dusk, stumbling upon a place like Sylvain might seem like divine intervention. Faced with a rather non-descript facade, a stroll through the long and narrow entryway opens into a small, central courtyard that is a perfect setting to share a bottle of wine and appreciate the dichotomy of how you're in the middle of all of the action of the city and yet so far from it at the same time. When the weather is too hot (which seems fast approaching), the interior dining room with tightly packed, candle-lit tables can be equally charming, especially when facing the window so as to watch the street from air-conditioned comfort.

Some say the setting is too perfect - a faux historical replica or a day late and dollar short version of the East Coast hipster trend. Those people are probably smarter than me, a person too dumb to realize what is and is not authentic, but I like the setting all the same.

The food, on the other hand, while enjoyable for the most part, seems generic. Don't get me wrong, quite a few of these dishes fell right into my wheelhouse. Roasted beet bruschetta had sweet, firm chopped beets and a thin smear of goat cheese aboard crusty, crunchy bread; one $10 order consists of a pair, so budget accordingly when sharing. Braised beef cheeks ($20) are sizable hunks of beef that hold intact until the slightest pressure of a fork breaks the beef into lipsmacking hunks. Garlic sausage is coarsley ground, and the room temperature fingerling potato salad formed a nice base with hot and crunchy cabbage on top; my only desire being that the grain mustard reduction packed a larger punch.

All of the above are good eats, but doesn't the menu read like the greatest hits from the last 5 years? It's as if someone devised a menu formula of what worked everywhere else in the restaurant scene around the country and then relocated it all in a historic New Orleans setting. And for the most part, even though I enjoyed each dish, after finishing I usually found myself thinking: "That was good, but I like the [insert similar dish] at [insert other restaurant] better."

But perhaps I am too cynical. If good is good, does it matter that it's unoriginal?

There were a few dishes that I would avoid on my next visit. The shaved brussels sprouts and apple salad was too much crunch and not enough of anything else. The Chick-Syl-vain had a perfectly fried chicken breast with dill pickles - a better replication of Chick-Fil-A, but too monotone for my tastebuds. The resident burger expert in my office (who is a tough critic as he openly admits that MVB falls short of his expectations) said that Sylvain's version has beef ground too fine and lacking flavor. I would have to agree with him - about the latter not the former.

For all of the copycat critique, Sylvain (along with previous ventures like Green Goddess) has broken the mold by offering a French Quarter option that should have been available long ago. It involves a Thursday evening after a long day at work, the welcome seclusion of the courtyard, a couple of cans of Blonde Bombshell or a bottle of prosecco, an order of fries, and a plate of pickled vegetables (cukes, mirliton, and beets). That is one dining experience that Sylvain can claim all its own.

Sylvain - Par/Birdie
625 Chartres Street
(504) 265-8123
Mon-Thur 5:30-11:00
Fri-Sat 11:30-2:30; 5:30-12:00
Sun 10:30-2:30 (Brunch); 5:30-10:00

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whats the difference between Tomasitos and Sylvain? At least, I had high expectations when I went to Sylvain. While Tomasitos may be akin to the Derotit Lions offensive line, I equate Sylvain to the Boston Red Sox....looks good on paper. There is nothing memorable about this place. Strike that, the $12 scotches in demi tasses...what a ripoff. Apparently, they serve their drinks in such "cute" small glasses because Sylvain is so small it allows the servers to maneuver appropriately and swiftly thorughout the restaurant. What a crock of horse defecation. Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. Sylvain is a dental dam...you cant taste anything but its a safe call. Sylvain, I'm bearish...short it. It's going to ZERO!

Charles said...

The porchetta poboy is really good. I add a note on the chairs in the courtyard. Although they would not look out of place ringside at a bocce court in Umbria, they are unique in the their total lack of any comfort. CharlieH

kibbles said...

their brunch is a hidden jewel...

beet bruschetta is my favorite dinner item, but is a bit high at 10 smackers.