Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Goal of a Restaurant

Dinners at Brigtsen's have often been compared to dining at grandmother's house, for a number of reasons. First, the building that houses Brigtsen's was likely at one point someone's grandmother's house.  Secondly, the service staff is auntly and kind, a far cry and improvement over the recent trend in service. As you may have noticed, some servers are now cooler than you. You, the guest, with your non-gelled hair and lack of visible tattoos celebrating the turnip are simply another square. A square who would never understand the chef's vision of combining Nietzsche's teachings with his take on a Caesar salad.

Not so at Brigtsen's. Where you are first taken under the wing of Frank's wife, Marna, who will guide you to your table and take a drink order. She is happy to see you and you her. From here until you leave you are under the watchful and caring eye of people who are understand the concept of service and hospitality. It is a welcome and restorative feeling, be it at grandmother's or Brigtsen's.

Sazerac in hand, next comes hot loaves of French bread and cold, spreadable butter. A menu that hasn't changed much in years showcases the bounty of the biology of this fair region. There is duck, oysters, shrimp, crab, fish, and pork in various incarnations. It is best to start with thick slabs of duck and pistachio pate sliced and stacked in between crisp rounds of crouton. Alongside are the traditional accouterments, but do not miss the red onion marmalade. A bottle of J Rose, does admirably in a pinch, here and with the next course.

A muddy brown bowl of rabbit and andouille and gumbo arrives, the roux piercing through the stock with it's just on the uncooked side of burned sharpness. The gumbo is chock full of tender rabbit and fiery andouille and crowned by a tangle of white rice. The gumbo showcases the braun and masculinity of the cooking at Brigtsen's; food made to pair with duck camps and Bourbon fueled storytelling. The butternut and shrimp bisque is the opposite end of that spectrum. A sublime, feminine soup, equally as delicious, built for midday refuels in between shopping stops.

It would do you good to switch to a wine with some grit and heft. The E. Guigal Gigondas is a perfect wine for the entrees to come. For me, that happened to be a thick pork chop served with not only with whipped sweet potatoes, but dirty rice, greens, and pork debris jus. The plating will remind you of Thanksgiving and piling as many things onto your plate as possible. It is a beautiful and all too seldom way of eating. One qualm though, that pork debris sauce needs half the salt and twice the pork debris.

Lindsay's entree was equally festive. Brigtsen's famed Shell Beach Diet culls six different seafoods - scallops, oysters, drum, shrimp - with different sauces and preparations. The result is a happy mess of six courses on a plate. A great choice for the dining companion who can never make up their mind as to what to order. "I should have held back on appetizers, and just ordered this for my whole meal. I would have had the scallop first, then the shrimp corn bread, or maybe the oyster Bienville first. I don't know I can't decide," Lindsay said.

Attention would be restaurant owners. Before you open your mold breaking, never been seen before restaurant, take a trip to Brigtsen's. Notice that feeling of relaxation and contentment at the end of the meal. That is the ultimate goal of a restaurant. And one that Brigtsen's performs better than anyone else in the city.

Brigtsen's -Eagle.
Dinner Tuesday-Saturday
723 Dante Street


Kimberly Ranjbar said...

That sounds absolutely divine. :) I have to get over there!

Katherine said...

What a spot-on review, especially regarding the service. Brigtsen's was the first place we dined at when we came back in January '06 after Katrina, and I'll never forget how our waitress gave each of us a hug right when we walked in the door. It's always felt like home.

Jeff Abbott said...

I now want to eat here the next time I'm in New Orleans. thank you for the review. I know what you mean about the too-hip servers, and I find them condescending.

Rene said...

Happy to join you, Jeff. One of the things that most aggravates me about restaurants is the forgetfulness that it is the service industry. The difference between eating and dining is service, plain and simple. Some places get it, some do not.

Nora said...

Hooray! I wholeheartedly endorse this review of Brigtsen's. It's Tom's favorite restaurant hands down and is consistently wonderful.

Anonymous said...

it's good, but too many dishes make use of the same exact sides, which is weak.