Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gabrielle: Is It Worth It?

Grilled drum with Rockefeller dressing, fried oysters, and lemon beurre blanc at Gabrielle.


If Ned Stark were to glance through an ancestral book detailing a particular branch of cooking in New Orleans, it might sound something like this: "Paul Prudhomme, familiar ingredients, well-developed techniques, bold flavors, sensible combinations that evoke a sense of place...Frank Brigtsen, familiar ingredients, well-developed techniques, bold flavors, sensible combinations that evoke a sense of place...Greg Sonnier, familiar ingredients, well-developed techniques, bold flavors, sensible combinations that evoke a sense of place."

Greg and Mary Sonnier both came up working for Paul Prudhomme in the Hall and Oates visited kitchen at K-Pau's. Greg went on to help open Brigtsen's, before the husband and wife teamed up to open Gabrielle. For years, Gabrielle was a successful, well-lauded restaurant on Esplanade Ave. just a few steps from the Fair Grounds. The food at Gabrielle always displayed some of the hallmarks of both Paul and Frank's cooking, but with a distinctly French twist. Gabrielle racked up awards, honors, and pedigrees. Cue the federal flood and the Sonniers purchase of the Uptowner on Henry Clay. What has followed is a continuous dispute about just what the Sonniers bought. It has been a dispute the Lannisters and Starks would find absurd.

But no worries, Gabrielle is back at the Uptowner. Just follow this simple rule. The only rule of Gabrielle is it is not a restaurant. Got that? You are going to eat a reception hall so reservations must be made prior to sitting down. You will need to contract with the Uptowner to rent a table for your party. Be it a table for one or one hundred. When in doubt, remember the rule of Gabrielle.

Once all that is done, you can get down to eating. First to arrive at our table was a bowl of gumbo which is belongs more to the barbecue world than Acadiana. A smoky chicken carcass, and often a smoked stock, create a broth with the viscosity and complexity of a barbecue sauce. Close your eyes as you take a bite of the rich potion and you might just find yourself dreaming of outdoor cookouts and platters piled high with juicy BBQ chicken and crispy links of sausage. 

The boudandouille is a play on sausage en croute with the two most popular sausages of Southwest Louisiana stuffed into a pastry shell. Served with a lavender laced mustard and caramelized onions, the dish failed to assert any one true identity. A much better use of your appetite is with an order of the Oysters Gabie. Traditional baked oysters get a welcome upgrade from a lemony artichoke base. A crispy topping of bread crumbs creates a succulent cocoon for the oysters just to warm up to the idea of being eaten. 

Imagine yourself at a duck camp. It is late at night, perhaps the second bottle of bourbon has been breached. People are getting hungry, stories being swamped. Wandering into the kitchen you may find the detritus of some leftover roasted duck, some duck skin, and gravy. In the freezer are some fries. You put two and two together and end up with take on debris fries. Gabrielle elevates that idea with rich duck, crispy duck skin, shoestring, hand cut fries, mushrooms and an orange jolted jus with incredible results.

Or you could go with the plank of drum lightly blackened and served atop an Herbsaint laced spinach dressing. Riding shotgun is a plate of fried oysters. It will become hard to tell where Oysters Rockefeller ends and Blackened Redfish begins. There in all its glorious history is reference to two of the iconic dishes of New Orleans's restaurants. Dishes that went all the way around the world, and yet settle here, harmoniously. But eat the oysters tout suite lest they wilt. 

Polish all of this off with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and a heaping dessert of berries and tender shortcake gilded with a creamy, vanilla topping. On the way out, popping your had into the kitchen will reveal Greg working as expediter, saute, grill, and fry cook. He will be moving furiously but smiling at the opportunity to once again cook his food for people. That sight alone is worth the trip.

Gabrielle: Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
438 Henry Clay Avenue
Dinner is served Thursday - Saturday. Call 899-6500 for a reservation.


Nora said...

Sweet Fancy Moses, this is definitely On The List!

willifred said...

Apparently there is a God......about time

The Beer Buddha said...

Smart way to open up shop!! Good for them!



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