Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Emeril's: Is It Worth It?

New Orleans is restaurant obsessed with the very old and the very new, but we aren't too keen on the newly old or the older new restaurant. This is a shame because one of the city's best restaurants does not get nearly the local love that it should. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you went to Emeril's? Ok, now when was the last time you had a beyond lackluster, expensive meal at one of the city's grand dames or new gastrotapas spots?

Emeril's turned twenty-two years old this year and is showing no signs of being a lazy, jobless college graduate. Prices have remained a downright bargain by fine dining standards with appetizers hovering around ten dollars and entrees in the high twenties. The front of the house's youthful exuberance syncs with the menu's mix of classic dishes and new favorites. The smart staff has your best interest in mind, which is an attitude other restaurants should note. Witness a downsell (!) on a bottle of wine, "That one is not drinking very well right now. I'd go with the Radio-Coteau Alberigi, plus it is a better value."

Our first course was the only one with a slight bummer. A mussel dish's description of an Asian ingredient infused broth was bland. Too bad, as the plump mussels were perfectly cooked and a shot of heat would have been most welcome. On the other hand, Shrimp Louis was as spectacular an excuse to eat lettuce as any reason in the city. Halfway between a remoulade and a salad, the dressing had an undercurrent of truffle which tied together the chopped egg and asparagus. The petite dice of bacon were a left-hook of flavor from a welterweight, elevating the dish to a heft rarely seen in the salad kingdom. 

Next up a pasta course that would have inspired the ancients into song. Thick, double-helixed strands of tender pasta draped in a white bolognese made with lamb, veal, and pancetta and topped with a shaving of truffle. This dish will haunt your dreams making you wish for one more bite of the silken sauce. 

The kitchen shows a deft hand with scallops. Marked with a sturdy crust and a sweet interior, this must be what would happen if the sea decided to churn butter. Coarse ground rice grits hold a palette of flavors. Chunks of shrimp, mushrooms, and watercress bring a sophistication to the Low Country's most famous export. The braised veal breast is hearty and smoky. The kind of dish you want to eat before retiring in front of a fire to drink bourbon. To keep the dish light enough to do so, a mango chow chow cuts through the richness.

Dessert was a wedge of peanut butter and chocolate gilded with caramel and sitting atop an Oreo crust. Throughout the meal, service remained sharp with a fleet of waiters, captains, and backwaiters moving briskly through the dining room. The handsome dining room is a spot to see and be seen as plaintiff's attorneys mingle with publishers. There are young families and couples celebrating an anniversary with a Jeroboam of Champagne. Laughter peels through the room like the end of school bell. "We haven't had a meal this good this year in New Orleans in a long time," Lindsay mentioned on the way out.

Truth be told we didn't want to leave.

Emeril's: Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
800 Tchoupitoulas St.
(504) 528-9393
Lunch M-F; Dinner nightly. 


Kevin said...

Emeril's is a place where they could make just as much money by not being good, but I've never had anything less than an excellent experience there. Lagasse should be commended for keeping up the quality.

A couple of times I've recommended it to visitors and got groans, because they figure a celebrity chef of that vintage would have long ago abandoned any quality control at his restaurant. It's a shame. I'd put it in the top 10 restaurants in the city.

Gris Gris said...

It's one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Every meal I've had there has been delicious. I love the atmosphere. It's uplifting and high energy. It's a shame that people downplay it as a celebrity owned restaurant or because they don't like the "bam!" thing. The food is bam worthy every time.

Anonymous said...

The Duck Wings are the tits. They should sell them out the back during football season. Best restaurant energy/enviroment in the city.

Anonymous said...

How was the RC? I haven't had any in a few years.

Rene said...

Anon #2,

Fantastic. Really was the perfect wine to go with the heft of the veal and the sweetness of the scallops.