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.
Lunch M-F; Dinner nightly.