Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Favorite Restaurant

How many times have you been asked, "What is your favorite restaurant in New Orleans?" For me, it is a query I receive at least once a week. I am hesitant to ever declare any restaurant my favorite. Too many healthy differences exist between cuisines, styles of cooking, and restaurants to have a favorite. But if I did pick a favorite a restaurant it would look at lot like this.

My favorite restaurant would be Uptown, preferably on a busy corner. The building would have an interesting history, maybe it would be the site of a few failed restaurants. There would be a long bar anchoring half of the room and pressed tin ceilings. The bar would have the requisite knowledge to make fantastic classic cocktails, as well as the innovative spirit to stay on top of trends. A barrel aged martini would be a good example of the expertise of the bar, turning the robust floral notes of genever into cinnamon and spice and everything nice.

Something to snack on from the kitchen might come out while enjoying a cocktail. On a recent visit it would be cracklins as light and airy as children's whispers, the size of half footballs, and painted with honey and hot sauce. Bar food, gentrified and made delicious. 

The kitchen would showcase originality without quirkiness. Perhaps on one visit, the upstairs would be turned into a lascivious den of fried chicken. The crust of the chicken would crack under pressure sending chicken skin shrapnel tumbling down your chin. The meat would be brined and seasoned through. Tart pickled shrimp, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and collards would provide all the comforts of home executed much better. Stealing the show that summer evening would be a simple salad of watermelon tossed with scallions and sea beans. No award exists by a major sparkling water company for this type of cooking, but there should be.

My favorite restaurant would also know how to do more than just craft house made charcuterie. They would take blood sausage and pair it with caramelized onion broth and a confetti of apple and cheddar turning each bite into a fall symphony. At times the kitchen would seem to be daring you try a dish, so there would be a lamb heart appetizer. Take the challenge and you are rewarded with thin, tender grilled segments of lamb on steroids adorned with crispy, bright pickled vegetables.

Still the kitchen keeps pushing you, so there may be a pasta course which makes no sense on paper. Brussel sprouts, fried chicken, cavatelli, and butternut squash sounds like a post-Thanksgiving midnight fridge raid, it tastes even better. Scallops ride on the wings of the god smoked pork, the pork coaxing out the sweet, meatiness of an oceangoing vessel. Pork loin is sliced and served as it should be with a rosy interior and cracker crisp crust. Set atop grits punctuated with fresh kernels of corn this is about as good as eating gets.

My favorite restaurant would realize dessert is just as important. So there would be apple fritters that put beignets to shame. There would be a chocolate tart as dark as midnight. Blueberries and Vacherin become a ballet orchestrated by a small scoop of lemon sorbet. All of this would be overseen by a smart, young staff which knows the menu, but also understand how to let a night out develop on its own.

I don't have a favorite restaurant, but if I did it would look an awfully lot like Coquette.

Coquette- Eagle
2800 Magazine St.


Nora said...

Oh, hell yes!

Andy said...

I'm lucky to have eaten in great restaurants all around the world. Michelin star restaurants, with pedigrees and fame.

But every meal I've ever had at Coquette is my favorite meal. I can name every dish I've ever ordered there, and most of the cocktails. It is easily my favorite restaurant in the world.

And I live around the corner.

Rohan2Reed said...

Last fall when I first went to Coquette I left rather unimpressed, but I have been three times in the past couple of months and they have been absolutely killing it. That blood sausage dish is phenomenal and the pork is so melt in your mouth it defies logic. And the salmon tartare I had last time I was there was on point. You're right about the staff too .. they are professional yet casual at the same time and know when to get out of the way. Wines turnover frequently along with the food which is fantastic. Probably the best place to eat on Magazine right now, and that's saying something.