Arnaud’s Remoulade, New Orleans.

March 2017

Quite an incongruous bizarre introduction to this unique town. We got to our hotel around 5 PM and then wandered awhile, identifying this place in the middle of the garish Bourbon Street strip in the French Quarter as a somewhat credible-looking possibility for dinner. It was in its way…

First we almost left when short pants were not permitted in the main dining room, but it turned out we were able to sit in the bistro-bar as long as we paid five dollars extra to hear the live music: a trumpeter, four-string banjo, and bass (they played mid-20th-century standards competently, nobody apparently paying any attention). An army of cheerful mostly white male servers all over 50 and all dressed in traditional black tuxedos attended courteously, offering water, the menu, advice, etc. It was a bit like a strange cartoon of a high-informal restaurant in about 1955. The space was huge and divided into several different areas.

The menu turned out to be the standard French Quarter neighbourhood New Orleans fare of shellfish done in a variety of traditional ways, and some out-of-date French classics like escargots. We weren’t starving and so ordered starters along with our bottle of pinot grigio. When I commented that the special shrimp starter (a signature dish of the house) seemed underpriced at around $11 US, and the waiter cheerfully offered to charge me double if it would make me happy. I parried by asking for a double order and was sorry I had.

The wine list was verging on world-class, suggesting there might be the odd midwest billionaire wandering around Bourbon Street in his wife beater willing to get his leg caught in the trap. A 1949 Cheval Blanc was listed at $5000. Did they have it? I asked the server. “If it’s on the list, we’ve got it” was the response.

A respectable hot baked French bread with plenty of butter arrived and we enjoyed that. Robin’s escargot in croute was predictably garlicky, buttery, and escargotty. My signature shrimp was served cold on chopped lettuce, doused in what seemed to be a fairly standard bottled hot sauce. Being a double dose there was way too much but having downed more than my share of the wine I ate the whole thing anyway. The bill was about $130 converted to Canadian.

I guess you’d find this kind of charade in pretty well any old-fashioned famous tourist trap like Fishermen’s Wharf, Champs Elysees, or Times Square. I doubt if any local has eaten in that place for 50 years, or even been anywhere near it except to work there or pull up with a load of supplies. Yet somehow there was a faux authenticity with the live music, tuxedos, and all that we found kind of cute. It was, however, at least moderately noisy.

Won’t be going back of course. Food 6.0, ambience 7.3, service 8.3, value 7.0, peace and quiet 6.8.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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