August, New Orleans.

March 2017.

We are pretty sure this restaurant is the haute cuisine pinnacle in this strangely low-class touristic town with its emphasis on Bourbon Street bars frequented by construction workers in below-the-knee cargo pants and wife-beaters. It’s located in the downtown business district which at street level resembles small-town British Columbia.

There are four rooms, a dark-wood bar with fancy detail, a bright front dining room with awkward 1970s exposed brick, another dark-wood dining room open vertically to an extensive wine storage above, and a smaller dining room with big windows. Apart from the exposed brick everything is credible old-fashioned high-class in tone. We were directed indifferently into the bar arriving 10 minutes early, but then taken graciously to one of the five tables in the darker second dining room. A server took Robin’s white napkin away and gave her a black one, apparently because she was wearing a black skirt.

Our main server was an unassuming confident polite girl who immediately admitted she didn’t know much about the wine. The list covered many pages but I noticed there was nothing older than 2010, although for example the Burgundies encompassed about a dozen Romanee-Conti bottles with four-figure price tags. We found a non-barolo nebbiolo for $60 which was young but fragrant and austere in the mouth.

We decided on a wagyu beef carpaccio and a sweetbread to share as starters, Robin had crab and truffle gnocci starter as her main and I went for a so-called Texas quail. The quality was terrific and we were really pleased.

I’ve had wagyu beef carpaccio before and I confess I prefer the Italian version, part of the charm of that dish being a certain texture to the beef which for me the extra fat in wagyu meat vitiates a bit so bites tend to ball up in the mouth. But that said no complaint about the setup and flavour of this nice little entrée. The sweetbread was fairly crisp on the outside and for me a bit underdone inside but still packed with flavour. There was a two-part mayonnaise-based sauce that I found a little aggressively acidic, but I can’t fault the overall impact because I love sweetbread with a sour accompaniment.

Robin’s gnocci was delicate and perfectly cooked in a creamy white sauce, and the crab and truffle were both present but subtle. Really a nice sophisticated gentle mouthful. My little quail was terrific, deboned and spatchcocked and then I think hot-fried in its own fat. Along with the were tiny dices of sweet potato and another element which I loved but can’t remember and is gone from the online version. I will certainly try deboned quail that way next time I make it myself because the flattened little bird can be beautifully crisped and still be moist inside.

Almost the most interesting thing of all was an almond tart for dessert which came with banana ice cream and had been somehow ringed around the outside with lemon flavour. I haven’t had as seductively complicated a sweet desert in quite awhile.

Well. This was as close to haute cuisine as we’ve found in a town where bistro-level food predominates. The chef is a fellow called John Besh who has made a name for himself locally and has obviously combined creative cooking with some management smarts. It’s a professional presentation and plenty to be excited about on the plate. I went to the bathroom and was greeted with flawless cleanliness and walls plastered with three-star French restaurant menus. And by golly the price was surprisingly sensible for what we got, around $220 US with a 20% tip. Definitely as far as we can tell the place to be in town for a special night out.

Food 9.3, service 8.9, ambience 8.6, value 8.5, peace and quiet 8.2.

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 40 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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