Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Restaurant August

Restaurant August

Upon receiving an invitation to attend a Christmas party in Baton Rouge, we decided to make a mini-vacation out of it and spend some time in New Orleans as well. The once lively city of New Orleans has been positively devastated by Katrina, and close to a year and a half later the Big Easy is still struggling in ways that are no longer "breaking news." A drive through the lower ninth ward, where block-upon-block of homes remain abandoned suggests how many broken hearts are still in need of mending--and how many lives have been forever changed.

Quite honestly, I was a little saddened by the bargain room rate we received at luxurious boutique hotel International House ($99/night) because I cannot imagine how much businesses in New Orleans must be writing off as loss. We encourage you to visit this cultural and historic city and help bring some life--and revenue--back to the businesses that chose to reopen after the hurricane; when it would have been so much easier for them to just walk away.

We performed a little reasearch online and found Restaurant August which is located in the warehouse district. The restaurant is housed in an historic four-story Creole-French building with exposed brick walls and charming wood work. Chandeliers glitter from the ceiling, dark hardwood floors gleam their reflection, and attractive host staff scoot around in ballet flats and black tulle.

The place was packed and thriving. It was hard to believe the hopping restaurant exists in the same city as the empty high-rise buildings we'd strolled past earlier. Things started off well with our server introducing himself and his colleague, who would both be waiting on us for the evening. We ordered our choices a la carte, and sat back to enjoy a glass of bubbly.

It soon became apparent though that while we'd booked our dinner for 8:30, the staff at Restaurant August were still planning to turn our table over again before night's end. Case in point: the amuse bouche.

Truffle Sabayonne
Amuse Bouche - Truffle Sabayonne with Caviar

I had taken a few bites of this richly beautiful dish, and was sitting with spoon in mid-air, preparing to take another, when a man from the kitchen showed up with our first course and quickly grabbed the amuse bouche right out from in front of me. I'm not kidding. No "can I move this aside for you," or "where would you like me to put your salad." He just scooped that amuse bouche right up and walked away with it. I was speechless.

Greens with Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Organic Greens with Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, and Pumpkin Seed Oil Vinagarette - $8

This was delicious. The sweetness of the brittle complemented the pungent cheese. Like sneaking dessert before your dinner. I sort of wolfed it down in fear that it would be taken from me before I was finished.

Foie Gras
Foie Gras Prepared Three Ways - $16

Foie Gras Fried with Ginger and Caviar
Tangine with German Pastry and Champagne Gelee
Foie Gras with Beef Tongue

J's favorite of the three preparations was the Foie Gras with Beef Tongue. He really enjoyed the bold flavors of the dueling meats. The fried foie gras was quite delcious as well, mostly due to the contrast in textures between the silky foie and the crunchy breaded outside (oh, and the caviar did not dissapoint). The Tangine with German Pastry was enjoyable, but whenever you have three options one must always finish last, even though it might still be amazing. He did have to admit that the Champagne gelee was a very nice touch. It was somewhere between Champagne diamonds and good ol' Jell-O shots.

Potato Gnocchi
Handmade Potato Gnocchi tossed with Blue Crab and White Truffle - $20

The gnocchi was soft and velvety, and the portion was just the right size for the rich crab and white truffle.


Chestnut Agnolotti
Joe Dobi's Chestnut Agnolotti with Sage, Brown Butter and Country Ham - $10

Wow, what a perfect Autumn dish. J loved the subtle Chestnut filling within the pillowy-light agnolotti. The Country Ham provided a nice crisp contrast to the delicate pasta.

Louisiana Red Fish
Louisiana Redfish with Cauliflower, Crabmeat and Caviar -$29

This was J's favorite dish. The fish was light and moist and worked perfectly with the airy cauliflower foam. The crab and caviar were simply the icing on the cake!

IMG_0722.JPG
Pompano with Cauliflower Puree and Artichoke - $32

While the food was very good, the courses came out far too quick, and the delivery just lacked any suggested passion for the food. By the time we were done with our fish we realized we'd been there less than an hour. After a rushed meal we just weren't in the mood for dessert. We vacated our table to allow for the next diners, and headed elsewhere in search of something sweet.

I'm not sure if the service at Restaurant August is due in part to poor service (because with a drastically reduced population good help is hard to find), or if management is trying to get people in-and-out as quickly as possible to maximize profit. We can certainly understand the restaurant's desire to increase revenue during hard times, but when you are spending close to $300 on a meal the service should feel different than a fast food joint. Even if they don't want you camping at your table for the evening, the suggestion should be that you are welcome to do so. While turning the tables over quickly may be profitable, it does not leave diners with the kind of unforgettable experience that will last long after the credit card bill arrives.

Bottom line: Great food...Fast.

Restaurant August

301 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.299.9777

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