I recently spent a few days in New Orleans, my first visit back to the city in over 20 years. I knew I needed a quick hit of everything NOLA, so I opted to spend my first evening at Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro for a classic French quarter experience, complete with a walk down Bourbon Street, a creole menu and live jazz.
It was a chilly, rainy evening and stepping into the room filled with festive holiday decorations and a live jazz band livened my mood.
Our tuxedoed waiter gracefully appeared and I got the sense that waiters in this establishment are a revered class – the kind who are proud to call themselves servers and work at the same location for decades. I started the evening with a traditional French 75 (typically, I go for the 76 made with vodka, but I felt the need to go traditional all the way).
I ordered the asparagus-brie soup to take the chill off and it was honestly one of the most flavorful soups I’ve ever had. My husband doesn’t do brie so I had it all to myself!
I opted for the sampler dish of Arnaud’s specialties, Veal Chantal with wild mushroom sauce, a lump crab cake and Crawfish O’Connor, a baked, Brandy-infused classic Creole dish. My less-adventurous husband chose the Filet Mignon au Poivre with classic French Brandy cream sauce.
We shared a plate of the famous Soufflé Potatoes. As the menu describes them, “Legend has it that Collinet, French King Louis Phillipe’s (reign 1830-1848) chef unintentionally created soufflé potatoes by plunging already fried potatoes into extremely hot oil to reheat them when the King arrived late for dinner one night. To the Chef’s surprise and the king’s delight, the potatoes puffed up like little balloons.”
While I also experienced chefs bucking the trend and reinventing the classics, it’s nice to see that some establishments just focus on perfecting them. Our dishes were over-the-top amazing, albeit incredibly rich (and butter-laden, I’m sure).
I almost never resist a flaming display of Bananas Foster but I was stuffed so we opted for the Caramel Custard. I immediately regretted my decision as I watched the tableside preparation of the Café Brûlot, a mixture of coffee, lemon and orange rinds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and Orange Curaçao, flamed with brandy.