The Friday of our trip, we had dates with two restaurants helmed by two of the largest figures in New Orleans cooking: John Besh and Emeril Lagasse. Emeril really shined a light on the city with his show and his infectious style of connecting with the audience … oh, and some killer food. John Besh, meantime, has brought attention to the city with his modern interpretations of French food with a Southern spin. I had high hopes for Besh’s Restaurant August and Lagasse’s namesake flagship, Emeril’s New Orleans!
We hit August for lunch, when the resto offers a wonderful midday deal, $20 for a three-course meal! That fit right into my recessionista budget …
To start, the kitchen sent out an amuse bouche that looked like an egg custard topped with caviar set in an eggshell. Both Detroit and Dimples pushed the plate away after one taste; I took a few nibbles but eventually abandoned it, too — it tasted like seafoody taste and aioli texture didn’t agree with my palate.
For our first course, Dimps and I took the watermelon gazpacho — I worried about its execution, honestly: I detest fruit pulp, which is why I dislike watermelon juice. To be sure, the presentation was lovely (above). But, my oh my … the soup was like birthdays and rainbows in my mouth. Just a melodious mix of sweetness, herbs (Thai basil, thyme, tarragon) and just the right acidity. And what’s that — a hint of spice? Why, yes, thanks to peppers and harissa. I wanted to dispense with the spoon and dive in face-first. An impressive start. Well-played, Restaurant August. Well-played.
Meantime, Detroit had a salad of greens, radish slivers and bacon, but the main attraction was mildly charred grilled peaches — talk about seasonal!
Main dish for me and Dimps was a seared fish called sheepshead over a corn custard in a garden of fresh (and blessedly lima bean-free) succotash. A dollop of tomato marmalade crowned the fillet. My God, my mouth didn’t know where to start in picking the interesting parts of this dish! The fish was fresh and meaty, cooked to flaky deliciousness. The bright corn custard was a nice foil to the tomato marm, and the beans played the role of texture provider. Very farm-to-table, this. Or as farm-to-table you get in NOLA (Chef Baruch from Meson 923 said there’s not much harvesting of anything in New Orleans, thanks to the soft soil and its pesky tendency to flood). Marvelous plate of food.
Avid pork belly enthusiast Detroit got the plate of pig atop cream cheese malfatti ravioli. Not one to enjoy a really jiggly pork belly, I envied her entree because it was nice and crisp. Detroit reported that it was as decadently fabulous as it looked!
Dessert was a tiny letdown. but merely because it didn’t match in taste what I’d imagined in my head. There were a couple of candy-bar like slabs joined by caramel corn ice cream (!!!!) and actual caramel corn. Methinks, however, the scoops were vanilla ice cream that got its flavor from the candy kernels beside it, and I didn’t really want to eat the caramel corn — too sweet. Detroit, too, thought the combo was not as great as the menu sold it. Minor quibble, though — overall, August left us with tasty memories and was, thus far, our favorite dining experience. But we still had dinner at Emeril’s to come. How would that compare?? We would soon see …