1032 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70116-3202
Dinner that second night was at Stella! In the French Quarter. It was so close to our hotel that the schedule with our tours worked perfectly.
We walked into the converted old house and noticed that the setting was not what we had imagined (I was quickly figuring out that frequently, things were not what we imagined coming from New York). Stella! Is consistently rated in the top couple of New Orleans restaurants for décor, service, food AND romance, so I expected something a bit like Restaurant Daniel. Instead, it looked like someone’s eclectic but elegant home. There was palm fronds painted on one wall, old country scenes hung on another. There was a fire place and of course, the two rooms of tables we were started to recognize.
The menu was funny to read. Each item was described in more detail that one might want and there was little to pull it together. (I’m going to use full titles just to show you how annoying it was) The Duck Five (or six?) Ways incorporated French and Asian cooking methods, but there were not many overtly Asian dishes aside from it. Jack had the Fish & Chips which was modeled off of the English classic. We were all set to order the Tasting Menu, but when we arrived, our server proudly announced that it was a truffle menu. What about the people who don’t like truffles THAT much? Shouldn’t there be another option? The a la carte menu was studded with the fancy fungi anyway. Still, since we’d seen a few disjointed menus in our previous meals and had enjoyed the food anyway, we were not scared.
Roasted Heirloom Potato Puree with Applewood Smoked Bacon Lardons, Fingerling Potatoes, Truffle Scented Petite Brioche Croutons and Truffle Crème Fraiche Caviar. This dish came as a soup. It was very good with changing textures and flavors. I can’t remember tons about it except that the potatoes were smooth and silky with a strong oomph of truffles.
Gulf Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Risotto with Baby Shiitake and Maitake Mushrooms, Melted Brie and Scallions…was quite possibly the single most astounding taste of the trip. The risotto was creamy with just enough bite to it. The cheese, mushrooms and sausage melded together so you couldn’t tell exactly where each flavor began, ended, or ran into the next. Each food tally we took from that moment on included a respectful pause for the Gulf Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Risotto with Baby Shiitake and Maitake Mushrooms, Melted Brie and Scallions.
The Lobster, Egg and Truffles: Farm Egg, Canadian lobster, Italian Black Truffles arrived in the egg shell. I really like when egg dishes are served in a clipped shell. Despite the truffle theme, it was an appetizer that we both wanted to try, so we shared one as a mid course. It was good. The lobster was fresh and plump and the egg was good. The truffles were too strong.
Porcini Crusted Dutch Valley Veal Tenderloin Medallions with Fingerling Potato Confit, Roasted Winter Root Vegetables and Calvados Escargot Herb Reduction…are you sick of the titles yet? I’m almost done and they get shorter from here. The Veal was delicious. Perfectly cooked, tender and meaty with a tiny bit of earthiness coming from the Porcini. I haven’t ordered a red meat dish in a while and it was very satisfying but not incredibly memorable. There is no sweet sigh of longing when I think back on it. But it was definitely a well executed and yummy choice.
Fish and Chips- Tempura Beer Battered Japanese Anago with Sweet Potato Puree, Curried Taro Root Chips and Spicy Red Chili Caramel. These Fish & Chips were sweeter than spicy. The plate was a bit intimidating with the fried fish on one side, a large dollop of the sweet potato puree and the taro root chips sticking straight out the top of it; like a triceratops. The reason for the upright presentation, we realized, was that the chips became soft pretty easily when mixed with everything else. The first few bites were crunchy and sweet and salty and good, the last few, once it got cold and mixed together were not as satisfying.
Desserts were good and strange. Both. Equally. The Chocolate cake with Hot Buttered Pink Lemonade had a fudgy brownie with a very tart and citrus finish that came from the lemonade. I liked it, but the tartness was pretty forceful. The Grilled Cheese sandwich with Triple Creme Cheese and Dark Chocolate Ganache was more savory that sweet, but it was fun to eat. And the ganache played really well off the cheese and toast. It was like the Jelly in your PB&J.
Reading this post back, it sounds like Stella wasn’t great. But it was. The service was smooth and flawless while still feeling easy. The drinks were good. The wine list was a bit disjointed, but we met the new sommelier who is about to launch a new list. With our own wine experience, and a funny instance with a corked bottle or two, we quickly became friendly. He showed us his new list and not only does it have wonderful things on it, but it is perfectly laid out. He is an excellent addition to the team I am sure. And how could the home of such mesmerizing risotto not be at the top of my list. There is every intention to drag my parents here in October when we are all back for the weekend, but I’m sure that Dad will have a lot of old favorites he wants to go to.
I recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a truly lovely evening. And don’t fear the menus. They have a great kitchen and a really good selection of wines.