Bam! Ah, that's Emeril Lagasse's famous catchphrase on his TV food shows. His personality on TV is such that people either like him or they don't. One thing is for sure, I find him entertaining although I have to say that I am still trying to find out the reason when each time he mentions garlic in his cooking shows, the audience on TV cheer and clap in delight.
We made advance reservations for our dinner at Emeril's and I also have to admit that before that night, I thought nothing more of Emeril than being a celebrity chef on Food Network TV. I had thought, hey, we are going to New Orleans, we have to try Emeril's flagship restaurant. Our entire experience that night at Emeril's sealed the deal for us. During our meal, I told T, "He isn't just a celebrity chef. His restaurant makes goods stuff. This place has standards".
Our experience was enhanced by the fact that we were seated at the kitchen counter. We did not realize that kitchen counter seating was available when we made reservations but when we checked in with the maitre'd, T saw the kitchen counter seating and requested if we could be seated there. We lucked out; the manager said he could put the two of us there. Score!
The kitchen was huge. We got full view of all the action going on in there with each chef working on their own stations. The station right in front of us was for grilling meats and preparing the seafood bouillabaisse dishes. The station to our left worked mainly with searing and grilling fish and shrimps. The two other stations to our right prepared the appetizers such as crawfish tails and pasta. A kitchen staff whose main responsibility was to oversee and expedite the entire process made sure each item was good to go before the food left the kitchen for the tables. It was non-stop action the entire time that involved seasoning, grilling, searing, boiling, and finally plating. We were mesmerized and just could not stop staring.
No, Emeril himself wasn't there. We chatted with the chef working right in front of us and he said that Emeril came in about a 2-3 weeks ago. With many of his other restaurants in different cities in the US, he divides his time between places. I asked the chef if Emeril's personality is exactly like what we see on TV and he said, Yeah, pretty much. You'd think that he'd be full of himself with his status but he's a nice guy.
I think the kitchen counter attracts diners that think alike. The rest of the diners at the 9-seater kitchen counter were as enthusiastic about their food and experience as us. We gave quick glances at each other's food, commented that it looked good, asked what was it and how it tasted.
Emeril's changed the way I feel about corn bread. Sounds like a pretty bold statement, I know. I never was a huge fan of cornbread but I blame it on the fact that the ones I've had were dry in texture. The cornbread at Emeril's was so soft it was almost cake-like. Each of our bread dish also included a sweet potato roll which was also so good and light, I ate it up in no time.
We shared the chicken gumbo and I don't remember us previously being this satisfied with gumbo. It was rich and the thick broth was immensely flavored perhaps even with some beef broth.
My smoked duck breast was something to rave about. I requested it medium rare and the meat was tender at every bite. The accompaniments of rhubarb, kale greens, and beans were great although halfway through my meal I felt that there were way more beans on my plate than I could finish.
T was equally happy with his cast iron fillet of beef that came with a small BBQ shortrib shepherds pie and apple walnut salad. The beef was perfectly prepared and the shepherds pie was a nice contrast from the steak.
Our dessert was Emeril's version of a deconstructed Black Forest cake. Unlike the traditional form of Black Forest cake that has cherries sandwiched between layers of chocolate cake, this dessert at Emeril's came with a square slice of Doberge cake that had thin layers of chocolate cake in between what tasted like chocolate ganache. The must-have cherries in the Black Forest cake were served as a compote as an accompaniment. The scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream was also an added touch to the dessert. This classic dessert was transformed into a new form and it worked.
When we eat, we not only focus on the end product on our plates but also like to think about the entire process that involves prepping, and then cooking itself, and finally plating before eating. It is almost like a short story in itself and sitting at the kitchen counter allowed us to participate in this entire process.
800 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
2011 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding Service