Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meauxbar Bistro

This is another of those restaurants that I've put off going to for too long. Last night, though, we had tickets for Avenue Q at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, so I figured why not give this place a try. Normally, you can walk across Armstrong Park to the theater from the St. Anne Street Gate, making any dining on North Rampart a great option, pre-theater. Right now, though, they are doing a lot of renovation on the park, so that gate is closed. I didn't realize it at the time. Still, we decided to eat at Meauxbar.

It did not disappoint.

First off, you must first pass through some curtains to get inside. There is no hostess station, but soon enough someone will walk up to seat you, so no worries. The restaurant is rather small and therefore pretty intimate. A large bar, decked in ebony-stained beadboard, takes up most of the back wall, and some interesting prints of leaves hang on the rest.

The menu is big. The regular menu has many dishes -- things as plain as fried catfish (elevated because it's served with remoulade) and hamburgers sit next to ambitious dishes like buckwheat crepes stuffed with crawfish. In addition to the extensive regular menu, they have a specials menu with several more dishes.

My husband and I both ate off the regular menu, though I do want to return to sample the crawfish napoleon they had on the specials menu. It sounded outstanding.

The heat index has been in the hundreds in New Orleans for the last several days, so when I saw cold soups on the menu, I jumped on them. I had a hard time choosing between the gazpacho and the cold asparagus, but being one who does not generally like cucumber, I passed on the gazpacho and went with the asparagus soup. I did not regret it. My one disappointment was that I didn't realize the lovely scoop of creme fraiche was beneath the massive mound of crab meat until I'd eaten down through the crab. Then I got to stir the creme into the soup, which made it even more rich and luxurious.

After the soup, I went with the Salad Lyonnaise. Poached egg, bacon, frisee... This is one of my favorite salads. I fell in love with it while in France because it is a meal unto itself, complete and generally fairly inexpensive when traveling abroad. Another place in town that serves a good version of this is John Besh's Luke, and I have to admit, I do like his version better from a complete salad perspective.

What Meauxbar's salad had going for it, though, was the bacon. Lovely centimeter cubes of almost candy-sweet smoky goodness. The egg was cooked beautifully as well. What it needed -- in my mind -- was a more substantial dressing, though that could be a purely personal taste issue.

My husband had the Tuna Nicoise, a deconstructed salad nicoise sans lettuce. The tuna came out perfectly seared, the rare middle melting like butter in the mouth. The tomato relish added a lovely crisp, fresh element, and the whole fingerling potatoes -- though I didn't taste one -- looked to be perfectly cooked.

Three dishes and three rounds of cocktails -- call martinis and well cosmos -- ran us about $115. One could certainly find cheaper digs in New Orleans, but as far as ease of access, ambiance, and delicious food go, this is definitely a well-balanced, lovely eatery. Everyone should give it a try.

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