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weinoo

Restaurant August

11 posts in this topic

Often, I scoff at the whole "celebrity chef" thing. Even though often I like the restaurants of celebrity chefs. Of course, just who or what a celebrity chef is means different things to different people. To me, Eric Ripert is a celebrity chef; Tony Bourdain (with all due respect) isn't. Mario Batali is a celebrity chef; Guy Fieri (with no due respect) isn't. Remember, it's just me.

So what about a guy like John Besh? Some of you might say: "Who?" Don't worry - trust me, he's a celebrity chef, at least in his native city of New Orleans where he has like 30 restaurants. Well, not really; it's more like 7, but I digress. And...he was one of those people who made sure that Hurricane Katrina wasn't going to be the death knell for New Orleans that it might well have been.

It just so happens that Significant Eater and I are taking a little vacation in New Orleans and the first place I wanted to try (since I'd heard good things) was one of celebrity chef John Besh's restaurants called Restaurant August. Sometimes these celebrity chefs let their places get away from them and they turn into caricatures of themselves. Or worse, with tourists flocking in to dine at the altar of greatness. I've seen it at Batalai restaurants (though at Mario's the food generally remains the focus); I've seen it at Bobby Flay's places. Emeril's...you get the drift.

But August was great. It's a beautiful restaurant (though not located in a particularly beautiful part of town) with soaring flowers decorating the room...

August Flowers.jpg

Our prix fixe lunch started off with an amuse, a zabayon with local caviar...

August Amuse.jpg

First courses on the prix fixe menu (have I mentioned the prix fixe is $20?), from which you have 3 choices, included these fried brussels sprouts with Marcona almonds and Serrano ham, which was quite lovely...

August Fried Brussels Sprouts wSerrano, Marcona Almonds.jpg

And this hunk of pâté de campagne, served with various gelées, mustards, pickled chanterelles and baby greens, which was so good...

August Pate w Asstd. Gelees, Mustards, etc..jpg

Moving on to our mains, Sig Eater had shrimp stuffed with many things, including the famous andouille sausage. I felt mine was the better of the two, described simply as grillades of veal. The crispy light as air pucks of tender veal were served over grits and were napped with a delicious tomato and veal based sauce...

August Veal.jpg

And finally dessert, which in SE's case was described as S'mores, while I opted for some house-made ice cream. But these s'mores were so much more, with house-made marshmallows decorating the plate like a forest floor...

August S\

Our meal finished with a few more "gifts" of the house, a pair of truffles and a couple of pieces of brittle. Service was exemplary throughout the meal, in a Southern (i.e. really nice) style that works because, well, we're in the south right now, y'all.

What more to say about John Besh? Well, here are a few things I found out using the google. For instance, right after the hurricane:

"It was a life-changing event for all of us," said Alon Shaya, who was the chef at the steak house before the storm. "I had only known John for a short time, and we really just had a professional relationship. But I tell you, when we were stirring pots of red beans in his driveway at four in the morning, it created a bond for all of us."

Preparing food and delivering it to hospitals, rescue workers and stranded residents -- and "every civil servant in St. Bernard Parish for a year-and-a-half," was the start of everything that followed, said Shaya, who now leads Domenica.

And, at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. shortly after Katrina:

That day Besh and the other 19 chefs making po-boys, the traditional New Orleans sandwich, raised $27,000 in two hours, Rathle said. But the event also made Besh a spokesman for his stricken hometown
.

Though all that he did for his home-town city of New Orleans was not necessarily altruistic (as a matter of fact, he has been able to open 5 of his restaurants since the disaster), I'd say John Besh wears the title of celebrity chef, and is as true to its meaning, as well as anyone else behind the stove.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I'll second the review of August. I eat there whenever I'm in NO and haven't had a bad meal yet (4 times, the last one was two weeks ago).

Another place worth a mention is the hotel restaurant (I forget the name...the Club Room?) at the Windsor Court, which is across the street from August. Very good as well.

A major beef I have with NO food is that so much of it is diner-quality stuff slung out for tourists at high prices. Muriel's, Mr. Bs, even Commander's Palace have disappointed.

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I'll second the review of August. I eat there whenever I'm in NO and haven't had a bad meal yet (4 times, the last one was two weeks ago).

Another place worth a mention is the hotel restaurant (I forget the name...the Club Room?) at the Windsor Court, which is across the street from August. Very good as well.

A major beef I have with NO food is that so much of it is diner-quality stuff slung out for tourists at high prices. Muriel's, Mr. Bs, even Commander's Palace have disappointed.

Like other tourist towns, that doesn't surprise.

Our other meals (so far) have been at the 4 month old Dominique's, Willie Mae's Scotch House for the fried chicken and last night's dinner at Cochon.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I actually liked NOLA, Emeril's FQ place. It does NO cuisine, but in a classy way.

How was Cochon? I wanted to go there, but couldn't.


Edited by gfweb (log)

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That's funny, weinoo - I was going to suggest August when you said you were going but figured you'd have a full dining plan already mapped out. I ate at the bar there a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I agree wholeheartedly that there are a lot of crappy popular restaurants in New Orleans. Glad you enjoyed.

I ate at NOLA (Emeril's) about 14 years ago with my parents/brother and we all loved it - definitely was not a gimmicky Emeril thing, just straightforward, excellent food. It was the highlight of the trip (Bayona and Commander's Palace paled in comparison). I don't know that I've ever publicly admitted dining at one of his restaurants, but it was definitely a great meal.

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That's a $20 meal? Time to book some tickets to New Orleans...

I forget the price, but although reasonable, it wasn't $20. :laugh:

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Chef Besh has ongoing projects to benefit N.O., one of them is detailed Here. There was a fundraiser for it in city park last month.

The resturant in the Windsor Court is the Grill Room. glad to hear it's still good, haven't been to N.O. With any free time since Katrina...just soccer matches and a couple of family weddings where the whole weekend is planned out.

I plan on trying to catch a few of the chef moves fundraisers in the future, now that I'm aware of the effort, they look like a blast!

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That would be the best $20 I ever spent!

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I've enjoyed a couple of lovely and memorable meals at August over the last couple of years when in NOLA for Tales. It's never disappointing. Creative, interesting and delicious food served in a beautiful atmosphere with impeccable service. What's not to like? Definitely a fine dining destination, both in New Orleans or in any city where it would be located.


Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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