What’s a girl to do with her gum? I was fancied up, dress and heels, for a night on the town, grabbing a last-minute stick of gum as we walked the couple of blocks from the cab to the restaurant. The expected last trash can opportunity to discretely get rid of it before being seated failed to materialize and so I found myself across the table from my husband, all dressed up with no place for the gum to go…but only for a moment.
Notably absent from the new openings in New Orleans over the past two years is a spot-on fine dining establishment. Until now. Sure there have been some solid newcomers in the casual dining arena, but I had been left wanting for the knock it out of the park kind of place that is Restaurant R’evolution.
It’s been a long time coming. Literally. Nearly two years and over $8 million in the making, the joint venture between Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto opened officially on June 4, 2012, and we found our first opportunity for a visit this past Saturday evening.
We arrived slightly tardy for our 6 pm reservation in a sea of Red Dress Run aftermath. The bar, even at 6pm, was packed. We were escorted to our table in the first of at least 3 dining rooms (three that we saw anyway).
The space was elegant and luxurious with decor more on the traditional side. Beautiful lanterns serve as light fixtures. Each room was unique but they came together quite harmoniously. Based upon the restaurant description the waiter provided (a modern approach on south Louisiana cooking) I think I expected a slightly more contemporary atmosphere. But I like what they did and it is obvious that it was quite calculated.
While perusing the cocktail options I was quietly and simultaneously trying to figure out what to do with that pesky gum. But just as I said that I needed a minute to contemplate whether I was going to have a cocktail or go straight for wine our server walked over with a cocktail napkin, which he let me know was of course for the gum. I haven’t had a server pay such attention to detail since a sudden sneeze at a Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris. Before I could even make a move toward the restroom a box of tissues appeared discretely behind a server’s back right at my side. These things are simple, but they truly set a restaurant apart.
Cocktail options seemed enticing but we ultimately headed straight for wine as we had after-dinner plans at Snug Harbor and I didn’t want to over-imbibe. The list is extensive and displayed on iPads where you can make your selection electronically. We chose the Angela Pinot Noir, a 2009 from the Willamette Valley.
Our selections included two appetizers: sugar-cured and seared foie gras served atop mandolin-sliced peaches with a blueberry gastrique and the crabmeat stuffed Louisiana frog legs nicoise. In retrospect we should have opted for two separate appetizer courses because it was unfair to even put the frog legs up against the foie gras, even though they were delicious. The legs were very well seasoned with a bit of heat and perfectly fried with a delicious crab meat and creole crème cheese stuffing. But the foie gras was perhaps the best rendition I have encountered, rivaled only by a foie gras ‘king cake’ we were lucky enough to try at Commanders about 18 months ago. And the attention to detail in plating was remarkable, to the point that I inquired about the crustacean-shaped fried artichoke slice served atop the frog legs. These dishes are as beautiful as any in the city.
For an entree I opted for the striped bass while Steve had the ‘pork and beans’. The bass was seared skin-on and served atop a bed of julienned vegetables and carmelized turnips in a light broth. I typically wouldn’t say that I like turnips but these were very good and worked well with the fish. Steve’s bone-in pork shank was caveman-esque and presented in a cast iron skillet with baked beans and a corn macque-choux crepe. Although more rustic than what I prefer to order, it was exactly as advertised and perfect for the husband. Both dishes were perfectly executed and emblematic of the restaurant’s approach to food.
One characteristic I use to judge a restaurant is coffee, and the French press was delicious, served in a pair of silver pitchers and accompanied by cream and sugar cubes on an elegant silver tray. We finished the meal with the trio of cheesecakes and the chocolate stout cake. Although I almost never order a chocolate dessert (I just find that you can get a greater sense of the pastry chef’s artistry in a non-chocolate dessert) I opted for it this time at the suggestion of our waiter. It was rich and perfect, but Steve’s cheesecakes were stars. The mascarpone with peach and the goat cheese with plum were thrilling, but our favorite was creole crème cheese and strawberry combination.
After we finished our dessert they brought out one last treat from the pastry chef, what looked like a three-tier jewelry box, each drawer or compartment with a unique little bite of sweetness: Cookies, shortbread, and bacon praline just to name a few. More than we could even try,because as you have seen already, there was no shortage of food for us.
The service in a word: Outstanding! There was not one glitch. If this place had any kinks, they have certainly worked them out in the two months since opening. Our every need was attended to by both Marek and Jason, our two-pronged service team.
The food: Delicious. The appetizers stole the show tonight, but every single dish was not only perfectly presented but executed flawlessly. Portions were large for each course, particularly when compared to the sometimes minuscule portions at August.
The overall experience: Decadent. I think you’ll see R’evolution among our Top 10 list of 2012.