Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Orleans Delicacies - Part 2

The other day, I was going through our first full day of eating in New Orleans. However, we only had a few days and a decent sized hit list of things we wanted to try before we went back home.

1. Beignet - DONE
2. BBQ'd Oysters
3. Oysters Rockefeller
4. Crawfish Po'Boy
5. Seafood Gumbo - DONE
6. Muffaletta - DONE

So on Saturday, we wanted to knock out a few more on our list, so we went to a local favorite, Acme Oyster House on 724 Iberville Street.

Acme is one of several oyster bars/restaurants even on the same city block. However, there's a clear reason why Acme has a 30-45 min line at lunchtime while the others sit empty. It's that much better. When we arrived at 1PM, we knew we'd be in for a wait. The line was decently long but it was well organized. Had I been old enough to sit at the bar, my parents and I could have gotten in earlier, but apparently toddlers needed to be seated at the tables - which had a longer wait time. But after being patient (and my mother running into Duane Reade to pick up some snacks to tide me over), we were soon inside and seated at a corner plastic tablecloth table.


By now, it was closer to 1:45PM and of course, my father was starving. Before even seeing the menu, he threw in an order - half dozen raw oysters and half dozen grilled. The raw oysters were very large and meaty, as you'd expect from gulf oysters. Fresh was an understatement. The grilled oysters, however, stole the show. Similar to the ones we had in Memphis, TN, these Acme Chargrilled Oysters were absolutely amazing. They were hot and savory, seasoned with garlic and oregano and covered with just the right amount of romano cheese. And best of all, since Louisiana was home of Tobasco, we got to sample a Smokey Chipotle Tobasco flavor that we'd never seen before. AMAZING.

Since we were already there, we ordered a few more items to knock off our list, including a Crawfish Po'Boy, but my father was underwhelmed with that one. The crawfish were just so battered and fried, you couldn't really taste anything else - similar to his experience trying Rocky Mountain Oysters in Denver. Not a great use of $11.

That evening, we decided to have some more modern cuisine based on my father's colleague's recommendation. It wasn't authentic New Orleans food, but it was excellent seafood. However, I'll save that for another post.

Continuing on our Eating Scavenger Hunt, we were still missing the famous Oysters Rockefeller. According to legend (and Wikipedia), Oysters Rockefeller was created at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine's (the country's oldest family-run restaurant). The dish was created in 1899 and named after John D. Rockefeller, the richest American at the time, for the intense richness of the sauce.

It would have been nice to actually try Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's, but we weren't dressed appropriately in between Easter Parades. So instead we went to Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar (across the street from Acme). We could have gone back to Acme, but wanted to try out the #2 on the street for comparison purposes.

Since we arrived at 11:45AM, we had no line to get into Felix's. Unlike its competitor across the street, the decor was much cleaner and less like you were eating at a dive bar. It looked like a nicer diner and was a lot larger than you'd expect after you went around the corner to the second seating area.

We were greeted and given menus where my mother instantly saw "Louisiana Alligator" on the menu! Despite my father's interest in sampling some 'gator, we stuck with our original plan to have some more oysters.

We ordered the same items as we did at Acme the day before (half dozen raw, and half dozen chargrilled). But we also ordered half dozen Oysters Rockefeller. The raw ones were comparable (not sure how much you can differentiate on that dish), but the chargrilled ones were quite varied from Acme's. Our serving came out and seemed slightly less cooked than the ones we had before.

Obviously, you can eat oysters raw, so it wasn't "undercooked" per say, but just more rare than we wanted. The flavor was also more muted than at Acme. While my mother initially said she preferred Felix's, after a few more bites, she changed her mind and went back to Acme. But again, it wasn't that they were bad at all. They were delicious, but just not as amazing as the place across the street.

Then came the Oysters Rockefeller. For those of you who don't know, there's actually a secret recipe at the original Antoine's. But most places can mimic it enough to get it close using a mixture of spinach, garlic and other breadcrumbs. While they sounded like they'd be good, we didn't actually care for them all that much. Had we chosen again, we would have doubled up on the chargrilled oysters...

...and an extra serving of the delicious Bread Budding! My father has been a long time fan of bread pudding, ever since my grandparents took him to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse where they had an amazing bread pudding dessert. So when we saw it on the menu, he had to order it for me to try for my very first time. And he was right. It was DELICIOUS!

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