For what we called our honeymoon meal, my wife and I decided to visit John Besh at August in NOLA. John Besh is considered the authority on creole cooking and to say our expectations were high would be an understatement. The restaurant is adorned with dark wood, giving a very boy’s club type of feel yet somehow remains inviting. Two warnings to the reader before I continue; one, this was a special occasion meal so we ordered a custom eight course tasting, these things were available on the menu, but not as one package. Two, we had wine pairings with every course, so my exact memory of the ingredients, names and/or order of the courses may be flawed.
As an amuse bouche, the chef sent out an egg custard, served in an egg shell topped with crème fresh and caviar. This taste was a perfect welcome to the restaurant and a show of what to expect in the future courses. I am not a huge fan of caviar, I have had quite a few occasions to try it and usually take a small taste and pass it to those who enjoy it more. For this course, it was the beginning of what would be the best meal I have had in my life. I hope to be able to say this again somewhere down the line in this blog.
The first course of what we actually ordered was fois gras terrine with a line of espresso in it and a hazelnut crust. It was served with a raspberry linzer tart and a gingerbread cookie. Looking at it, I thought it was a deserty and aggressive pairing. I found the linzer tart was a perfect complement to the bitter espresso in the fois gras. The fois gras itself was rich and creamy and delicious. My wife made comments later during our long tasting to knowing how the goose felt.
Next was a simple yet elegant dish which was executed to absolute perfection. It was as simple as a soft scrambled egg topped with white truffle shavings. In between bites, I was licking the inside of my mouth just to get more of the flavor that this dish provided to you in every powerful morsel. I can’t find words to describe how good this dish was. You will see next to this article a picture, but that won’t do it justice either.
The turtle soup that followed had a very Mediterranean feel to it. From the tomato notes, to the basil, to the garlic it was a well composed dish with lovely flavor. That is to say it was probably my least favorite dish of the night. Don’t take this in any way that the dish was bad, it just had so much to live up to as compared to every other course we receive this night.
For the fifth course we had a pork belly with grilled oysters and topped with oranges, dill and bacon. To get everything in one bite was a challenge and one that should be accepted. The two pork paired with the first properly cooked oyster I have gotten this entire trip was a playful reminder of the city I was in. The fat in the pork belly was rendered so well that even if you have an aversion to fatty textures you could still love this dish.
As the dishes kept coming, we were served a trout a hollandaise foam and mushrooms. This was another delicate combination of flavors that was expertly pulled off by the chef. My only complaint at all about the dish was that I ran out of sauce before I ran out of trout. It was right at this point in the meal I knew it was the best I had ever eaten and knew I still had three courses coming.
For our seventh course, the waited brought us a venison sausage in another foam sauce over lentils. I started to get worried I may be foamed over by the rest of the meal, but this was to be our last foam, and it was very light. The lentils were soft and flavorful. I think this was Besh’s play on the NOLA staple of boudin, it was also the first time I really felt a full creole flavor in one of our courses.
The last savory course of the evening was also one of the best. A roast duckling breast served at perfect temperature with a very light fruit sauce. With it came a confit leg to complement the breast meat and a warm cabbage salad. There was also a truffled spaetzel that I could have made a meal of my own out of. As I’ve said previously in the blog, I’m not a desert person, so I could not have been happier with the progression of this meal. I feel a properly prepared duck can be the perfect meat for any meal; it packs such a distinct, powerful flavor with delicate undertones. That being said, properly preparing a duck is a challenge every time.
The final piece for this meal was a chocolate torte with toasted which chocolate ice cream. It was rich and flavorful and the ice cream cut the richness of the torte nicely. This restaurant is my must go for anyone visiting New Orleans if you want a meal you will treasure for a long time.