New Orleans 2012: The Posh Nosh

In which I detail the two fancier restaurants we ate at.

Cochon

Cochon translates into pig, and this restaurant really delves into different ways to prepare Porky.   Located in the Warehouse district of New Orleans, Cochon is a hip, fun restaurant decorated with heavy wood and exposed brick and has a bustling vibe.   It is clearly not the kind of restaurant that takes itself too seriously.  Chef Donald Link has peppered the menu with traditional Cajun fare like fried boudin balls and shrimp etouffee, as well as some really creative dishes like braised pork cheeks with sourkraut potato cakes, apple sauce & feta and rabbit and dumplings.  I found it really hard to choose what to order; we decided on ordering several small plates to start, and three main courses.  Opting to ignore the waiter’s opinions on what to try, we went with our guts, literally.   A plate by plate dissection, followed by a slideshow of pictures:

Fried Alligator with Garlic Chili Aioli:  My favorite.   I grew up eating fried alligator (my grandfather always ordered it), and this is the best I had ever had.  I think alligator is the meat that spurred the invention of the term “tastes like chicken!”  Because, really, if prepared correctly, it does.   This was crispy, well seasoned, and really easy to bite into.   Alligator can be a bit chewy if the pieces are too big or if it’s overdone, but these were like little popcorn-chicken sized bites.   The best part, however, was the aioli.  I’m a sucker for aioli, and this one did not disappoint.   The mild heat and strong garlic flavor perfectly complemented the fried alligator bites, as did the huge pieces of mint leaf that were mixed in.   Such a nice touch!!  I could have eaten a big plate of this as a main course.  Yum!

Fried Boudin with Pickled Peppers:  Say that three times fast.  I liked it, and the boudin was nice and earthy.   The texture was good too; not gritty or mealy.  I didn’t taste the peppers.   In all honesty, I don’t even remember them being on the plate.  I was distracted by the alligator.  But this was a good golf ball sized fried ball o’ boudin, served with a little dollop of creole mustard.

Smoked Pork Ribs with Watermelon Pickle:  Some of the most tender ribs I have ever had.   The sauce on them was divine, and the meat just melted in your mouth.   I love smoked ribs; that process adds SO much to the flavor and consistency of the meat.  Again, didn’t even notice the watermelon pickle.  I just went straight for the meat.

Smoked Beef Brisket with Horseradish Potato Salad:  Amazingly tender, and a pretty nice sized serving.  I split this with my friend and we were both satisfied.   It was served in a pool of braising liquid, which only added to the moistness of this dish.  To say I am a brisket enthusiast would be a huge understatement.   I LOVE brisket.  This was almost as good as my mom’s.   But I still prefer hers – more sauce!  The horseradish potato salad was good.  I’m not big on cold potatoes but I liked the gentle heat of the horseradish, which was tamed by plenty of mayo and celery.

Rabbit and Dumplings:   Another friend ordered this.  He started out not being thrilled by it, but the more he ate it, the more he liked it.  I tasted it and thought it was a really interesting take on the traditional meat and dumplings.   Rabbit is by nature gamey, but this was nice and meaty in flavor with lots of gravy in the dish.   The dumplings were still pretty intact too, and not overly soggy.

Smothered Duck Leg with Dirty Rice Dressing:   Andy went for the duck, and really loved it.   I’m still not sure what it was smothered in, but the duck itself was crisp on the outside and very nicely cooked and trimmed.   I didn’t think the bite I had was fatty at all, and a lot of times duck tends to be a bit…greasy and fat-covered.

Our sides were the mac and cheese (mmmmmm….but not the best I’ve ever had), and the eggplant and shrimp stuffing.   This was pretty inspired, and the consistency was really nice.   Love the cheese topping.

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I highly recommend Cochon if you are looking for a nice dinner out in New Orleans.   They have some nice beers on tap, fun cocktails (I had the Trotter Jennings, which was prosecco, St. Germain, vodka and lemon juice), and the food is really thoughtful and well presented.   Just don’t knock over a glass of water like I did, because the waitress will yell at you.   Seriously.

930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 – (504) 588-2123 – Reservations recommmended

   Arnaud’s

Arnaud’s was blissfully close to our hotel on the corner of Bienville and Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and after the drive to Domilise’s earlier Saturday, we were not in the mood to trek out in the car again.   I was really looking forward to Arnaud’s; their menu looked really classic Creole and we were sitting in the Jazz Room!   The music was great.   The food was…alright.   I honestly think I mis-ordered.  I ordered the Crabmeat Karen, which sounded super promising: “Delectable Louisiana crabmeat and mushrooms baked in puff pastry. Served with White Wine Sauce.”  It was heavy, and sort of bland, and the puff pastry was just overcooked and too much.  However, several other dinner companions ordered the Oysters Bienville, which were amazeballs.  I don’t even know what was in it, besides oysters and cheese and goodness.   So that was a winner.   As was the fact that this place is old school and serves Bananas Foster tableside, with fire and everything!   Andy eats one dessert, and that is Bananas Foster.   So I’m always excited when we find a place that serves it.  I am gonna sound super snotty, but I think I make better Foster than this place did, but it was fun to watch the guy make it.   They were also making these crazy digestif drinks tableside, lighting oranges on fire and stuff.   I am not entirely sure what that was all about.  It was a fun dinner, despite my dislike of my dish, made more fun by our ridiculous singing along with the band.   I think the rest of the restaurant hated our table, but whatever.   Good times were had by all!

813 Rue Bienville New Orleans, La 70112 • 504-523-5433 – Reservations Recommended

Crabmeat Karen. Literally in the shape of a crab.

Bananas Foster being prepared by bemused suit.

Great band! The trumpeter sounded EXACTLY like Satchmo.

Bananas Foster

Potato Souffles; These tasted like fries.

Oysters Bienville

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