WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Connected to a busy lobby, it looks like the dullest kind of hotel restaurant. Every morning, it’s full of people having a quick buffet breakfasts before they head out. The rest of the day it’s uncrowded, sometimes to the point of emptiness. But behind the wall is a kitchen of surprising ability, easily able to deliver a dinner comparable to those in the city’s best-known hotel establishments. This would be a four-star restaurant if it had a four-star clientele.
The management gives Chef Mark Quitney free rein not only to create but to do so using unusually fine ingredients, most from local farms and waters. The kitchen line has the talent to make it all taste good. Beyond that, Quitney has one of the few extant major hotel bakery operations, able and willing to turn out top-class breads and desserts.
For most of its four-decade history, the big Marriott Hotel on Canal Street served uninteresting, corporate-dictated food. It would have been completely off the local dining map had it not been for the Sunday brunch buffet in its forty-first-floor restaurant–the loftiest in town. But after the hurricane, the hotel moved its a la carte restaurant operation to the ground floor, anointed it with the ill-advised name 5Fifty5 (only advantage: it comes up first in any alphabetical restaurant list), and brought in an ambitious chef.
The space is odd: a triangle with two lines of banquettes separated by standard four-tops, with a bar over here and a wall of wine over there. Despite those features, it feels more appropriate for those rushing breakfast-eaters than for gourmet diners in the evening. The service staff is efficient and friendly, but doesn’t have a good grip on fine dining service. This is easy to understand: it’s hard to pull great servers into a slow dining room.
»Crab cake, succotash, charred tomato vinaigrette
Fried green tomatoes, goat cheese, crawfish poppers, remoulade
»Fried calamari, Tabasco aioli
Fried crab claws, Cajun tartar sauce
»Surf and turf sliders (crab cake and pork belly)
Sweet corn bisque
»Gazpacho, shrimp ceviche
Caesar, white anchovies
Panzanella salad, balsamic vinaigrette
»Bronzed redfish, crab-mache salad
»»Seared scallops, Herbsaint butter sauce
»Brined chicken breast, Creole brown butter, orange cherry glaze
Lobster mac-and-cheese, garlic crostini
»20-oz USDA Prime cowboy ribeye, caramelized onion goat cheese polenta
»»Rack lamb chops, cabernet reduction
»Dry-aged top sirloin, mushroom bourbon ragout
Club, house made chips
Fried shrimp and oyster poor boy
Grilled summer vegetable wrap, pesto aioli
Cheesecake, strawberry compote
»Pear frangipane tart
»»Banana foster bread pudding poor boy
Chef’s sorbet, grand marnier berries
Apple tarte tatin, Creole cream cheese ice cream
(A few standout items)
»French toast, cornflake crusted strawberries, bananas
»Lump crab hash, over easy eggs, Creole mustard hollandaise
»Egg white boudin frittata, mushroom, pepper, onion
Two eggs, tomato, bacon, cheddar, brioche bun, hash browns
»Creole cream cheese pancakes
Creme brulee oatmeal
»Cinnamon brioche French toast, banana Foster
FOR BEST RESULTS
Chef Mark Quitney and his staff rise to particular heights at special-menu times of year–notably the Reveillon and the Wine and Food Experience. Such dinners rival those in the name places, and at a better price, to boot.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
This sounds like a Yogi Berra line, but if only the place could get busy, it would be more popular.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +2
- Local Color -1
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal (breakfast and lunch)
- Good for children
- Reservations accepted