#19 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The corner of Iberville and Bourbon Streets may be the best restaurant location in New Orleans, with a surfeit of classic local eateries right there or mighty nearby. The Brennan family alone has four major restaurants within the block, creating a little tension when Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House encroached upon Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill’s seafood-restaurant turf. As it turned out, both places thrived because of the propinquity, not despite it. The Bourbon House also offset one of Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse place at the other end of the block. All is harmony now.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Big seafood restaurants are popular across America, but nowhere more so than in New Orleans. Say the words “seafood platter,” and the image of a large pile of fried oysters, shrimp, fish, stuffed crabs, and the like comes to mind. But finding such a thing in reality in the French Quarter has long been maddeningly fruitless. The seafood restaurants there were either too upscale or too touristy. The Bourbon House strikes a good balance between the two. It looks too fancy for all that fried and boiled seafood or an oyster bar, but it isn’t.
The raw oysters, gumbo, and fried platters bring enough to the table to make the place worthwhile. Everything’s fresh and distinctly Creole in flavor. The kitchen is at least as adept at grilling, sauteeing, and broiling. Here are one of the best version of barbecue shrimp in town, and a great example of that recent hit dish, redfish on the half shell (grilled on the skin and scales with garlic butter). The oyster bar is very good and usually more accessible than the famous line at the Acme, a few doors away. The several baked oyster concoctions remind us how deep runs the stream of ambitious oyster cookery. A few classic Brennan family dishes show up, including a few I recall from days gone by at Commander’s Palace. The Bourbon House adopted bourbon (the spirit) as a specialty, and not only makes great cocktails with it but mounts major bourbon-themed dinners.
The Bourbon House opened in 2002 as the main restaurant of the new Astor Hotel. After creating a runaway success with their steak house half a block away, Dickie Brennan and Steve Pettus thought they’d have good luck with an upscale seafood place. They were right. The name has a historic precedent: through the 1960s, the original Bourbon House meant a restaurant on the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter (now the Embers steakhouse).
An expansive room with large windows and interior balconies, the Bourbon House stands just close enough to the Bourbon Street strip to have a strong sense of place, but enough separated from its louder aspects to make dining perhaps a bit too civilized. The lighting fixtures look like gigantic peeled satsumas. The service staff is young and usually leaves me thinking that not many of them are serious seafood lovers–but that may be my own age talking.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Raw Louisiana oysters on the half-shell
Oysters on the half-shell with caviar
Fruits de mer (oysters on the half-shell, caviar, boiled shrimp, mussels, marinated crab fingers, seafood salads)
Truffled seafood vinaigrette
Fried calamari, chipotle aioli, Romano cheese
Bourbon barbecue shrimp
Ceviche du jour
Soup du jour
Corn & crab soup
Spinach salad, pecan-molasses vinaigrette, feta
Bourbon House salad (tomato, cucumber, onions, crouton, Maker’s Mark bourbon vinaigrette)
»Fried seafood platters (shrimp, catfish, oysters, or combinations, pommes frites, cole slaw, cornbread)
Seared crab cake, bourbon corn sauce
Redfish on the half-shell
Blackened Gulf fish, corn salsa, shrimp gastrique, mcilhenny beurre blanc, potato cake
Catfish pecan, shrimp, popcorn rice, Creole meuniere
Crabmeat-encrusted fish, deviled crab dressing, lemon herb butter
Roasted chicken, pepper jelly, jambalaya risotto
»Pannee veal & crab, lemon butter and jumbo lump crabmeat
Chocolate banana bread pudding
Pumpkin and white chocolate cheesecake
Seasonal gelato or sorbet 6
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation and let them know you’re a local. Sundays, the Bourbon House has begun serving a brunch menu from opening until 5 p.m. If you’d like raw oysters, get them at the bar. I’ve been served oysters at the tables here that appeared to have been shucked in advance.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The food at the Bourbon House has been a shade inconsistent during the past few years, for no apparent reason. Same chef, more or less the same menu, same management. What gives?
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 +1
- Consistency -1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open till 11 p.m. FR SA
- Open all afternoon
- Oyster bar
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended