Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Another Look At Tableau, On Halloween. Mary Ann’s dinner idea du jour is to get a balcony table at Tableau, Dickie Brennan’s restaurant on Jackson Square. She wasn’t as much interested in the food (she isn’t, most of the time) as she was the costumed Halloween fun-seekers in the French Quarter. For that purpose, our vantage point was ideal. One lineup after another passed us on the sidewalk below, most of them done up in entertaining getups. If there was a theme, it was in the bushy hair many of them wore. Not all of those came by this detail by birth. There were a few kids in the groups that passed us. But Halloween has become a different sort of celebration, as wild visually as Mardi Gras but a good bit more civilized.
In between cadres of witches and pumpkins, we turned our attention to the menu. This is the fifth or sixth dinner we’ve had at Tableau. With only a couple of exceptions, I come to the same conclusion: this is a restaurant designed for and aimed at visitors to New Orleans. For locals, there is less appeal.
This begins with the greetings we get when we walk in. They don’t seem strongly interested in us, and when they finally get around to us we were are asked questions like “Where are you from?” and, “Now let me explain gumbo to you.” The servers are friendly and attentive enough. But when I’m in my home town, I don’t want to feel what the visitors feel when they come from. . . where did she says she came from?
The menu is a collection of basic bistro New Orleans food. Some dishes have little more than a name change separating them from an old offering. Chicken Tableau, for example, is a reworked chicken Pontalba. (I was happy that the waiter knew what I was referring to.) The cooking is decent–only one dish out of five that we tried had a major flaw. That was the braciolone, wildly misspelled on the menu, but also a long way from what we eat around here. We sent it back.
We started off with oysters vol-au-vent, an expanded version of oyster patties. I like this okay, as MA did with Crystal shrimp and the fried oyster appetizer. Her entree was a standard black drumfish. I had redfish Bienville, which was nothing like what the name might suggest, but well assembled. I finished with an interesting Cajun dessert called tarte a la Bouilli–a custard enclosed in a water-cooked pastry that was a hot item around town a few years ago. I actually like this, even though it’s on the heavy side. (Enough for two.)
I must end in generalities. This beautiful restaurant, done up in an old style and enclosed by the most historic part of the whole city (St. Louis Cathedral is across the street, as are the Cabildo, Jackson Square, and the Upper Pontalba), makes it easy for outsiders to get a simple taste of New Orleans. It’s not adventuresome or especially skillful. But the prices are a good deal lower than we are used to finding from a Brennan. This prevents the feeling that the place is underperforming for its customers. If you give me a steak for about $20, as they do at Tableau, I won’t expect the kind of steak that sells around town for $50 or $60, as the major steakhouses Including Dickie’s own these days.
It was a fun evening, but I still find it Tableau less than what I expected it to become. Ah, yes–expectation versus reality will get you every time.
Tableau. French Quarter: 616 St. Peter St. 504-934-3463.