Dozen Best Dishes Served Dangerously Hot
Among the many challenges a restaurant faces in trying to serve excellent food is getting it to the table hot enough. This problem seemed to have been solves in the 1980s, when most restaurants served bubbling dishes under plate covers. Sometimes they went overboard, with plates so hot you couldn’t touch them and sauces getting crusty around the edges (in the chef biz, that is known as “scabbing”). You’d have to sit there and wait for the stuff to cool down enough to eat them without getting a mouthful of seared flesh.
We are currently in a period in which it’s cool to serve food. . . cool. Or warm. Anything but good and hot. Fortunately, a few dishes retain the Eighties-style heat. While we allow that to diminish so as not to burn the inside of our mouths, we enjoy the aromas (does anything smell better than bubbling butter with herbs?) and the visual excitement.
This is not a list of the hottest dishes in town, but the best ones served very hot.
1. Ristorante Filippo. Metairie: 1917 Ridgelake. 504-835-4008. My favorite entree here is chicken spiedini: thick slices of chicken folded around a stuffing of bread crumbs, ham, garlic, herbs, and olive oil. Its room-filling aroma is seductive. It’s similar to the restaurant’s oysters areganata, which in turn are a lot like oyster Mosca.
2. Drago’s. CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911. ||Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. The greatest of recent oyster creations–Drago’s char-broiled oysters–is obviously too hot to eat when it arrives. Unfortunately, the aroma is irresistible, and the temptation is strong to dive right in. You’ll be sorry you did that–but only for the first one (or two, if the oysters are really big).
3. Korea House. Metairie: 3547 18th. 504-888-0654. This great Korean restaurant has quite a few items on its menu that will flash-fry your uvula if you eat them immediately. But the most dramatic of these is bibimbop. It’s a rice-based dish with a lot of vegetables and various meats or seafoods. They bring it out in a large stone bowl which a minute earlier was in a hot oven for hours. The dish is tossed at the table, cooking as it does. It’s as delicious as it is dramatic.
4. Pascal’s Manale. Uptown: 1838 Napoleon Ave. 504-895-4877. Manale’s does much with oysters from its bar, notably its oysters Rockefeller and Bienville, both among the best in town, prepared in a very old style. Even better is its unique combination pan roast of oysters, shrimp, and crabmeat. It’s still erupting when it comes. All of these dishes are much, much too hot to eat upon arrival.
5. Steak Knife. Lakeview: 888 Harrison Ave. 504-488-8981. They have three mouth-cauterizing dishes here. An appetizer called “tidbit in the oven” amounts to a crustless, sauceless pizza, with all the burn potential of melted cheese. Another good starter (or entree) is the Roth Brothers’ crabmeat au gratin, one of the best and bubbliest. Finally there is the best potatoes a gratin in town, served at a temperature somewhere in the 400-degree vicinity.
6. Commander’s Palace. Garden District: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. The famous turtle soup comes out in bowls so hot that the waiters usually handle them with napkins. In the old days the soup actually bubbled where it touched the bowl. Stir it quickly to alleviate that but do not accept the offered sherry. We all know now that a) there’s already sherry in the soup, 2) sherry added at the table cools the soup too much, and iii) it goofs up the flavor. An outmoded practice from the past.
7. Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. Katie’s is the only place I know that bakes lasagna to order. It comes out in a soufflee dish, the cheeses inside bubbling through, like prominences on the surface of the sun. Take. Your. Time. (This is also true of their pizzas, but all good pizza is that way.)
8. Slice. Lee Circle/Lower Garden District: 1513 St Charles Ave. 504-525-7437. All well-made, New York-style pizzas will, if you stuff a slice into your mouth as soon as the waiter brings it, burn the roof of your mouth badly. But if you’re smart enough to come here–where the cheese is better than usual and laid down a little more generously than in most pizzerias–you know better than to do something so stupid.
9. Charlie’s Steak House. Uptown: 4510 Dryades. 504-895-9705. The act of holding your napkin in front of your good shirt (why are you wearing that here, anyway?) is as much a part of the Charlie’s experience as the thin onion rings and the blue-cheese-surmounted salad wedge.
10. Fury’s. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646. Fury’s cooks its fried chicken to order, which is why it takes so long to come out. And also why it’s so good. But, like anything straight out of the fryer, you better watch it.
11. Venezia. Mid-City: 134 N Carrollton Ave. 504-488-7991. Venezia makes wonderful fried eggplant. To call them “sticks” is not quite right. They’re more like logs. Fried to order, served with red sauce, all of it very, very hot. Bite in gingerly at first.
12. Bozo’s. Metairie: 3117 21st Street. 504-831-8666. The oysters come out of the fryer seconds before they’re brought to the table, along with crunchy crispness and extreme stove-hotness.