Dozen Best Foie Gras
Foie gras–literally “fat liver,” from a duck that eats so much that it becomes very fat–has been a delicacy since ancient times. It seems like an ancient time when foie gras was not common on restaurant menus. But it wasn’t until the 1980s when ducks began to be raised for foie gras in this country, and could be served fresh. Before that, to eat foie gras you either had to 1) open a can of pasteurized pate de foie gras from somewhere else, probably French, or b) go to France.
Now, any restaurant wanting be have a credible claim to serving excellent food must put foie gras on its menu. Paradoxically, this has resulted in a lot of not-very-good foie gras around town. The demand for it is so great that the supply has been expended into less-than-excellent grades. Second-rate foie gras has a little toughness and a lack of richness.
The preparation matters too, of course. I’m not sanguine about dishes in which the foie gras is partnered up with powerfully-flavored sauces or garnishes, as many chefs of unsure taste feel necessary. Like caviar, oysters, and lobster, foie gras is at its best when the preparation is simplest. There are some exceptions (tournedos Rossini, pheasant Souvaroff, and Chateau du Lac’s astonishingly wonderful foie gras gumbo come to mind). But even when those are around, if I had a choice it would be to have the liver seared and served with just a sprinkle of salt.
Oddity: the last time I compiled this list was in pre-K 2005. Of the ten on that list, five are now out of business entirely, and three have changed drastically (new chefs, at least). The only two survivors from that list are Commander’s Palace and Restaurant August, and even they have changed their foie gras offering many times. Foie gras causes turbulence, is what this seems to suggest.
1. Restaurant August. CBD: 301 Tchoupitoulas. 504-299-9777. Foie gras prepared three ways has long been the August concept. But the three ways themselves change on a regular basis. So far, there has not been a blip in the magnificence of any of it.
2. Latil’s Landing. River Parishes: In Houmas House Plantation. 225-473-9380. Foie gras with lost bread is a brilliant idea. You can easily separate the two, and there’s no clash as you move from one to another. Chef Jeremy Langlois is also very generous with the foie. It’s worth a trip to Convent for this alone.
3. Dakota. Covington: 629 N US 190. 985-892-3712. No restaurant keeps its foie gras dish as simple as Dakota does. It’s always on the menu, and although there are garnishes and sauces, they are kept in the deep background, the better the foie gras to reveal its allure.
4. Clancy’s. Uptown 3: Napoleon To Audubon: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111. Clancy’s was (I’m pretty sure) the first place where scallops and foie gras were paired. Neither element is squashed into the other, and both retain their top-notch identities. But there’s a harmony here.
5. Commander’s Palace. Uptown 1: Garden District & Environs: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Commander’s foie gras “du Monde” is as much a work of entertainment as it is delectable. The seared duck liver–always the top grade–is the ceterpiece. But also here are some fruit-flavored, powdered-sugar-coated mini-beignets. And a foie gras-infused café au lait–something you have to taste to understand.
5. Le Foret. CBD: 129 Camp. 504-553-6738. As it does in most restaurants, the foie gras dish here is ever changing. My last taste revealed a torchon of foie gras–wrapping the whole liver and poaching it, making it softer and distributing the fat even better. On the side: black truffles, fig jam, banana bread, aged balsamic.
6. Annunciation. Warehouse District & Center City: 1016 Annunciation. 504-568-0245. Chef Steve Manning, who ran the kitchen at Clancy’s for a long time, brought quite a few of his dishes along to his new Warehouse District place. The sea scallops and foie gras–each seared, but separately–is one of them.
7. Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. Straightforward and generously served pan seared foie gras, with a pomegranate-balsamic gastrique.
8. Pardo’s. Covington: 69305 Hwy 21. 985-893-3603. Here’s another manifestation of seared diver scallops and foie gras coming together. The formula remains solid, and you will not say you didn’t have enough of either.
10. Boucherie. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 8115 Jeannette. 504-862-5514. Seared foie gras with spicy pecan praline sauce neither too sweet or spicy t get in the way of the liver’s flavors.
11. Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. The Grill Room has returned to its original policy of aiming high. Foie gras has been here since Day One in 1984, and has always been fine. As well it should be, so little needs to be done to it. But chef changes have not helped the consistency.
12. Chateau Du Lac. Metairie 1: Old Metairie: 2037 Metairie Rd. 504-831-3773. Foie gras gumbo sounds ridiculous, and a case could be made that it’s not a very good use of the delicacy. On the other hand, consider this: foie gras is duck. Duck gumbo is a classic. And this stuff is irresistible. Only my purist streak keeps me from ranking it higher.