Dozen Best Veal Medallion Dishes
The popularity of veal is at a low ebb these days. Some of this might have to do with the infamy that some veal producers brought upon themselves a couple of decades ago by raising veal in inhumane conditions. These days, there is very little likelihood that the veal you get in restaurants involve such issues. But I think it’s just a matter of vogues. When I took on this beat, if a restaurant had tablecloths, it probably served not just one but many veal dishes, most of them starting with pan-sauteed medallions of veal round, cooked quickly in butter or olive oil. Around 1990, variations on veal pannee and pork loin chops took over the menu real estate where all those veal dishes once appeared. Both those dishes were old, familiar items, but for some reason they were not common in gourmet restaurants.
I can’t honestly say that veal dishes of the old style are making a comeback. But I always did like them, and enough people share that taste that such dishes are far from extinct. With perhaps one exception: veal Oscar. That unlikely combination of veal, crabmeat, asparagus and bearnaise probably deserves to die out.
1. Impastato’s. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3400 16th St. 504-455-1545. The best of Impastato’s several veal dishes is the one named for his mother, Marianna. This is a dish that was actually created at Brennan’s, where it was called veal Kottwitz. Joe picked it up from Jimmy Moran at La Louisiane. It’s the classic Creole-Italian veal dish: mushrooms, artichokes, white wine, olive oil.
2. Eleven 79. Warehouse District & Center City: 1179 Annunciation. 504-569-0001. Joe Segreto–whose career involved Elmwood Plantation and Broussard’s–maintains eleven different veal-medallion dishes on his menu. Piccata, marsala, parmigiana, Fiorentina (prosciutto, spinach, fontina cheese, white wine and lemon butter), milanese (panneed), saltimbocca (prosciutto, sage, marsala), Sorrentina, bracioletini di vitello (veal stuffed with prosciutto, basil and provolone), veal with a fried egg on top, paillard (grilled), and “veal eleven” (roasted peppers, asparagus, mozzarella). He’s into veal.
3. Fausto’s. Metairie: 530 Veterans Blvd. 504-833-7121. Fausto’s does all the famous veal dishes, but the one I like best is veal saltimbocca. The name translates as “jump in the mouth.” Also good: scaloppine Rolando (artichokes and mushrooms).
4. Lilette. Uptown: 3637 Magazine. 504-895-1636. Braised veal cheeks are not exactly veal medallions, but they’re not far off. That cut of veal is a marker dish for restaurants striving for or achieving hipness. Lilette is in the latter category. This melts in your mouth.
5. Carmelo. Mandeville: 1901 US Hwy 190. 985-624-4844. Veal Sorrentina is a magnificent specialty of the Amalfi Coast. Pan-sauteed veal, slices of eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella and a marsala-and-mushroom sauce make this the best version in town.
6. Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103. Tommy’s has half an Italian heritage, since Tommy Andrade was one of the founders of Irene’s before he opened his own place. All his veal dishes are terrific, with the veal Sorrentina (eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella) the best.
7. Peppermill. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3524 Severn Ave. 504-455-2266. The Peppermill gets around the whole white veal controversy by offering red veal. It’s only slightly less tender and has a better flavor than white veal. Veal Josephine is a good example, being almost but not quite a veal Oscar, with crabmeat and bearnaise).
8. Vincent’s. Riverbend: 7839 St Charles Ave. 504-866-9313. ||Metairie: 4411 Chastant St. 504-885-2984. Vincent’s two locations have the full assortment of veal dishes: piccata , parmigiana, panneed and others. He also uses ground veal in his cannelloni and meatballs, and roll up his excellent braciolone.
9. Brigtsen’s. Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610. Frank Brigtsen features a different veal special every day. His repertoire leans strongly in the direction of the old-school veal dishes he encountered at Commander’s Palace in his early years. I think they’re some of the best dishes here.
10. Clancy’s. Uptown 3: Napoleon To Audubon: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111. Veal has always been well represented on the menu at Clancy’s, a restaurant that’s never been afraid of reaching into the past form some of its dishes. The almost-Oscar version with crabmeat and bearnaise is the most common, but they have other ideas.
11. Italian Barrel. French Quarter: 430 Barracks. 504-569-0198. This teeny restaurant across from the Old U.S. Mint has as its best specialty a dish involving panneed veal with porcini mushrooms, linguine, and white truffle oil. The piccata (above) is also good.
12. Cypress. Metairie 3: Houma Blvd To Kenner Line: 4426 Transcontinental. 504-885-6885. Here’s an original variation on veal Oscar that works much better than the classic. Portobello crabmeat stuffing, asparagus, sherry beurre blanc.