WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Always in the top rank of Uptown gourmet bistros, Gautreau’s has a style all its own. Its chefs have made it a habit to achieve national recognition during their tenures, and the management allows them to innovate. Excepting only a few signature dishes (the duck confit, the scallops, the filet), the menu is ever in flux. Yet a dinner at Gautreau’s now would be in spirit and style much like the one you had in 1985. Perhaps for that reason, it enjoys a dedicated following of regulars.
The cooking style here is better described as Contemporary American than New Orleans. That even includes the foodstuffs themselves. The chef has a liking for exotic seafood, for example. She seems to have a thing (and a gift) for halibut. And scallops. Despite that, the flavors are as big as in any of the nouvelle Creole bistros, and different enough from that common palette to make Gautreau’s food stand out.
Gautreau’s was one of the first of the Uptown gourmet bistros that redefined the dining scene in the 1980s. Ann Russell opened it in 1982 and kept it good until she sold it to a cadre of dedicated customers in 1995. Over the years, the ownership devolved upon Patrick Singley, who runs it in more or less the same style now. Gautreau’s was closed for over a year after Katrina, but picked up right where it left off. Including the same chef, Susan Zemanick, who has gained a good deal of celebrity in the past couple of years.
Finding the restaurant the first time isn’t easy. It’s in a residential Uptown block, and is well camouflaged. The small main dining room, in a century-old building, was once an antique pharmacy, from which some relics remain. A slight expansion after the hurricane enhanced its roominess significantly. Although the acoustics are better than in the ear-splitting early days, it’s still on the noisy side. There’s more room upstairs, but they don’t use it every night. The service staff is more knowledgeable than most, and given to boldly-stated opinions that are worth following. The customers contribute a lot to the scene. Go there four or five times, and you’ll see a lot of the same faces.
»Seared sea scallops
»Crispy sweetbreads, sweet potato-bacon hash
»Duck confit, German potato salad
Asian-style tuna tartar
Foie gras torchon, candied walnuts
»Soup du jour
Julienne kale, currants
Baby lettuces, honeycrisp apples
»Radicchio, fennel and arancini salad, tomato basil vinaigrette
»Sauteed flounder, ratatouille
»Sauteed halibut, preserved lemon yogurt
»Sauteed tripletail, sauce americaine
Wild mushroom perogies
»Roasted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes
Braised Moroccan spiced lamb shank
»Black Angus filet, bordelaise sauce
»Vanilla bean creme brulee
»Caramelized banana split
Chocolate pot de creme
»Blueberry buckle, huckleberry ice cream
Homemade sorbet, fresh berries
»Pumpkin mousse tart
Selection of cheeses
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation and show up with the right number of people on time. This is a small restaurant, and can’t accommodate surprises well.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
It’s always seemed to me that the menu needs one more appetizer and one more entree.
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 +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Open Monday dinner
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended