5 Fleur
Average check per person $65-$75
BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchNo Lunch SundayNo Lunch MondayNo Lunch TuesdayNo Lunch WednesdayNo Lunch ThursdayNo Lunch FridayNo Lunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayNo Dinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Le Foret

CBD: 129 Camp. 504-553-6738. Map.
Dressy.
AE DC DS MC V
Website

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Even as all the trends point to the death of grand dining, one or two new restaurants open in New Orleans every year purveying exactly that. Le Foret was the best of the Class of 2009. Although it keeps such a low profile that most people to whom I recommend it has never heard of it, and even has a hard time visualizing its location. Those who have been there have no problem remembering the place, though. Its beautiful dining room, spectacular presentations and service, and impressive and growing wine cellar gladden the soul of those of us who enjoy restaurants that can fill an entire evening with pleasure.

WHAT’S GOOD
The cooking is Creole-tinged modern American food, involving beautiful raw materials made even more beautiful in the kitchen. The dinner begins with not one but two rounds of amuse-bouche offerings. There will be another later, after the dessert, and even a madeleine as you exit. In between, the courses are inventive without being contrived. Familiar foodstuffs–most of them locally produced, with the sources named–emerge from the kitchen with their flavors maximized. (It helps that not just the ingredients but the preparations are kept in sync with the seasons.) Timing, wine service, and attitude are calculated to turn the meal into an occasion.

BACKSTORY
The building, despite its highly visible location, stood empty so long that most Orleanians can’t picture it. Those of a certain age remember it as Ralph’s Arden Bar, a hangout for well-heeled businessmen in the shipping and oil industries, when many such companies were headquartered nearby. Le Foret owner Margaret Schexnayder (in the oil business in Cajun country) renovated all three floors in high style.

DINING ROOM
The main dining room has a contemporary, rich style. Oversize windows look out into the intersection of Camp and Common. The curtains are wide open, allowing the streetlight to pour inside. I can’t decide whether I like this or not. The ambient sound level is a touch on the loud side when the room is full. Upstairs, the rooms are quieter. On the top floor is a dining room for about fifty and an apartment; the possibilities of this are intriguing. All this is managed with elan by Danny Millan, whose past includes stints at August, Brennan’s, the old Sazerac, Emeril’s, and other first-class dining rooms.

ESSENTIAL DISHES
(The menu changes often This is a recent sample)
starters
»Grilled quail, potato gnocchi, prosciutto, pine nuts, Creole mustard
»Crab bisque, roasted corn, red potatoes
»Charbroiled oysters, garlic, lemon zest, panko, parmesan and herb butter
»»Seared foie gras, Louisiana strawberry, pecan butter, balsamic and brandy milk punch
»Butter lettuce, Mr Higgins’ jumbo lump crabmeat, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pickle red onion, orange supreme, green goddess dressing
Green and white asparagus, crabmeat, Dijon champagne vinaigrette, lemon gremolata, poached yard egg, truffle hollandaise
»»Le Foret champignons, shiitake mushroom confit, pickled onions, pate de foie gras, sultanas, hazelnuts, watercress
Entreés
Fruits de mer risotto, Maine lobster, mussels, littleneck clams, Louisiana shrimp, peas, wild mushrooms
»Seared beef tenderloin, carrots, spinach, potato puree, roasted garlic, thyme veal glace
»Soft shell crab crusted in cornmeal, corn maque choux, wild arugula, crabmeat, mirliton, cherry tomato salad
»»Seared diver sea scallops, eggplant and tahini puree, summer squash ratatouille, frisee, warm pancetta vinaigrette
»Duck breast, duck confit and pasta terrine, radish and baby beets, foie-buttered duck jus
Pan-roasted red snapper, asparagus tips, baby squash, wild mushrooms, baby spinach, confit potatoes, and herb vinaigrette
»»Grilled double pork chop, bacon red potatoes, Brussels sprouts, sauce au poivre
Wild mushroom and goat cheese ravioli, porcini cream, yellow foots, maitake, beech oyster and shiitake mushrooms
Five-course chef’s tasting menu
Arugula and radicchio, pear, prosciutto, ricotta salata, herb balsamic vinaigrette
Mussels and gulf shrimp, shallots, herb and white wine broth
Lobster risotto, peas, wild mushroom and scallions
Pan-roasted red snapper (as above)
Crème brulee, cinnamon, star anise, fresh fruit

FOR BEST RESULTS
The five-course tasting menu at $60 gives a good taste of the restaurant at an outstanding price. Another good strategy is to build a meal of the very string appetizers. They make hot dessert soufflees, which you should order at the beginning of the meal.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
While Le Foret is easily capable of delivering classical service, its waiters are more like those of a gourmet bistro. That may be a smart move, given the informality of dining these days. But I still miss the sharpness of the 1970s and 1980s.

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 +2
  • Consistency +2
  • Service+2
  • Value +1
  • Attitude +3
  • Wine & Bar +2
  • Hipness +2
  • Local Color +2

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Romantic
  • Good view
  • Good for business meetings
  • Many private rooms
  • Open Sunday dinner
  • Open Monday lunch and dinner
  • Free valet parking
  • Reservations honored promptly

4 Readers Commented

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  1. J.C. Carroll III on May 10, 2014

    I was shocked at the abysmal service we received at Le foret after reading your characterization that the service was spectacular. Our party of six friends have dined together a a few times a month at restaurants around the world for the past 9 years. The service last night was so bad that I was looking around for Alan Funt to jump from behind a plant at any minute. We didn’t see a wine list until we were asked if we wanted cocktails, twenty minutes after we were seated!?! I ordered a bottle of Sangiovese, and the waiter brought out a bottle of Spanish wine that I did not recognize. I pointed out that this was not what I ordered, and he apologized and took the bottle back to the bar. He quickly returned with the same bottle, informing me that this was in fact what I had ordered. I, once again, pointed out the wine that I wanted on the wine list, and he removed the Spanish wine from our table. This process continued twice more until he returned with a sangiovese (not the one I ordered) which we settled on because it was obvious we were not going to get what we wanted. The waiter did not even know how to serve the wine! He uncorked the bottle, set it back on the table, and tossed the cork to the middle of the table. After we received our appetizers, he asked if we would like some of the wine. when we said yes, he poured everyone a glass of wine. ??? The waiter brought our main courses within five minutes of our appetizers and salads, which were delivered together. One of our party had to request a knife well after his meal was delivered. The service was on the level of a $35 per person meal experience. It was certainly not what you would expect at $160+ per person.
    It is my experience that service at a dining establishment does not vary from spectacular to abysmal. I wonder if you let them know who you are, and that you would be writing about your experience before you were seated. While this may be a good way to get great service, it is a disservice to anyone who reads about your experience. We will no longer rely on your input when we select our dining locations.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on May 11, 2014

      Before you jump directly to incompetence or corruption on my part, I beg that you consider this: Le Foret recently had a major change of management. Danny Millan–the man who ran the restaurant and particularly its service side since its opening day–has moved on to his own restaurant, Cava. It’s too new to review yet, but if you were to go there you’d see the kind of service that I recommended at Le Foret during his years there. It is not a myth, or the result of their sucking up to a restaurant critic.

      It would be hard for a restaurant with Le Foret’s ambitions to get through the loss of such a key figure without being off balance. I have been watching for that, while at the same time giving the new guys time to get their act together. Yours is the first major complaint I’ve heard about the place, while at the same time I have read continuing good reports from other readers.

      I suspect that what you experienced may be the result of their being a big private party elsewhere in the restaurant. Le Foret does a lot of those, and it sometimes completely shuts down the a la carte dining aspect.

      I suspect it’s a one-night thing. I will play my hand of many, many consistently great dinners there against your one evening’s disappointment–at least in my effort to try to salvage some of my credibility. I would like to dine in every restaurant in town every day to check for consistency, but I hope you’ll understand that such a program is unfeasible. And one off night doesn’t in my mind condemn a restaurant to an eternity of hell.

      Now I ask you to write a letter telling the management (sorry–I don’t know the new guy) what happened to you, and to let me know what they do.

      Off nights are very disappointing to those they affect. But there isn’t a restaurant in town that hasn’t shown me a bad night once in awhile.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Bill Dunn on November 22, 2015

    Tom,
    I am confused by your rating of Le Foret. I just read above that they have had a change in management and I am wondering if that has contributed to your rating of 3 – Fleurs di lis, on your main page, or are they still rated 5 – Fleurs di lis as appears on your individual write up above? I have found that our taste in food runs fairly close together and I do rely on your reports to help guide me through the vast New Orleans restaurant scene. My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the meals we have had at Le Foret in the past but we understand that nothing stays the same. Please advise.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on November 22, 2015

      At this time the rating of La Foret is three fleurs-de-lis. They’ve had a lot of flux in the kitchen lately, and isn’t what it once was. I keep watching, because the pieces are there to become a top restaurant again. Thanks for the tip about the wrong rating.

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