WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
After the oil industry on the West Bank hit the skids in the early 1980s, that side of the river has had far fewer white-tablecloth restaurants per capita than most of the rest of the metro area. That seems to be turning around, and this new steakhouse is a sign of that. It has the style, food and service one needs when a special dining occasion is in order.
Although the menu is reasonably comprehensive–seafood and meats other than beef are included–this is unambiguously a steakhouse. The standard is USDA prime, although if it’s aged that flavor got past me. The acid test for a steakhouse is the sirloin strip. When they first opened, this was a bone-in job. It’s now boneless, a small disappointment for us connoisseurs. All cuts are of fine intrinsic merit and well-handled in the kitchen. They can sauce the steak in any reasonable way you specify. Appetizers are polished and imaginative; the sides, being the standard steakhouse fare, will not make memories.
O’Brien’s opened in 2008. It was one of the few major restaurants to open that year, and one of the two or three best. The owner is Ken Theriot, whose career in some of the great West Bank restaurants of the past includes LeRuth’s. The chef is Matt Donelon, who turned up at Rene Bistrot for awhile before the storm.
The exterior has the look of a bank records-storage office. Inside, it’s much more interesting, an art deco design that’s almost sleek. The windows are too high to see through and shuttered with blinds anyway, lending a borderline speakeasy quality. Many of the tables are booths. The wine list has enough bottles of interest to serve well. All this comes together to create a terrific venue for the second or third date, or beyond.
»Parmesan tomato bread pudding, fried crawfish tails, hot sauce hollandaise
»Oyster & artichoke cheesecake, oysters sautéed in butter, garlic, and white wine
Fried green tomato, crawfish tails, creamy goat cheese sauce
»Pan seared scallops, braised pork belly, baby arugula, honey glaze
Smoked duck breast, grilled sweet corn, Creole mustard sauce
Jumbo lump crab au gratin
»Oysters O’Neil, cheese and breadcrumbs, hot sauce hollandaise
Crawfish boil risotto
Louisiana alligator tenderloin, grits, five-pepper jelly
»Crab and brie soup
Soup du jour
Seared scallop panzanella salad
Roasted red beet and crab salad, goat cheese
Tomato and crab salad, avocado, creamy basil vinaigrette
»Leruth’s house salad (grape tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, boiled egg, parmesan, green goddess dressing)
Steakhouse spinach salad bacon vinaigrette, red onion, boiled egg
»Blue cheese lettuce wedge
»Prime New York strip
Steak sauces: beurre blanc, béarnaise, Cabernet demi-glace, bordelaise, mushroom bordelaise, melted bleu cheese, hollandaise
Grilled mahi mahi, green tomatoes, crispy potato galette, crawfish and baby spinach sauté
Gulf shrimp and okra stew
»Braised beef brisket
Crispy shrimp and corn grits, tasso beurre blanc
»Grilled yellowfin tuna, caramelized cauliflower and Creole hollandaise
»Chef’s Gulf fish, black rice, pineapple-mango salsa, jumbo lump crabmeat, grilled asparagus, lemon brown butter
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation, requesting a booth. The tables in the center are sort of out in space.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I will never understand why any steakhouse with a New Orleans orientation doesn’t automatically serve steaks in the distinctive local style, with sizzling butter. But they will if you ask.
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 +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The only other excellent steakhouse on the West Bank (the Beef Connection) is only a few blocks away, but O’Brien’s Grille seems to have attracted attention anyway. Once you’re inside the door, you’re in a dining room as elegant as any other on that side of the river.
There’s something about a steakhouse that seems to require waiters with a lot of miles on them. Somehow, they’ve come up with such old pros here, including a fellow who waited on me at Commander’s Palace twenty years ago.