ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Remember wine bars? They made their big splash here in the 1980s. After a golden decade they faded, as restaurants co-opted the idea by offering dozens of wines by the glass. But wine bars never went away entirely. New ones continue to open sporadically–particularly as restaurants and bars have become more like one another. Here is a good such place.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The intentions of Orleans Grapevine are clear. The large, heavy document that follows you to the table is the wine list, whose depth of vinous offerings rival those of all but the best-stocked major restaurants. It begins with only three pages of food. One of those is devoted to small plates. These are as ambitious as the main courses, and work well if you want to conduct a wine tasting at the bar–not a bad idea. The full-fledged entrees include good fresh fish, fish courtbouillon, a rack of lamb, a couple of steaks, and a double-cut pork chop. So it’s not just light dining to go with the wines.
WHAT’S GOOD The groceries bought by the kitchen are of excellent quality, a fact particularly noticeable in the seafood dishes. The steaks are USDA Prime, and the pork and lamb chops are of equivalent pedigree and goodness. . The ravioli–of which there are usually two kinds daily–are delicate and made in house. Even considering all the great versions around town of scallops, the ones here rank near the top of the list.
Owners Pam Fortner and Earl Bernhardt opened in the Orleans Grapevine in 2002. It was a long jump from their other French Quarter business: four loud Tropical Isle bars on Bourbon Street. In its quiet sophistication, the Grapevine could not be more different. The building went up in 1809, when Orleans Street and the blocks around it were the center of the performing arts in New Orleans.
The premises will please those who like having dinner at Antoine’s followed by drinks at the Napoleon House. The main room’s U-shaped bar is the focus of a distinctly French Quarter environment, with low lighting, irregular hand-made surfaces, and high ceilings. An unmanned piano that plays soft cabaret music all the time. A recent renovation made courtyard dining more appealing–at least when the weather cools. The service staff knows the wine and food well enough to make sensible recommendations.
FULL MENU, WITH RECOMMENDATIONS (»)
Mixed green salad, port-poached pears, Roquefort, port vinaigrette
»Baby spinach salad, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, grapes, honey mustard sherry vinaigrette
»Duck breast salad, blueberries, Maytag blue cheese, balsamic blueberry vinaigrette
Gumbo du jour
Soup du jour
»Cheeses du jour with fruits
Baked brie, roasted garlic cream or strawberry balsamic coulis
»New Orleans barbeque shrimp
»Tenderloin of beef medallions, marsala and mushroom cream sauce
»Crab cakes, chipotle pepper, wilted spinach, remoulade
»»Pan seared scallops, mushroom wild rice, blackberry beurre blanc
»Steamed mussels, a saffron tomato broth, jumbo lump crabmeat, bacon, basil aioli
Evangeline chicken (wrapped with bacon, fresh sage, Southern Comfort glaze)
»Creole seafood courtbouillon
Flounder stuffed with crabmeat, crawfish tasso cream sauce
»Fish of the day
»Ravioli Orleans (goat cheese, shiitake mushrooms, vermouth sauce)
»Herbed rack of lamb, brandy peppercorn demi-glace
Double cut pork chop, sweet potato and tasso hash, orange-pepper glaze
»Black angus filet mignon, crawfish-sundried tomato demi-glace or Stilton blue cheese sauce
Petit filet and Maine lobster tail
Seasonal vegetable melange, jasmine rice
White chocolate bread pudding, white chocolate ganache
»Vanilla creme brulee
Bittersweet chocolate mousse, Grand Marnier whipped cream
Triple chocolate fudge brownie, ice cream, strawberry coulis
New York cheesecake, blueberry coulis
FOR BEST RESULTS
Throughout the menu, wine pairings are available, and three-wine flights along eight different themes can be arranged. Take advantage. This is a great medium-price restaurant to bring out-of-town visitors, who will find the place exactly how they envision a French Quarter cafe.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The kitchen misses on some details. I’ve had undercooked rice, sauces that didn’t stand up to the main item, and one ingredient too many in a number of dishes.
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 +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +3
- Courtyard dining and sidewalk tables
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday dinner
- Open some holidays
- Open until 11:30 FR SA
- Reservations recommended