Creme De La Creme

Dozen Best Oyster-Artichoke Soups

Oyster-artichoke soup is without question one of the three or four best soups in the Creole potage repertoire. Created by Chef Warren Leruth in the 1960s, it spread quickly to other restaurants. For a time, it would be found in every Italian or French-Creole place in town. That is no longer the case. Even though it’s still very popular, oyster-artichoke soup is found on maddeningly few menus. Even on those it’s often a soup of the day, on an unpredictable schedule. The reason for this is that it can’t be made in enormous batches like gumbo can be, because the ingredients go sour after a day or two.

The soup is found in two style. LeRuth’s original was made with the lightest of roux, with no cream. These days, cream is often part of the recipe. That’s okay, as long as it doesn’t get thick and overwhelming. The main ingredients are both subtle in flavor, and part of the pleasure is the marvelous way they go together. Cream can cloak the magic.

Oyster-artichoke soup.

1. Mandina’s. Mid-City: 3800 Canal. 504-482-9179. Although Mandina’s turtle soup is more famous, its oyster-artichoke potage is better. One of the very best, in fact, with a flavor closer to that of LeRuth’s than any other often available. I wish the Mandina’s on the North Shore had it more often.

2. K Gee’s Oyster Bar. Mandeville: 2534 Florida. 985-626-0530. This great little seafood house in Mandeville makes wonderful soups by taking local standards and simplifying them. This has all the elements of the classic oyster-artichoke soup, but with little or no cream, and a broth more like that of another classic: oyster stew. This allows the big, freshly-shucked oysters to stand out. Yum.

3. Brigtsen’s. Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610. Every one of Frank Brigtsen’s surprisingly large repertoire of oyster soups is superb, including this one. All the soups run on a du jour basis. I wish you luck in finding this one.

4. Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th St. 504-455-1545. There always has been something Italian about oyster-artichoke soup, and here’s the best one from a straight-ahead Italian restaurant.

5. Mr. Ed’s. Metairie: 1001 Live Oak. 504-838-0022. ||Kenner: 910 W Esplanade Ave. 504-463-3030. Practically since the day this place opened, the soup has been a major specialty. I’m not positive they cook it in house, but its goodness is unimpeachable.

6. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Galatoire’s once had the worst version of oyster-artichoke soup, much too light. The recipe has been retooled, and now it’s reliably delicious. When they have it, which is sporadically.

7. Drago’s. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. ||CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911. Oyster-artichoke is not on the menu per se. However, what they call stuffed artichoke soup runs as a special two or three days a week. When it’s on, I ask for it with a few oysters thrown in. Great!

8. Restaurant des Familles. Lafitte: 7163 Barataria Blvd. 504-689-7834. The soup here has a touch of cream–not enough to get in the way. The main ingredients are firm and come out in big chunks. The broth tastes of oysters, which is what you want.

9. Cafe DiBlasi. Gretna: 1801 Stumpf Blvd. 504-361-3106. This neighborhood restaurant in Gretna is full of surprises. One of them is the goodness of the oyster-artichoke soup. Maybe the spirit of LeRuth’s–which was only a couple of miles away–somehow rubbed off.

10. Harbor Seafood. Kenner: 3203 Williams Blvd. 504-443-6454. This smallish place has an enormous menu, and on it is a fine oyster-artichoke soup. Worth the inevitable wait.

11. Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. The lightest soup on this list, with–paradoxically–the biggest oysters.

12. Bistro Orleans. Metairie: 3431 Houma Blvd. 504-304-1469 . This is a very new restaurant whose oyster-artichoke soup a radio caller told me about. I happened to be in the neighborhood that evening, tried it, and loved it. It’s in the creamy style.

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