For a number of years now, Ralph’s on the Park has offered a clever hook to get you out of the house and into their place in the unbearable summer months in New Orleans. The 3 Appetizers and a Glass of Wine $35 special has been an annual hit since the day they tried it. I have been many times and always thought it a great deal. But everything is different now, and I was curious to see the special in this post-COVID world.
I am delighted to report that there is no COVID stain on Ralph’s. Everything there is exactly as we left it in 2020, except that they have replaced the cap bread with their own Parker House Rolls served Monkey Bread-style. These are light, soft, fluffy, and buttery.
Service, a long-held trademark of Brennan restaurants, was great then, and it is great now.The same is true for the food.
The price of this deal was $35 when it started, and it remains so today, despite the rising prices of everything. I wondered what the portion sizes would be, given the elevated cost of raw materials.
There were a staggering number of choices, with a minimal but adequate selection of 4 wines. Two from France: Veuve du Vernay Brut, Joseph Mellot Sincerite Pinot Noir Rose 2019, and one Italian - Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio 2020, as well as a 2018 Catena, Vista Flores Malbec from Argentina.
We started with a turtle soup, a burrata salad, and a muffuletta salad. The muffuletta salad was a little unusual in that the greens were dark and bitter, and the meats and cheeses thin and julienned, with olives chopped finely. The garlic and herb dressing had an odd flavor as well, but the more I ate of this the more I liked it.
Our dear friend and dining companion Dominic Massa’s Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad was a little more complex than that. Petite arugula greens tossed in basil pistachio pesto and fine herbs formed the base.
The next round was shrimp arancini, field peas with tasso, and another turtle soup. Both Tom and Dominic loved the turtle soup.
Dominic got his turtle soup as a second course. Tom’s arancini was a little disappointing. Deep fried things that arrive from the kitchen darker than it should be tell me the oil needs changing. Otherwise these were fine, with a strong shrimp flavor and chunks of shrimp throughout the Arborio rice. These sat in a puddle of roasted garlic aioli.
The best of this round was definitely in front of me. The field peas were a small pile in a bowl topped with pickled jalapenos. Described on the menu as “summer succotash”, the field peas were perfectly cooked over always-divine popcorn rice, with thin slices of delicious tasso on top. Cajun spices and brown butter dashi finished this dish beautifully. It was an adequate portion but I wished had more of this.
Both of the guys got the Butter Scallops and Potato in the last course. Two butter-poached sea scallops with pecan crumb, and fondant potato over andouille cream sauce. It was a generous portion for this deal. Lightly seared, this simple preparation highlighted the flavor of the scallops. Both Tom and Dominic wanted more of this.
I was disappointed in my third course. Duck confit always implies braised moist duck, but the confit was stuffed inside small peppers with “breading” of dirty rice, completely defeating the essence of the confit. This was a confusing dish, though it was properly described on the menu. I also thought the portion was a bit small.
Dominic ended his meal with the strawberry bombe, a beautiful round dome in a luscious pink color. Tom’s bread pudding was like a cute little muffin with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce.
I enjoyed my glass of Champagne. It was a generous pour, as was the Malbec and Pinot Grigio. We were all well-satisfied with this part of the deal.
In these times of expensive dining, this is a real bargain. It’s a great environment with a nice buzz toi the room. Service is a good match to the terrific, polished food. Don’t miss it.