Don’t you just love it when a “cursed” building with a revolving door of tenants finally gets a curse-breaker? Many years ago Jeff Curtis built a nice building on a ditch which poses as a river tributary in Covington on Hwy 190. It was originally the home of Boule, which should have lasted a long time itself, but didn’t.
A pretty swell pizza place called Rocketfire moved in there, and we expected that one to have staying power, but it fell to the predictable mistakes of the neophyte restaurateurs, in this case a couple of attorneys. Not sure what happened to them, but a second location opened next to Dorignac’s on Veterans, and soon the whole thing was gone.
The Mugshots folks from Hattiesburg were next up, using the space for their corporate offices. This seemed to us a waste of a very nice restaurant space, and eventually I guess they agreed.
The building sat for a while between each tenant, and a bar from across the lake finally moved in last year called Apres Lounge. I was suspicious of this one immediately, I mean, a glamorous Vegas-type bar...on the Northshore? But a long time has elapsed in the 30 years since we planted roots here, and the bedroom community known mostly for families has seen a surge in singles looking for a quiet but very nice lifestyle. Apres made it, certainly long enough to attract what we feel is the curse-breaker, Desi Vega’s Steakhouse Northshore.
And so it was with great anticipation that we awaited this newcomer to the Northshore. We already have two great steakhouses, Keith Young’s and the various Gallagher’s: the original Grille, 527, and Slidell. These are two excellent places for prime beef, with the requisite ambience. Most people fall into two steak camps here - Keith’s or Pat’s. Both camps are terrific, same quality beef and steakhouse sides, separated by a sizzling question: butter or no?
Enter Desi Vega. The place rocks. The glamour factor of Apres bleeds into the restaurant side, and the place is a little Vegassy (Not Desi, but the famous Sin City.) The vibe is electric, very unlike the one in Metairie or St. Charles, though the original is closer.
An enormous service staff of black-clad professionals descends upon you the moment you walk in, ready to attend to your every desire in a very friendly and welcoming way. The clientele is upscale northshore glamour, and it’s a place you want to be. I mentioned this all on the radio show, using the word “edgy”, and a caller inquired of himself whether he was edgy enough to fit in there. We laughed at his next comment, which was if you have to ask yourself that question, the answer is “no.”
We didn’t (and wouldn't) ask ourselves that question, because we already know we aren't but no one threw us out and we had a very enjoyable time at Desi Vega’s.
The black-clad waiters delivered garlic bread, something I very rarely see. It looked great but wasn’t, mainly because WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO FRENCH BREAD???? It’s rubbery and tasteless. I miss great garlic bread. Hell, I miss great French bread.
After the French bread, the amuse bouche superstar arrived. The single meatball in a small puddle of sauce with a smattering of Parmesan is the best amuse bouche out there, with the recent exception of the homemade profiteroles for tiny crab salad sandwiches or the itsy bitsy shrimp poorboy on homemade bread with lettuce assembled by tweezers from the new Tchefuncte’s.
Without all of that exceptional fanfare, Desi’s grandmother’s recipe for red sauce and a baby meatball is a solid winner.
After a little meatball and garlic bread snack, it was on to the menu. It looks fantastic, and naturally, I wanted everything on it. I restrained myself to three appetizers: Oysters Rockefeller on crostini, steak egg roll, and broiled shrimp with crabmeat stuffing.
Our daughter made an interesting observation, which was spot on. “Everything in front of me looks like a pass-around appetizer at a wedding.” That was exactly right, though I mean that as a compliment. If I could eat pass-around appetizers at a glamorous wedding all the time, I would. Within minutes of that discussion we learned that the chef was Marlon Hornsby, formally corporate chef for Cayman Sinclair, whose Lakehouse buffet always reminds me of a glamorous outdoor wedding of nice-but-unspectacular food under a big white tent. I’m happy with that, what can I say?
The steak eggrolls seemed like a great idea, mainly because they were a surprise on a steakhouse menu.
And they were pretty ordinary. Served alongside pickled vegetables, it seemed like an odd dish,. Absolutely nothing special.
I ate most of the shrimp, which appeared to be fried upon closer inspection. I liked these well enough, but couldn't find the crabmeat stuffing, not that I thought about it too hard.
What surprised both Marys the most was Tom’s lack of interest in the Oysters Rockefeller crostini. The crostini was thin and not especially hard, which didn’t really support the weight of the toppings. The Oysters Rockefeller, which was more of a creamed spinach, was actually very good. And the fried oyster on top was a little soft, not hard and crispy like I expected.
These all fell into the good-enough category, but were certainly not outstanding in any way.
We ordered a bone-in filet and creamed spinach, along with Lyonnaise potatoes. After realizing that Tom was full, and Mary Leigh had left to have pho with her boyfriend, I cancelled the spinach.
The steak was gorgeous, tender, and sizzling in butter. I love being able to keep cooking a steak on the plate when I order it less-cooked for Tom. It was $58, and seemed small for that, but I never pay attention to steaks because I’m not a big meat eater. It was quite tasty, cooked as ordered and had a great soft-as-butter texture. Very nice.
The Lyonnaise potatoes were a disappointment. Actually fried home fries with sauteed onions, they weren’t bad but I wish I had gotten something else.
A dessert was out of the question. We had already eaten too much.
I love Desi Vega’s, but the food is better at the other two places. Tom’s new restaurant rule kicks in again, but it’s hard not to see what’s going on when something opens, especially on the Northshore. We lead a sheltered life.
I will go back there and not infrequently, because it’s such a “happening” place. And who doesn’t love to be where it’s”happening?”