A little over a week ago I got a text from Lisa Blount during the radio show. Lisa is Mrs. Rick Blount, who is the current family custodian of the legendary grande dame Antoine’s. It was the news we’d been waiting for. Antoine’s would be opening on Friday, the 25th of September.
It was news Tom had long-awaited. Passing his favorite restaurant these last few months was heartbreaking for him, with sheets of green, gold, and purple plywood alternating on all the windows. Sounds of whizzing power tools kept our hopes alive that soon this local icon would emerge with a face lift.
On Friday we entered through the Hermes Bar with its mask advisories posted and its chairs and tables stacked. Very sad.
Inside, the massive main dining room was mostly empty, its tables socially-distantly placed. A greatly-reduced staff scurried around in anticipation of a fun evening, smiling behind their masks as they greeted guests for the first time in half a year.
Rick scooted by to say hello. Achilles heel surgery will keep him balancing for six weeks. At least he had a built in chair whenever he stopped scooting. The place filled up quickly. The air was festive as so many who knew each other gathered to celebrate this new beginning. The changes were not visible, except in one place in the center of the building where the gorgeous and gigantic elevator sits. It is so big and so beautiful that a chef’s table could reside there.
At the table, we were joined by friends Errol and Peggy Laborde and Dominic Massa. An adjacent table was the gathering of wine wholesalers.
Our favorite waiter Charles Carter took his usual good care of us. Lisa was at the table to point out that the new menu was in English. A look at it showed where the post-lockdown changes were. Oysters Thermidor, Foch, and Bienville are gone, leaving chargrilled and of course Rockefeller. We had some of each, and the wonderful house crab meat and shrimp remoulade starter. And souffle potatoes of course.
There was a prixe fixe for $42, offering an appetizer of braised short ribs with a blue cheese buttered crostini and tomato jam. Huh? This was an odd combination of things, not bad, just odd for this place. Dominic and I had one of these, which includes tw0 crostini piled high with that. We were of one mind with entrees too, opting for glazed wild salmon over Israeli cous cous with a fried artichoke bottom and squash. The salmon was a perfectly sized portion with a nice sear and thin glaze. It was a good plate of food.
This new menu was a combination of new things and classics like Pompano Pontchartrain, now offered as a full plate with rice and vegetables. Also Chicken Rochambeau, which Tom got instead of his usual pompano. Errol and Peggy, the true New Orleans Traditionalists, got the Antoine’s classic.
Peggy ordered a meringue for dessert, which I’d never seen before. She called it a Walgreen’s when it came to the table. A wildly colorful thing, it was quickly devoured. The meringue was green, and on top was vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was flanked by berries. And Tom had a lovely square of bread pudding to conclude another soul-satisfying meal at this, his favorite restaurant.