Eggplant Dishes--Dozen Best

Tom Fitzmorris July 30, 2012 18:21

Creme De La Creme

Dozen Best Eggplant Dishes

Summer is eggplant season--as if anyone would notice that in New Orleans, where our Sicilian heritage makes sure we get a lot of that vegetable. Without question, the most popular eggplant dish here is fried eggplant sticks. It deserves a list of its own, so we leave it off this list. What remains are mostly unique dishes. And some classics (eggplant parmigiana, for example) of which we give one excellent example, knowing well how many more good ones there are out there. We love eggplant.

1. Vincent's. Riverbend: 7839 St Charles Ave. 504-866-9313. ||Metairie: 4411 Chastant St. 504-885-2984. The eggplant sandwich is two rounds of fried eggplant hold between them fresh mozzarella "fireballs" and Italian sausage, and the whole thing is topped with red sauce and baked. A great but filling appetizer.

2. Galatoire's. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Galatoire's seafood-stuffed eggplant is a popular signature dish of the restaurant. Even though it has a decidedly homestyle quality, it's a complicated dish to make. Lots of lump crabmeat and big shrimp get caught up in a light filling with a great seafood flavor of its own. Widely copied around town.

3. Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154. Eggplant Locicero is a dish from Chef Duke's early years, with a rich sauce flooding over fried eggplant. It has strong competition from other starters, but is always worth getting if it's on the menu.

4. Carmelo. Mandeville: 1901 US Hwy 190. 985-624-4844. Veal and eggplant go very well together. They reach a peak in veal Sorrentina, which also includes prosciutto, sage, and a red wine sauce. The first place I ever had it was at Carmelo's original location in the French Quarter. He still makes it in his new place, and it's still a showstopper.

5. La Thai Cuisine. Uptown: 4938 Prytania. 504-899-8886 . In its earliest incarnation as the Mai Tai in Gretna (which was the city's first Thai restaurant), the Semiesuke family served me a green curry with chicken and eggplant. It set a literal and allegorical fire for Thai food for me. Spicy, balanced with coconut milk.

6. Arnaud's. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. Arnaud's wins the prize for most and best variety of baked oysters. Oysters Ohan is the least-known of the five, made with eggplant, andouille, and a spoonful of mornay over the top. As good as any of the others.

7. Casablanca. Metairie: 3030 Severn Ave. 504-888-2209. Baba ghanoosh is a dip made of smoked eggplant, garlic, olive oil and seasonings. Linda Waknin, chef and owner, gives it a more pronounced smoky quality, which makes it the best version around.

8. Lilette. Uptown: 3637 Magazine. 504-895-1636. This is as close as we get to fried eggplant on this list. The sauce sets it apart: skordalia, made with garlic, almonds, and bread. An astonishingly great flavor with fried eggplant chips.

9. Charlie's Seafood. Harahan: 8311 Jefferson Hwy. 504-737-3700. The seafood stuffed eggplant Frank Brigtsen makes for his casual seafood joint is in the same style as the one at Galatoire's, so you need not fear heavy clumps of bread crumbs. It sells out every Friday, the only day it's available.

10. Mr. Gyros. Metairie: 3363 Severn Ave. 504-833-9228. Not much moussaka around New Orleans. This one is the best, with large chunks of eggplant in the layers of béchamel and ground beef.

11. Fury's. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646. Eggplant parmigiana is a simple enough thing, found in every Italian restaurant in town. Fury's is not really Italian, but it has a few Italian dishes, featuring an unexpectedly fine basic red sauce.

12. Maple Street Cafe. Riverbend: 7623 Maple. 504-314-9003. The eggplant cake involved the vegetable chopped and mixed with the other traditional fixings of a crab cake. Then it's topped with a sauce with a good bit of crabmeat in it. Or crawfish, in season.


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