Friday, November 6, 2009. Brakes. Hair. Two Lunches At Antoine's. No Dinner. I discovered an unexpected benefit of my writing the newsletter the day before it's published. It opens up my Fridays. I will be able to eat lunch again! Get a brake tag! Get a haircut! Stuff like that!
Getting a haircut for me means having a good lunch. I arrived at the Royal Orleans at a little afternoon. I asked my barber Harold Klein--he was hanging at the Rib Room when I passed--to push my appointment forward a touch, so I could expand this rare midday meal. I would go to Antoine's, my lunch venue every Friday for fifteen years--until I got married and, shortly after, tired of hearing MA tell me how going to the same restaurant every week was a waste of my time and money.
There was an element of research in this lunch. Antoine's has a new lunch specials menu, which I need to know about for the commercials I ad lib for them. I would bring it up if Mary Ann brought it up. But wait! She's not even in town! Off pretending to be a political force in Washington! Well, by gosh, I'm just going to enjoy this purely, then, and not pretend to be working.
But those specials are intriguing. Antoine's began running a pair of the for $18.40 early in the summer to attract the locals. It must have worked. They've decided to keep it going, and change the offerings now and then. The repast is modest enough that I could sample both lunch options in a single meal. The first appetizer is an old but neglected Antoine's classic, oysters bonne femme. It's a little casserole of oysters, crabmeat, green onions, and a veloute made with blond roux and oyster water, topped with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and bread crumbs. A good little dish, with a bit more white pepper heat than usual. Very good.
Shrimp Regua, the other starter, is a white shrimp remoulade (as opposed to the orange-red one they've always served), atop a fried red tomato, atop some greens. This is a very fine appetizer, sharp and perky.
The first of the two entrees was trout meuniere, cooked on the grill and hit with a light brown meuniere sauce, with rice on the side. This wasn't what I'd call exciting, and the problem was that the piece of fish was too small to a) cook properly or b) get to the table without getting cold. (It's a long walk from Antoine's kitchen to any of their dining rooms.) The fish needs to be cut thicker. But that presents another problem: they probably hit this price point by using the thin ends of the trout fillets. The things a chef has to balance!
The other entree possibility is roast pork loin, served with a raspberry demi-glace and some mashed weet potatoes with pecans. The sauce was original and very good, a little sweet but not too. The pork was a shade overcooked, and it could have been sliced thinner, too. But the flavor was good enough to make me happy. The two-course lunch for $18.40 is attractive enough. But I think the four-course lunch for $36.80 is even better.
Harold cut my hair and updated me on local politics, which he clearly follows closely. He also has more than a few politicians as clients. He's also a foodie, and raved about some fish specials Mr. Thieu--the Vietnamese sous chef in the Rib Room upstairs--has been making lately. He says it's by far the best food in the restaurant these days.
That still left time, after I removed myself to the radio station, for a twenty-minute nap on the floor before the show started. This new schedule is great!
After the program, I knocked out a few commercials and left around eight. I thought about going to Andrea's, but I was afraid he'd want me to stay for the wine dinner he's having tonight. The menu doesn't appeal to me. What I really wanted to do was hang in the bar, where Philip Melancon--the long-time pianist in the Bayou Bar at the Pontchartrain Hotel and other venues--is now holding forth every Friday night. He's highly listenable. But I didn't stop as I passed the place by, and the next thing I knew I was in our quiet, dark, empty home.
It occurred to me that I have not heard from the Marys since they left. I tried calling them from home, but they're staying so far out in Maryland that their cellphones wouldn't connect. Maybe they didn't want to talk to me because the health care legislation went through the House. That's what they were there to prevent. No sense bringing that subject up.
Antoine's. French Quarter: 713 St. Louis. 581-4422.