Back in December, we were blessed with a glorious spring-like Saturday. As a great lover of the outdoors, I never let any such day go to waste. And poor Tom has become an al-Fresco diner because I am driving. Besides, he needs vitamin D. And we need content, so we went into the French Quarter.
Tableau is a wonderful place to see local color, but I prefer to do it from afar. Watching the goings-on from the balcony at Tableau is like a dinner theater. Considering the theater, it may not work out well, but sometimes it does.
The first time we did this was years ago, and from the St. Peter St. balcony, we watched a drunken brawl. On this visit in December we discovered that there is a lovely indoor courtyard that is quiet. We sat there.
There isn’t a square inch of this building that isn’t absolutely lovely. It is the quintessential New Orleans French Quarter dining space, in or out. Options for all tastes.
In previous visits here I have been annoyed at the service, where waiters all seemed to assume their customers were tourists and offered an unsolicited tutorial on things like gumbo. This was in the days when it was obvious that your customer was Tom Fitzmorris. Call me crazy, but I have always maintained that if you are employed at a restaurant of the stature of Tableau, you should know a person of the stature of Tom Fitzmorris. That’s your business. Not that I was expecting adulation, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a tutorial on gumbo and the like.
Just when I was beginning to be amused rather than annoyed by this, it stopped. I don’t think our wonderful waitress that December afternoon had any idea who Tom was, but at least she didn’t try to educate us. Or maybe she was just too busy.
Bypassing Brunch anywhere on a weekend these days is impossible, so I just resigned myself to the idea. The Brunch menu at Tableau is not very large but is perfectly adequate. And it had a burger, which I got. For Tom, it was an all-oyster meal.
The first course was crispy fried oysters from the add-on section. These came piled high in a cute cup with an aioli for dipping. These were terrific. Greaseless, golden brown, and crispy, these very large bivalves were exceedingly pleasing to Tom.
I was equally happy with my gumbo. It was dense and thick, replete with meats. Geordie Brower makes the meats and sausages for the Brennan group at the Commissary. This market and restaurant is an interesting place on Orange St. deep in the Irish Channel run by the next Gen of Brennans from the Dick Brennan Sr. wing. Dickie’s kids Sarah and Richard and cousins Geordie Brower (Lauren’s eldest) are always there, along with whichever one or two of Geordie’s younger siblings is there.
The Commissary as a restaurant is not my thing, but the products they supply to the group are superior in every way. The andouille smoked by Geordie Brower is sensational, and there was plenty of it in the gumbo at Tableau. Superb!
I could have gotten another order of that gumbo and called it a day, (or been satisfied with the richness of the ample portion,) but I had a hamburger coming! And a great one it was. It was a classic cheeseburger with a slab of White Cheddar on a brioche bun with lots of pickles and fresh dressings served with housemade fries. Exactly what I wanted, cooked the way I asked. Perfect!
But the star of the meal was Tom’s oyster pan roast. Interpreted slightly differently than the standard around town, this was a dish of very large crispy fried oysters placed into a lake of divine tarragon and pepper sauce, garnished with watercress, and served with a cheesy piece of brioche toast. For some reason, this array included slices of apple. This was sensational, and Tom could have made a meal of just this, so it’s a good thing he had his plain crispy fried oysters first.
It was just last weekend that this same type of weather came again, beckoning us back to the Quarter. I wish there were other places offering this kind of outdoor dining option for mid-afternoon, but there aren’t, so we happily returned to Tableau.
This time I definitely wanted the balcony again and was told it was full. There were only a few tables occupied up there, so I asked about that and was told they were all reserved. Next time I will get online as I am driving in and book a spot there.
While we waited for them to set a table in the inner courtyard where we sat the last time, they decided to seat us upstairs. This time we faced Chartres, which is a much better scene for watching. We got a view of the church and Jackson Square and were treated to a delightfully serendipitous view of a wedding arriving for a mid-afternoon ceremony. The St. Augustine band snuck up to the gates of Jackson Square and quietly waited for the church doors to open. When the guests poured out of the church they were serenaded by a quiet and sweet version of high school band tunes, before they cut loose with their signature tuba-twisting powerful sounds.
It was raucous down in the square when a Mardi Gras Indian and band arrived with a second line from who-knows-where, and then a lone trumpet player worked the corner serenading us with tunes that often included a note held so long and hard I waited for him to pass out.
All of this made me thrilled to be in New Orleans, and I really appreciated it the way a tourist must. It is a truly unique place, and I felt privileged to be an observer of this scene, punctuated by delicious food.
On this visit, we decided to do the Brunch thing and at least have eggs. Tom of course got his Oyster Pan Roast which was even better than the last time. This is worth a visit all by itself.
I got a cold appetizer called Blue Crab Tagliatelle, which puzzled me at first until I realized that the cucumber ribbons mentioned in the description were the Tagliatelle. What came to the table was much better than I expected. It seemed small upon sight, and I found it “interesting,” until I tasted it. The blue crab, an ample portion coated with a nicely seasoned but not overpowering ravigote dressing was intertwined with the cucumber ribbons. The cracklins mentioned in the description were a few pork rind pieces which added nothing to this dish. Not something I would get again, but I am glad I got it.
The egg dish we got was Tableau Benedict, which is described as a typical Benedict with pepper jelly and tasso ham as the meat. Another thing I wouldn’t get again but I’m glad I tried, this had tasso as a pile of shaved smoked pork which was actually very good with an excellent spice level. It also had English muffins literally soaked in a pepper jelly sauce. Not so good.
The biggest disappointment of the meal was the shrimp roll I ordered as an entree. The shrimp were shockingly small and barely coated with remoulade sauce. They were served on that now-ubiquitous roll of inverted hot dog bun first seen in these parts at Dat Dog. I actually love this bread, which is usually toasted with butter on the outside, as this was. Often there are grill marks, as this had.
Banana pepper slices added nothing to this dish, and I suspect that any tourists from the Northeast familiar with lobster rolls bursting over with huge chunks of lobster meat would wonder why the shrimp were so small. This was not bad but just okay.
There are too many other things on this menu that are not only good but great to bother with these things.
I cannot stress enough what a wonderful whole experience this is. The combination of beautiful surroundings no matter the room, indoor or outdoor, the energy surrounding it, and the food, without or even with the educational tutorial, make dining for any meal at Tableau a great pleasure. One that we plan to repeat time and again.