Mar 31, 200911:47 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
The Grill Room, Reloaded
Butter-Poached Local Shrimp and Grilled Alaskan King Crab with Blood Orange
Photo courtesy of The Windsor Court Hotel
Not so long ago, The Grill Room garnered national headlines as one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the city. But ever since the departure of Chef Jonathan Wright in 2005, a succession of chefs has passed through the revolving doors of its kitchen without gaining traction. The most recent was Gregg Sonnier, whose food was quite good, but whose regionally grounded fare never really seemed to synch well with the otherwise international ambiance of the Windsor Court Hotel. But a recent change at the top levels of management brought in new GM David Teich from Charleston Place, a sister Orient-Express property in South Carolina. Mr. Teich has a strong background in food and beverage and made an overhaul of the faded New Orleans Grill a top priority upon his arrival. He brought with him Chef Drew Dzejak, along with a number of additional hand-picked staff. For the reboot, Mr. Teich dusted off the restaurant’s original name and in January, Executive Chef Dzejak unveiled his new menu, thereby announcing the return of The Grill Room.
A few tricks are employed. In an effort to accommodate just about every palate, the menu casts a wide net. It is organized around a matrix of four independent restaurant profiles: southern, steakhouse, indulge, and unadulterated. Each profile features its own distinct list of appetizers and entrees and guests can mix and match as they please. For example, the Grilled Foie Gras and Lobster appetizer from the luxurious “indulge” category can be paired with an entrée of Gulf Seafood Stew from the more regional “southern” side.
In arranging the menu this way, Windsor Court hedges its bets. It can accommodate the business traveler with high-end, evergreen fare like grilled NY Strip and Butter-Poached Lobster, which a hotel pretty much is required to do, while at the same time giving a lot of creative rein to Chef Dzejak, who populates the other slots on the menu with creative and inspired dishes.
Off the “indulge” menu, the Crudo of Yellow Fin Tuna presents garnet-hued tuna served sashimi style in four different ways, including individual preparations using shaved fennel, sesame oil with toasted seeds of the same, and a citrus vinaigrette. Off the “southern” side, a Butternut Squash Soup gets structure from house-made Tortellini stuffed with wild boar. Again from “indulge,” enormous seared Diver Scallops, cooked to opaque perfection, come placed atop an ultra-rich tangle of Pappardelle tossed in a butter, lemon and cream sauce. A sprinkling of caviar adds some salty pop and the citrus brightness things up.
Special mention goes to the bread basket, an artful assemblage of baked goods prepared by pasty chef Shun Li. Dessert-wise, you’ll find crowd-pleasers like flourless Dark Chocolate Cake alongside fun, more playful composed desserts like a Red Cream Soda Cake with vanilla ice cream and an Abita Root Beer Reduction, garnished with root-beer glazed Pop-Rocks, adding a lot of surprise.
Time will tell whether this new approach catches on. But with its engaging, enthusiastic waitstaff and the infusion of fresh talent at the top, the front and in the back, it appears that The Grill Room has emerged from it years in the desert and is ready to reassert itself as one of the preeminent fine dining destinations in the city.
*Note: Complimentary parking is available for dinner guests.