Dec 6, 201209:35 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

The Heart of the Matter at Coquette

The lamb heart at Coquette.

I try not to repeat myself in this column. Because restaurants of note keep opening in New Orleans at a rapid pace, I certainly don't have to. That means, however, that I don't get to return to my favorite restaurants as often as I'd like. I know, it's a hard life I lead.

Recently my colleague and part-time scoundrel Ian McNulty wrote about a meal at Coquette wherein he'd sampled lamb heart. Coquette is one of about a half-dozen restaurants which, when I eat there, always prompts the question, “why haven't I eaten here more often?” McNulty's piece – and the generous offer of lunch from a friend – tipped me in that direction.

The menu has changed a bit since I was last at the restaurant. Chef Mike Stoltzfus is one of those cooks who makes the “committed to local ingredients” thing meaningful. He cooks with what's available by the season for the most part, and there's probably no better evidence of that than his local vegetable salad. I have a story about that dish. Stoltzfus was invited to participate in an event put on by an outfit called StarChefs back in April. It was a fairly swanky event, held at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a host of local chefs were there presenting food. Most of the restaurants participating went with meat or seafood of some sort. Stoltzfus put out a plate of locally grown baby vegetables, simply presented. He won best of show that night, and while I tasted a lot of good food that night, most of it far more elaborate, I was in full agreement with the judgment.

That dish has been refined a bit for the restaurant's menu, and of course the contents change with the season, but the plate on offer at the moment is every bit as good as what he did that night in April. Baby vegetables combined with satsuma, a very subtle cashew purée, and a garnish of “olive praline,” which is a dust made of dehydrated olives that I know sounds odd but which on the palate is pure freaking bliss. It's an outstanding dish.

The lamb heart is not on the lunch menu, but I whined, and they said they could do it. The heart is a hard-working muscle, meaning that it's going to be tough as all hell unless prepared right. Stoltzfus solves this problem by slicing it very thinly before grilling it; it's still chewy, but not unpleasantly so. It's also an excellent example of how something as simple as the right cut can make all the difference. The slices of lamb come with pickled vegetables that set off the hearty flavor of the meat.

After the lamb and the vegetables, I was more or less full, but I'd also ordered the pork as an entrée, and it came with brussels sprouts, a sweet potato purée and apples. I did not eat dessert, which is a shame, because Coquette has some pretty kick-ass desserts.

Coquette has also started brunch service on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and while most of the menu will be familiar if you've been for lunch or dinner, there are a few new items on offer. Scrambled yard eggs are served with bacon, homefries and grits; eggs benedict come with smoked pork ribs and hollandaise; and Coquette's version of shrimp and grits features shiitake mushrooms and bacon as well as cherry tomatoes. 

Coquette is located at 2800 Magazine St., and you can contact the restaurant by calling 265-0421. Lunch service is Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner is served nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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