Jun 28, 201208:50 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Fine Dining Returns to the Monteleone

Photo by Robert Peyton

It's been a while since I visited the Hotel Monteleone for anything other than a ride around the Carousel Bar, but recently the hotel debuted a new restaurant – Criollo – as part of a more general renovation. The chef is Joseph Maynard, who is a native of Miami but spent some time in the kitchens of the Windsor Court's Grill Room prior to Katrina.

It's a beautiful restaurant, with windows that look out onto Exchange Place. In that block it's not such a picturesque view, but the restaurant is essentially on the second floor of the building, so the windows serve more to allow light to filter into the room than to offer a vista. There's an open kitchen on one side of the room, and a few areas that can be divided by sliding panels for private parties. The feel of the place is comfortable; it's hard to tell that the paint was still drying only a month or so ago.

The advance press for the restaurant highlighted the “Louisiana fusion” implied by the restaurant's name; Criollo is Spanish for Creole, and word was that French, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and African flavors would be featured. As it turns out, there are as many Asian elements to the current menu as any other cuisine.

At a recent lunch I started with grilled shrimp served over polenta cakes with charred papaya and serrano salsa, avocados and a yellow tomato romesco sauce. The two shrimp were cooked properly, which is to say they weren't overcooked, and the corn cake added a bit of substance to the dish. All of the sauces played well together; the papaya was a little sweet and not too spicy from the chiles; the avocado was as rich as you'd expect, and the romesco lent a little acid to the proceedings. All in all a very nice dish. The friend with whom I dined had a tomato galette, which was a sort of miniature flatbread-pizza topped with shaved Parmesan and accompanied by a small arugula salad.

For an entrée I had the grilled grouper. The fish was overcooked, but the shrimp spring roll that came with it was nicely done, as were both the apricot “Ai Yu” sauce for dipping and the herbed ginger emulsion that was paired with the fish. My friend went with the pancetta-wrapped meatloaf, which he said he enjoyed. It was served with garlic mashed potatoes, smothered onions and chanterelle mushrooms, all of which looked considerably heartier than my choice. There are a few soups and entrée salads on the lunch menu, as well as the obligatory burger and chicken selection. There's also a vegetarian option: a roasted vegetable and mozzarella sandwich served on a baguette. You can check out the menu at the restaurant's website.

Wines are not my forté, but it looked like a decent list. There were multiple selections available by the glass, most of which ran around $10. With the Carousel Bar only a few steps away, I'd imagine that the cocktails available at Criollo will be top notch. That's something I've yet to confirm, unfortunately.

Service was very good, particularly for a joint that's only been open a short time. I keep running into this phenomenon; I don't know whether my standards have loosened after Katrina, or whether restaurateurs have tightened up their training. Maybe it's both.

Criollo is off to a promising start, and it's definitely a place to add to your list of dining options in the Quarter. You can make a reservation by calling (504) 681-4444. The restaurant is located at 214 Royal St. and its hours are still in flux as I write, so do call to find out when you can dine.  

Reader Comments:
Jun 28, 2012 06:02 pm
 Posted by  elaine

I just moved to New Orleans FQ. I too had a great experience at Criollo at lunch. The service was impeccable and the food was delicious and well prepared. However, I take exception at the comment about the wine list. While the wines are OK... it needs to be expanded to include a better and bigger selection. When this place opens for dinner, it is going to do very well and the dinner crowd will be disappointed if the wine list is not expanded. The restaurant is very classy and an improved wine list will compliment the food and decor.

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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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