Sep 23, 201012:00 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
An Eclectic Creole Classic in the Quarter
A photo of me (far left) and my friends, taken in 1997 at Broussard's
Photo courtesy of Robert Peyton
I’ve known Andreas Preuss, son of Gunter and Evelyn Preuss, for many years. We have a tradition of going to Broussard’s with a few other friends on the Friday before Mardi Gras, just after lunch, to spend an hour or so decompressing from the insanity of the French Quarter. It’s always been an oasis for me, but until recently I hadn’t eaten there in years. The restaurant has generally not been open for lunch, but I stopped in last Friday and had a very good meal.
Broussard’s is generally considered one of the classic Creole restaurants in the French Quarter, though its menu is more diverse than that implies. Chef Preuss and his wife are from Berlin originally, and he made his name locally at the Versailles restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. Versailles served Continental cuisine, and the Preusses ran it for a total of 27 years. When an opportunity arose to purchase Broussard’s in 1984, the couple operated both restaurants for a time, but these days, their sole focus is Broussard’s. Chef Preuss is still the force behind the restaurant, but the current chef de cuisine, Tory Stewart, is in charge of the kitchen these days. Mark Preuss, Gunter and Evelyn’s younger son, is the general manager.
From the time I’ve spent with the Preuss family, I consider them friends, but please don’t believe that friendship colors my view of the restaurant or the food they serve. I haven’t dined at Broussard’s much because most of my dining out, at least in the Quarter, is during lunchtime, and, as I noted above, for many years, Broussard’s was open only for dinner. Recently, however, the restaurant began serving lunch on Friday from noon to 2:30.
I started with the trio of soups, which the menu lists as demitasse portions of sweet potato, corn and shrimp bisque; chicken and andouille gumbo; and turtle soup. When I dined, the restaurant substituted a chilled crabmeat soup flavored with curry for the turtle. I love turtle soup, but the substitution was fine with me, as the soup was light, airy and perfect for the temperature. The gumbo is excellent, as well, and the bisque is an interesting take on the standard.
Starters on the lunch menu include another trio, this time of deviled eggs stuffed with shrimp rémoulade, crabmeat ravigote and smoked salmon with a dill-caper aioli. Completing the theme is the trio of oysters, in which fried bivalves are served à la Rockefeller; Bienville; and Broussard’s, in which the sauce is an artichoke béchamel.
At lunch there are two salads: The Broussard’s salad combines baby spinach, red onion, bacon, mushrooms, and spiced pecans with a creamy balsamic dressing. You can add fried oysters or shrimp or grilled shrimp or chicken for a small surcharge. There is also a Maytag blue cheese salad with mixed greens, spiced pecans, cranberries and blue cheese with a sweet balsamic dressing.
Lunch entrees will change from time to time, but last week the choices were pecan-crusted drum over wild rice risotto with a lemon beurre blanc; pan-roasted double chicken breast with a Southern Comfort-chipotle glaze and bourbon-sweet potato mash; Sazerac shrimp and grits with a tri-pepper and tomato relish and andouille sausage over cheddar grits with a Sazerac beurre blanc; and a braised beef short rib flavored with caraway and mustard, served with Creole-spiced fries and a beef jus.
I tried the short rib; the boneless meat had been cooked long enough to render out some of the fat, but it was still tender, moist and full of flavor. I tend to like my fries devoid of any seasoning other than salt, but the Creole seasoning on the fries that came with the beef wasn’t overpowering, and the thinly cut fries were cooked perfectly.
In addition to the à la carte choices at lunch, there’s a constantly changing two-course prix fixe menu for $19.50. When I was there, it was a pork sirloin panini served with fries and an apple crepe for dessert. There’s a prix fixe menu at dinner as well, the table d’hote, which costs $32 and offers a number of choices for each of three courses. Appetizers include seviche with a cucumber-poblano relish, the curry soup mentioned above and for an additional $4 cornmeal-fried oysters with a vodka mignonette.
Table d’hote dinner entrees are a nightly fish special; lavender-honey-glazed salmon served grilled with a roasted red onion couscous, baby arugula and a tomato salad; amberjack LeLe, in which the fish is sautéed and served with green onion-lime rice, shallots, truffle butter and a parsley-dill pesto vinaigrette; and redfish court bouillon, wherein the fish is poached in white wine and fish broth, then served with a brunoise of vegetables and hollandaise sauce. Desserts are a choice between mango cheesecake with citron-passion fruit sauce or strawberry shortcake.
Just about everything on the table d’hote menu is available à la carte, as well, but the dinner menu features several additional appetizers, including Broussard’s Shrimp & Crabmeat Bayou Teche, in which spiced, grilled shrimp are paired with lump crabmeat in a Creole aioli atop a roasted corn- piqullo pepper relish. There is a shrimp rémoulade that includes both white and red versions of the classic sauce over a celery root salad and sriracha-glazed chicken satay that comes with a mirliton-carrot relish and parsley pesto. Soups are the same three as on the lunch menu, and in addition to the house and Maytag blue cheese salads described above, there is a traditional Caesar with garlic-and-thyme-seasoned croutons.
Some of the dinner entrées are a Berkshire pork chop seasoned with caraway and ancho chile and then grilled with a mango-mustard glaze and served with apples flamed in Calvados; orange-and-lime-marinated grouper that’s crusted with andouille sausage, sautéed and served over green onion-lime rice, asparagus and roasted poblano peppers; and a 14-ounce Creole spice-rubbed rib-eye steak with a sherry-vinegar sauce, Lea & Perrins butter and a tri-pepper relish.
Desserts are somewhat limited in number: crepes Broussard are rolled with a filling of cream cheese, brandy and pecan and served with a strawberry sauce. The classic bananas Foster is on the menu, as are chocolate profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate brandy sauce. Bread pudding shows up as a variation on the traditional recipe with cranberries, almonds and a custard sauce made with the locally produced New Orleans Rum.
One of the best things about Broussard’s is the setting. The restaurant is a hodgepodge of architecture that nevertheless coheres into a seamless whole. The buildings that make up the restaurant include a family residence built in 1834, a former school from around the same period and a part of the Hermann-Grima house. The dining areas surround a large, beautifully landscaped courtyard on two sides, and many of the tables look onto it. In good weather, there’s very little to compare to spending time in that courtyard. Service is friendly and attentive, and Mark Preuss is pretty much always on the premises should you have a question or concern. I’ve always enjoyed my time at Broussard’s. I hope you do, too, but regardless of what you think, please either e-mail me or leave a comment below.
Broussard’s is located at 819 Rue Conti, and you can call for more information or to make reservations at 504/581-3873. You can also e-mail the restaurant at firstname.lastname@example.org.