11 local restaurants share their spring specials
photos Eugenia Uhl
Two of the biggest holidays for dining out include Valentine’s Day and the entire Carnival season, which welcomes a bacchanalian revelry unlike any other time of year. February demands a lot of eating and drinking, and plenty of local restaurants want to lure you through their doors with special menus, new cocktails, old classics, celebratory events and more. We checked in to see what’s new at a few of our favorite area dining destinations and compiled a February food update for your palate’s pleasure.“At Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, we’re ‘Nola BREAD, Nola Fed’ with a King Cake for all tastes,” says Advertising Manager Callie Folse. Ralph’s on the Park is currently serving a King Cake Cocktail, and 20 percent of proceeds from the drink benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“At Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, we’re ‘Nola BREAD, Nola Fed’ with a King Cake for all tastes,” says Advertising Manager Callie Folse. Ralph’s on the Park is currently serving a King Cake Cocktail, and 20 percent of proceeds from the drink benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Over on Bourbon Street, Red Fish Grill is serving up a seasonal King Cake Bread Pudding, complete with baby inside. In Metairie, cafe b takes a new approach to the traditional Mardi Gras treat with King Cake pancakes available at brunch on Sundays. The pancakes are drizzled with Creole cream cheese icing and a Mardi Gras sugar topping.
Racing is on the rise in New Orleans, and Chiba owner Keith Dusko is taking the lead with Motorsport Mondays, a new promotion that benefits the Son of a Saint program. The Monday specials include four “Grand Prix” sushi rolls, three Don Q rum-based cocktails, starters and dessert. One dollar from each Motorsport Monday menu item goes to Son of a Saint, which provides mentoring and guidance to fatherless boys. In addition to the Motorsport Monday specials, Chiba still offers its all-day “Funk & Roll” happy hour on Wednesdays and half-off bottles of sake on Thursdays.
Dusko recommends a spicy, sweet cocktail for romancers on Valentine’s Day. Chiba’s Strawberry Vigara cocktail features Patron Incendio, Patron XO Café, Kringle Cream and muddled strawberries. Another hit for Valentine’s diners will no doubt be the Oyster Shooters appetizer.
Special cocktails are always being introduced at the French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s, and a couple of Chris Hannah’s creations make a yearly appearance around the Mardi Gras season.
Visit the historic French Quarter bar this month and try the Mardi Gras Mambo and the Carnival Cocktail. The Mardi Gras Mambo combines cachaça, lime, agave and crème de mure, while the Carnival Cocktail features cognac, Byrrh, lime cordial and Sorel Liqueur.
Diners who crave Arnaud’s romantic atmosphere for Valentine’s but don’t want to sacrifice Mardi Gras parades and parties can return to Arnaud’s the last weekend of February (February 27-March 1) and enjoy a three-course menu specially curated to celebrate love. Arnaud’s regular menu will be available on Valentine’s Day.
Italian food is always popular with romantics, and Amici Ristorante & Bar is one of New Orleans’ newest spots for authentic Italian cuisine – Amici’s recipes were passed down by the family’s grandparents.
“We are New Orleans’ only restaurant using a coal-fired oven to prepare our pizzas,” says Marketing Manager Michelle Jones. According to Jones, this approach to pizza is more common in the traditional pizza hubs of the Northeast, and it typically produces crisp, thin-crusted pies with an element of smokiness from the coals. In addition to an expansive dinner menu, Amici offers lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Happy hour begins every day at 3 p.m. and features half-off cocktails, wine by the glass, beer and their coal-fired pizza (until 6 p.m.). Popular lunch items include the Meatball Panini and The Amici, which features spicy coppa, soppresatta, prosciutto, fontina and giardiniera with a lemon-dijon vinaigrette.
For an assortment of worldly flavors, venture over to Bayona, where chef Susan Spicer emphasizes traditional renderings and innovative pairings featuring the freshest local ingredients.
Based on what’s in season, Bayona’s specials menu is ever-changing. One consistent favorite among guests is the Cream of Garlic Soup.
“The soup is sumptuous and satisfying, deriving its distinct flavor from caramelized onion and garlic and tempered by rich cream,” says Regina Keever, Owner and Events Manager.
Bayona will feature a special four-course Valentine’s Menu for $80 per person. The end of Mardi Gras and beginning of Lent also brings some of Bayona’s best-loved seasonal flavors, both in vegetables and seafood. Beets, brussels sprouts, artichokes and cauliflower can all be expected, as well as such favorites as speckled trout, oysters, red fish and red snapper.
Antoine’s is celebrating its 175th year in 2015 (read more at The Dish, pg. 20) and invites New Orleanians to celebrate its past, present and future with the five-course Antoine’s Classic Menu throughout the year.
“We are going to showcase the historic dishes that brought the restaurant acclaim, bring back some of our favorite ‘vintage’ creations served in the restaurant decades ago, and introduce some new items that show we continue to evolve,” says Antoine’s CEO and Proprietor Rick Blount.
The five-course menu is $75 with the Filet de Bœuf entrée (grilled center-cut beef tenderloin topped with Marchand du Vin sauce and mushrooms) and $68 with the Pompano Ponchartrain entrée (grilled Pompano fillet with lump crabmeat sautéed in butter).
Other courses include the restaurant’s classic Pommes de Terre Soufflé (classic fried puff potatoes) and Appetizer en Trois (trio of Shrimp Remoulade, Lump Crabmeat Ravigote and Oyster Rockefeller), Gombo Creole and a choice of dessert.
The end of 2014 saw the reopening of a classic New Orleans restaurant at the Prince Conti Hotel, The Bombay Club & Martini Bistro, now operated by Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts. The kitchen is now led by Chef Nathan Richard, who brings not only a fond passion for Louisiana specialties, but years of national and international culinary experience. His new menu at The Bombay Club will include such items as Crackling Crusted Fish & Chips, Pickled Shrimp Wraps and Stuffed Flounder. Christopher Horner now oversees operations as General Manager.
“We are thrilled to welcome Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts and chef Nathan and Christopher to The Bombay Club,” says Michael Valentino, owner of the Prince Conti Hotel. “Their combined experience and talent will allow this historical icon to grow and prosper.”
Over on the Northshore, The Lakehouse invites guests to join in both the celebration of Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day at the Mandeville restaurant and event venue. The Lakehouse will offer a four-course prix fixe menu running the weekend of February 12-14 (Sunday brunch will remain the same). Visit The Lakehouse’s Facebook page this month for details on the four-course menu. While there, check out The Lakehouse’s Mardi Gras-inspired drink specials.
The Lakehouse is known for its casual yet upscale feel right on the lakefront in Old Mandeville (formerly the Old Bechac’s restaurant). The menu changes seasonally but, according to Marketing & Events Manager Sara Sinclair, always includes local seafood, a good steak and contemporary twists on New Orleans menu favorites.
“Chef Stefani’s Tomato Basil Soup is always a hit, and we love a good Beignet Bite, which we offer on our catering and Brunch menus,” says Sinclair.
At Vega Tapas, now helmed by owner and operator Greg Francis, they will “be featuring chef Will Sampson’s creativity” through their daily specials. For Valentine’s Day dinner Vega Tapas will be offering a five-course menu with choices, consisting of pinchos (i.e. hors d’oeuvres), ensaladas, tapas, plates principal and postres (desserts).
“The ‘new’ Vega Tapas will be a continuation of some of the things we’ve grown to love at Vega, like the comfortable hospitable feeling when you arrive to the stellar cuisine and the well thought-out wine list,” Francis says. “Over time and through evolution, chef Will and I will place our thumbprint along with the legacy of Glen Hogh and Alison Vega.”
Amici Ristorante & Bar
3218 Magazine St.
713 St. Louis St.
813 Rue Bienville
430 Rue Dauphine
The Bombay Club & Martini Bistro
830 Conti St.
2700 Metairie Road
8312 Oak St.
2025 Lakeshore Drive
Ralph’s On the Park
900 City Park Ave.
Red Fish Grill
115 Bourbon St.
Vega Tapas Café
2051 Metairie Road