Annunciation, a new restaurant located in an oddly shaped building bounded by Tchoupitoulas, Poeyfarre, Annunciation and Andrew Higgins streets, has been open since July but started lunch service about two weeks ago. The space at 1016 Annunciation was formerly occupied by Deanie's Restaurant, but there's little evidence of that casual eatery left. The new décor is fine dining, with white tablecloths and bent-cane chairs. There's exposed brick and a mirror running along the wall that parallels Annunciation. It's a bit reminiscent of Clancy's, actually, though with a more modern feel. In place of caricatures of regular customers, black and white abstract paintings are the major decoration.
The resemblance to Clancy's goes beyond the appearance. Chef Steve Manning was long the chef at the Uptown stalwart, and when he left he took his right-hand-man Ronald Carr with him. My colleague Jay Forman has noted similarities between the menus at Clancy's and Annunciation, and I think he's right in his assessment that the new restaurant is a bit more free and loose than Manning's former haunt.
Clancy's reminds me a bit of Galatoire's. Both restaurants have a devoted local following who would protest loudly at the prospect of too much change in the menus. That's not intended as a criticism. They're two of my favorite restaurants in the city, and I believe there's a place, especially in New Orleans, for restaurants whose menus do not change with the latest trend. Annunciation's menu isn't exactly modernist cuisine, but as Jay noted, Manning has a bit more room to stretch now.
The restaurant's menus for lunch and dinner are entirely distinct. Lunch is a casual affair, with a smaller menu of more down-to-earth food and commensurately lower prices. The food is what you might expect from a plate-lunch joint in New Orleans, only executed with a chef's attention to detail. A recent lunch started with a square of dense jalapeno cornbread that came pre-buttered. That's fine with me, but if you're avoiding fat you might want to request it sans-beurre. Then again, if you're avoiding fat, you may want to reconsider living in New Orleans.
I decided to forego a starter and ordered a special of fried softshell crab almondine that came with potato salad. I added a side of slow-cooked greens, and together the meal cost $15, not a bad price considering the amount of food. The crab was fried perfectly, and was delicious. The potato salad was a bit watery, but good. The greens were delicious and studded with big pieces of ham, but there was a grainy texture that suggested they hadn't been thoroughly washed before they were cooked. It's a simple mistake, and not one I'd expect to see again at a restaurant of Annunciation's caliber.
Other items on the lunch menu include a grilled chicken breast salad, red beans and rice (to which you can add smoked sausage, hot sausage, or a pork chop for an extra $2) and fried fish or shrimp plates. At $12, the fried shrimp plate is the most expensive item on the menu. Sides include potato salad, a green salad, macaroni & cheese, mustard greens and green beans. The salad is $5, and everything else is $3. Cornbread will set you back $2.
The wine list is beyond my limited ability to assess, but there are what appear to me to be a fair number of decent pours available by the glass for prices between $7 and $10.
The dinner menu is divided into the more standard starters, entrees and sides, and as noted it's a good bit more sophisticated than what's on offer at lunch. Manning reprises the fried oysters with melted brie and spinach that he developed at Clancy's, and both the fried green tomatoes with crabmeat and peppered hollandaise and the shrimp remoulade could easily appear on his former restaurant's menu. Other starters include veal sweetbreads with gnocchi, pancetta and mushrooms, crabmeat salad with basil green goddess dressing and crab claws marinated in lime and cilantro. Starters run between $7 for turtle soup to $12 for the crabmeat salad.
Entrees are priced higher, but still reasonable. Veal oscar goes for $24, and a crabmeat, lobster and shrimp risotto costs $26, but spaghettini bordelaise with fried oysters is $20 and pan-roasted chicken “bonne femme” is $18. There's a hanger steak served with a shallot demi-glace for $23, and slow-roasted pork shoulder served with a sweet onion relish is $20.
None of the sides available at lunch make an appearance on the dinner menu, and here Manning looks to Asian cuisines more often than not. Sesame asparagus and roasted baby bok choy are $6; stir fried cabbage with kari leaves and black mustard seeds is $5.
Manning's southern influences aren't entirely absent, of course, and you can get Southern style mashed ayms, black-eyed peas, fried eggplant and cauliflower au gratin for $5 each.
All in all, I'd say Annunciation is definitely a place to check out. One hiccup with the greens aside, my meal was excellent, as was the service. I'll definitely be returning to sample the dinner menu when my wife and I have a free evening. Annunciation is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday the restaurant is open for dinner only, from 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. Call 568-0245 to learn more or to make a reservation.