I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, a restaurant critic. I write about thing I like, and always will. But having said that, I have never had a meal in New Orleans (or anywhere else) that I couldn’t criticize. And by “criticize,” I mean that I could honestly find fault with just about every meal I’ve ever had.
Were I less ethically inclined, I could write all sorts of horrible things about any restaurant. If I was clever about it – by which I mean if I wrote things that the restaurant in question couldn’t prove weren’t true – you’d never know the difference. Who can say whether the soup I ate was over-salted when I had it, or that the dining room was too loud? You could disagree with my opinion, but the point is that it’s my opinion, and I can lie about that.
Were I even less ethically inclined, I could make all sorts of things up. Let me give you an example:
Chez Peyton does not make a good first impression if you can either see or smell. There is a trend towards idiosyncrasy in modern design and, while I may be old-fashioned, I do not think “rotting meat” is the first impression one wants from a restaurant, either visually or where odor is concerned. Yet “rotting meat” is the color of the restaurant’s exterior and, whether it is wit or inadvertent, that is the scent one first encounters when approaching chez Peyton as well.
The interior smells less of rotting meat, and the design has a sense of absurd humor. It is, like most new restaurants in New Orleans, largely composed of “exposed brick,” “angular metal” and “concrete made to look like something other than concrete, but which still looks like concrete, despite the effort.” I don’t know about you, but my feeling is that there’s some sort of Bulgarian knock-off Ikea out there from which restaurants are buying fixtures in bulk.
But one can forgive much in terms of atmosphere if the food is good. Alas.
Crudo is overused both as a term and a dish. Done well, it is a glorious thing; in the wrong hands, it can be a way to pretend you are serving something interesting without cooking it.
At chez Peyton, “crudo” is a way to serve something that has not only not been cooked, but also has not been seasoned. There is little worse than raw seafood without salt, but at chez Peyton they have managed to lower the bar by serving a crudo in a bland broth garnished with wilted flower petals. The one thing I can say about the dish is that, after 6 hours, I have not become physically ill.
French fries are a staple at many restaurants, and this holds true at chez Peyton. The fries here are every bit as mediocre as the rest of the place. I did not actually witness the bag of frozen sticks enter the over-used oil, but if that is not the explanation for the sodden, gooey mess I was served, I don’t want to know. The alternative is far to frightening. The less said about the “aioli,” the better.
Salads should be a celebration of the main ingredient, whatever that ingredient may be. A simple mixed green salad is a thing of beauty, so long as the mixed greens are fresh and whatever dressing is applied complements them.
The kitchen at chez Peyton has never seen such a salad. The kitchen at chez Peyton prefers to peer at “greens” through a thick gauze of translucent dressing composed primarily of salt, oil and salt. The kitchen at chez Peyton then adds salt and more dressing, finishing with a few salted croutons and more dressing. One feels like an archaeologist investigating an undiscovered Egyptian tomb when one digs for a stray leaf of arugula through the glop.
There are those who prefer their fish cooked through, and then there are those who prefer a lighter touch. I fall into the latter camp. Unless there is a true risk of infection from an undercooked fish, I like fish that’s moist and which barely flakes when you apply fork to fillet. I recognize, however, that in ancient times folks were concerned about under-cooked food. When our ancestors cooked, it was as much to kill bacteria and parasites as for flavor.
I am convinced that the kitchen at chez Peyton longs for those good old days, because in the several times I have dine there, I have yet to taste a piece of fish that was not burned, rehydrated, burned again and then broiled for good measure.
When I took a bite of my “trout Peyton” at chez Peyton, I was reminded of the movie, "Lawrence of Arabia,” and specifically the scenes where T.H. Lawrence was walking alone through the desert, desperate for a drink of water.
It was a bit overcooked, is what I’m saying, and I’m pretty sure the sauce poured generously over the fillet was simply the salad dressing after a few minutes in the microwave. The attentions of “chef Mike” did not improve it.
I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can sometimes tell when I’m being mocked. One tip-off: the way my server extended her middle finger at me when asking, “Can I get you something, or what, you simpering a**hole?” I’d have let that go, as I sometimes simper, and I am clearly an a**hole, but then she stabbed my date with a skewer. To her credit, she’d removed most of the under-cooked pork kebabs before she started stabbing, but that was cold comfort. (My date prefers I not give her name for this story, and I will comply with that preference as it is also backed up by a restraining order.)
The salad and fish courses were less than stellar, but I figured that my luck had to improve, and that the rack of New Zealand lamb I’d ordered would make up for the prior lapses. I am not sure what animal was served me at chez Peyton, but it was not lamb, and I feel a bit ill thinking about it now. Sheep do not have canine teeth, nor long, rope-like tails. The meat was, at least, sort of tender.
There is a cheese course at chez Peyton, of course, but most of the cheese is covered in plastic and/or indelibly mold-ridden. I was told the desserts were all made in-house, and that may be true, if by “made in-house” one means “followed the directions on the back of the pudding mix box,” or “opened the container of ice cream.” I am not removing points for these issues, however, as the boxed pudding was the best thing I ate at chez Peyton and 97 percent less likely to result in a parasite invading my lower intestine.
All in all I had a better experience at chez Peyton than at the cafeteria at my high school, though the service was not as good and it was far, far more expensive.
I give chez Peyton 4 out of 5 stars!
So that’s my fake review. How would you improve on our current system?