The French quarter is a strange dichotomy. You have Bourbon Street, famous for racy strip clubs and gutters full of alcohol. But it also hosts some fantastic restaurants. On a quiet, rainy Sunday morning, we made our way from St. Luis Cathedral to Bourbon Street and Arnaud’s Dining Room for a four-course brunch.
Arnaud’s exemplifies how I’ve come to see the city of New Orleans, a rich, patina of glory in decay. While clean and tidy, the restaurant is really showing its age. Wood paneling is fading, as decades of beeswax polish is undone by chemical cleaners. The beautifully patterned hexagonal floor tiles have lost their shine, and the waitstaff seem grizzled and tired in their worn tuxedos. The glory this place clearly once held is slowly diminishing, much like an ancient plantation manor being overrun by kudzu.
The food was certainly better than the decor. For the first course, I began with a cream cheese Evangeline. Fresh grapes, honeydew, cantaloupe, and strawberries were at perfect ripeness. Covering them was a wonderfully light sauce made by whisking together cream cheese and fruit juices, a refreshing way to start the meal.
Following this was a small salad, butter leaf lettuce, watercress, and Arnaud’s unique house dressing garnished with juiliened celery root and thinly shaved beets. The celery root was a surprise, but like the rest of the salads I’ve had here, the ingredients were at the decidedly warm room temperature, and not chilled as I had hoped.
For the main course, I went for a simple omelet, three cheeses, pancetta, and tomato. Exquisitely prepared, the eggs were very light and fluffy. The tartness of the tomato perfectly offset the saltiness brought by the pancetta. The mozzarella, parmesian-reggiano, and chévre nicely blended together in a perfect mix of sharp, creamy, and gooey. With a side of the thinnest fries I have ever seen, this was easily one of the best omelets I have ever had. I had to stop myself to leave room for desert.
And what a desert it was. A phenomenal bread pudding in a brandy sauce. Using their house bread, a French white with a unique top crust, the pudding is baked into a rich custard for that perfect balance between dry and gooey.
Add this to your New Orleans itinerary. The decor is nice, and the food more than makes up for the aging atmosphere.