I recently dined at Emeril's Delmonico on the historic and charming St. Charles Avenue--the St. Charles Streetcar stops right outside. I've never been to any of the Emeril's Restaurants and was somewhat wary about whether the popularity of this restaurant was due to its celebrity chef's celebrity status; however the food was a beautiful hodgepodge of southern classics and modern flavors. Due to the prime location of this restaurant, I've passed it countless times walking or driving down St. Charles Avenue. I figured it would be the perfect place to celebrate my sister's birthday. We were about 15 minutes early for our reservation, so they ushered us to the bar. The bartender at the "welcome bar" was highly knowledgeable and suggested a lovely red wine that my mom loved. Plus, the highly talented pianist played some jazz favorites as we sipped our wine near the bar area.
We started the evening with the merleton appetizer (pictured at top). Merleton is a vegetable that folks eat here in south Louisiana. It's kind of a hybrid between a squash, a potato, and a pepper, and it's traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving. It's also called "chayote" or "alligator pear." One of the many outstanding servers shared a story of how his grandfather prepared this vegetable back in the day. The spicy sauce was the star of the plate, nicely complimenting the mild, fleshy merleton and the buttery Louisiana crab. The restaurant also served cornbread and potato rolls that are freshly baked in-house. But be careful: these hot-out-the-oven dinner rolls might just melt in your mouth, and you definitely want to save room for dessert.
My sister and I decided to order different entrees so that we could taste each other's dishes. I had the "dry aged moulard duck breast," served over a bed of sweet corn maque choux, brussels sprouts, roasted poblano, cheddar grits, and tasso jam. I must admit that I ordered this dish more for the sides than the actual duck breast. The corn maque choux with cheddar grits sounded irresistible, and it was. The sweetness of the corn in the maque choux balanced savory and creaminess of the cheddar grits, making it a phenomenal dish. All of the components fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. The spicy-sweet tasso jam added a nice complement to the savory roasted brussels sprouts. I am not really a big red meat eater, but I ordered the duck breast cooked medium. The skin was crispy and the fleshy inside was tender. There was certainly a generous serving of duck breast; although, the other components of the dish were the true stars.
My sister ordered the jumbo gulf shrimp bordelaise, with chaurice sausage, zucchini, sweet peppers, chick peas, garlic butter, and oregano breadcrumbs. This dish was nearly entirely paleo----no major amount of carbs in it----just meat and veggies. She described it as "gumbo without the rice," which is a gross simplification of this beautifully complex dish. But, I must admit, I do love my sides so this meat and veg dish was not as good as mine--but it was still a beautiful, thoughtful dish. My mom's gumbo was great. I'm typically wary of ordering gumbo from a restaurant----any restaurant. But, the sausage in this dish really made it stand out.
We didn't have room for dessert, but they surprised my sister with scoop of house-made sorbet. I asked one of our servers what flavor it was. He wasn't sure----he said "either dreamsicle or passion fruit." I got way too excited about the prospect of passion fruit; so, he promised to bring an extra scoop of passion fruit in case it was dreamsicle and not passion fruit.
It was dreamsicle. And to my surprise, it was divine. When I think of dreamsicle or creamsicle, i think of those syrupy sweet orange-dyed popsicles with vanilla ice cream inside. Not bad, but not exactly "gourmet." This scoop of dreamsicle sorbet was more than gourmet--it reinvented an old-fashioned, childhood classic to a sophisticated and classy, seemingly simple sorbet. I imagine that it was gelato or sorbet made with ripe, fresh oranges. It wasn't creamy, so I'm not sure if there was cream, but it tasted like fresh Madagascar or Tahitian Vanilla Beans. I had to let the server know that I was so glad that they brought the dreamsicle, because I would not have tried it otherwise! Despite how great it was, he demanded that we also try the passion fruit, so we did. The passion fruit was super tart and tangy. For those who are not familiar with passion fruit, the juice is about as tart as a lemon. I love it in desserts because the tartness provides a great contrast to the sweetness. Eating a scoop alone was pretty hard though; I prefer to eat it with vanilla (or even chocolate!) But, I was glad that we got to sample it.
We had a lovely evening filled with great food, and amazing service. Cheers to our waitstaff that made our night so special.