As ever, we dined exceedingly well on our trip to New Orleans. Each day, we promised ourselves that we would exercise restraint, but this is one place where self-denial is almost impossible.
Stella! — Decorated with simple elegance, Stella! focuses attention on its newly unveiled four- and seven-course tasting menus. Gorgeous presentations don’t overshadow the flavors, and the creativity of the wine pairings matches the cuisine. A high-wire combination of Manzanilla sherry with octopus poached in wagyu beef fat and lobster stock was a stroke of genius, as was the Malmsey Madeira accompanying the delicately crispy veal sweetbreads. 1032 Chartres Street. Tel. (504) 587-0091.
Domenica — Chef John Besh succeeds admirably at this contemporary Italian restaurant in The Roosevelt New Orleans hotel. I couldn’t get enough of his sweet and tangy squid-ink tagliolini with blue crab, and the impressively well-balanced redfish with peach salad and brown butter zabaione paired perfectly with a glass of bright Taburno Falanghina from Campania. 123 Baronne Street. Tel. (504) 648-6020.
Root — This industrial-chic restaurant challenges adventurous diners with unconventional presentations. Surprisingly, I enjoyed my aromatic Cohiba-smoked scallops with chorizo “dust,” caramelized cauliflower and fennel “choucroute” served in a cigar box. Other dishes were more intriguing than satisfying. 200 Julia Street. Tel. (504) 252-9480.
Sobou — A sister restaurant of Commander’s Palace, fashionable SoBou (South of Bourbon) recently opened in the W New Orleans hotel. Service was glacially slow at lunch, and the kitchen ran out of the tuna, one of the few seafood entrées. Fortunately, the cochon de lait gumbo had a marvelously deep, rich flavor, and the crispy chicken confit came with a pleasantly sweet-spicy kick. 310 Chartres Street. Tel. (504) 552-4095.
The American Sector — A ’40s-themed restaurant in the World War II Museum seems an unlikely place to encounter fine dining, but chef John Besh rarely disappoints. An appetizer of savory rabbit paté served in a rations tin raised a smile. But the blue crab and sausage stew was sumptuous. Be sure to make time for lunch here after your museum visit. 945 Magazine Street. Tel. (504) 528-1940.
Le Foret — A prominent local publication named Le Foret the Best New Restaurant of 2010, and so it was with some excitement that we settled at our table. What a disappointment! We ordered the tasting menu, hoping to be dazzled, but instead we received a banal arugula salad topped with average fried oysters, forgettable seared scallops, uninspiring beef tenderloin, and quotidian crème brûlée. It was especially vexing to waste time on this parade of predictability in a city blessed with so many stellar options. 129 Camp Street. Tel. (504) 553-6738.
August — John Besh’s flagship restaurant featuring imaginative dishes in the Louisiana idiom. 301 Tchoupitoulas Street. Tel. (504) 299-9777.
Cochon — Chef Donald Link’s celebration of pork, along with other Cajun staples. 930 Tchoupitoulas Street. Tel. (504) 588-2123.
Gautreau’s — Charming restaurant, beloved by locals, on the western periphery of the Garden District. 1728 Soniat Street. Tel. (504) 899-7397.
Bayona — Susan Spicer’s ever-popular restaurant set in a Creole-style cottage in the heart of the French Quarter. 430 Dauphine Street. Tel. (504) 525-4455.
Commander’s Palace — Garden District classic managed by the Brennan family. 1403 Washington Avenue. Tel. (504) 899-8221.
Galatoire’s — A French Quarter institution justly famous for its sautéed fish with crabmeat Yvonne. 209 Bourbon Street. Tel. (504) 525-2021.
Upperline — First-class Creole food in an 1877 house filled with artwork collected by owner JoAnn Clevenger. 1413 Upperline Street. Tel. (504) 891-9822.