Sunday, 12 June 2011

Galatoire's Restaurant

Since I first arrived in New Orleans almost two years ago, Galatoire’s has been shrouded in cultural mystery. Galatoire’s is one of those classic New Orleanian restaurants, which a Yalie might liken to one of the “Old Eight” secret societies. The restaurant is an integral part of New Orleans’ restaurant scene, but it clings to the restaurant culture of the 1940s when white linens, mirrored dining rooms, and brass chandeliers were a la mode. Today, however, the restaurant borders on démodé.

Unsurprisingly, I have been intimidated by Galatoire’s for a long time. I often imagined the dining room filled with men in dapper suits and women in beaded, jewel-tone evening gowns, gliding through billowing clouds of cigar smoke with a Sazerac cocktail in hand. I’ve thought of venturing to the restaurant on many occasions, but normally find some excuse to eat somewhere else.

Last Thursday, I mustered up the courage to dine at Galatoire’s--an event rather than mere action. I wove my way through the crowds on Bourbon Street, dodging past tour groups and slipping between street performers to stand in front of glass-paned doors of Galatoire’s. A friendly young man opened the door for me and immediately sat me at a table in the coveted main dining room. The space was bustling with waiters in black suits and servers in white smocks. There was nearly as many staff as restaurant patrons.

My table was nestled up against the left side of the dining room with a great view of the restaurant. My waiter came over, and informed me of the specials. I took a few minutes to decide what I wanted, and opted for the Red Snapper in Brown Butter Sauce.

I enjoyed people watching. There were two obnoxious lawyers sitting at the table next to mine—they had foul mouths. In attempt to block out their conversation, I focused on observing the staff. I was impressed by the mechanical nature of their process. One man would clear the table, another man would step in with a fresh, white tablecloth in hand. This man would whip the tablecloth into the air until it billowed upwards and settled perfectly on the table. If the cloth was askew, he would toss it back into the air until it landed in place. He then dressed the table with a fresh pitcher of water, a salt and pepper shaker, a bottle of Tabasco, and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce…everything a New Orleanian needs to enjoy the Creole dishes served at this bistro. Within moments, people would be seated at the table.

When I wasn’t busy watching the staff, I was taking in the ambiance: the blue-green walls embossed with gold fleur-de-lis, the 5-prong brass light fixtures that looked like octopi, the warm glow of incandescent light reflecting off the mirror-lined walls, the clanging of plates, the clinking of glasses, and the hum and harmony of cherished conversation. Galatoire’s is a perfect place to meet a group of friends and settle down for a two-hour lunch imbibed with reminiscence. The restaurant’s appeal is very much wrapped up in the ambiance, and not in the food, necessarily.

My mouth began to water when my red fish came out, dressed with crab meat, artichokes and mushrooms in a brown butter sauce. Yum. The brown butter was pure brilliance, and the red fish was nice and fresh. I could have done without the green-purple artichokes and limp mushrooms.

For a treat, I ordered the house bread pudding, which came out with a dollop of whipped cream on the side. There was a bananas foster-flare to this dessert, which was more heavily flavored with banana than some of the other bread puddings I have had.

Would I recommend the food at Galatoire’s? No. This restaurant acts almost like a social club for New Orleanians. The food is OK, but the price is astronomically high for the quality. Apparently, it is good to order drinks at Galatoire’s because you can get a cocktail for around $6-8 and they automatically make it a double—so you get a bit more bang for your buck from the bar than from the kitchen.

No comments:

Post a Comment