review: galatwahs…

Oysters Rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

As with the “The Quartah,” “oystahs,” and “Chartah Street,” the locals drop the “r” and call it “Galatwahs.”

Founded in 1905 by French immigrant Jean Galatoire, over the last century, this unassuming restaurant on Bourbon Street has become New Orleans’s most beloved institution.

This is where the city celebrates.

For a lively retelling of the restaurant’s history, I recommend Galatoire’s Cookbook.  In it, you’ll find the color and flavor of the restaurant along with its recipes, most of which could be promotional material for the Saturated Fats Council.

Galatoire's
Sazerac
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

But one doesn’t go to Galatoire’s to diet.

Nor, as the over-broiled pompano and a cranky Sazerac that the bartender threw together attest,* does one go to Galatoire’s in search of perfectly executed and beautifully plated food.

Subtlety and sophistication Galatoire’s has not.

This is the big top, where one goes to see and be seen, to laugh and forget, and, perhaps, to make a little rain while you’re at it.

Galatoire's
Galatoire’s

Galatoire’s didn’t take reservations when it opened, and it still doesn’t take reservations for the restaurant’s main dining room on the ground floor.  This is where you want to be.

Next to a regular, or a server with whom you’ve developed a relationship over the years, patience will be your best friend.  Put in your name, head upstairs to the bar, and have a few drinks.

Lucky for us, Barrel (as in a ‘barrel of laughs’) flew in from Texas to join us for dinner.  A regular with a house account, he set us up with the host, and within half an hour, we landed ourselves a nice, spacious table in the center of the room.

Pommes Souffle
Pommes Soufflé
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

Though Iggy, Houston, The Hair, and I binged and nearly busted at Commander’s Palace earlier that day at brunch, we plowed through a surprising amount of food at Galatoire’s.

Portions here are large and unforgiving.

We ordered too much.

CLICK HERE to see all of the photos from this meal.  Click on the course titles to see photos of the individual dishes.

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First Courses

Galatoire’s Grand Gouté ($32)
Crab Maison
Shrimp Maison
Shrimp Remoulade
Oysters en Brochette

Pommes Soufflé Bearnaise ($12)

Oysters Rockefeller ($9.75/half dozen)

Salad Godchaux ($12)

Main Courses

Poisson Marguery ($24)

Pompano Meuniere Amandine ($34)
Crabmeat

Pompano Meuniere ($31.50)
Crabmeat

Crab Sardou ($26)

Sides

Asparagus ($6)
Broccoli ($5)
Potatoes Brabant ($5)
Potatoes Lyonnaise ($5)
Fried Eggplant ($5)

Desserts

Bread Pudding with Banana Sauce ($6)

Cup of Custard ($5)

Café Brulot ($6 each)

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Brabant Potatoes
Brabant Potatoes
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

The food here isn’t bad. But it’s not the type of stuff I’d urge anyone to travel for.**

From what I can tell, the food at Galatoire’s exists solely as an excuse for interacting with the breezy, generous servers who work the room. Consummate professionals, they pull off one of the hardest shows in town, balancing a staggering number of plates, names, and functions.  And they do it all with big personality.

What you’ll find here is “French Creole” cuisine, an amalgamation of local flavor and the type of classic French food that Julia Child liked to make.

Salad Godchaux
Salad Godchaux
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

There are Pommes Soufflé, puffy, hollow, and crisp.  There are mother sauces, like creamy Bearnaise for dipping and Hollandaise for smothering. And there are salads with more dressing than lettuce, more protein than fiber.

The Salad Godchaux was a thrilling romp, a heap of shrimp, crab meat, tomatoes, and iceberg laced with a bracingly tart Creole mustard vinaigrette.  Topped with an anchovy fillet, it was simple and bright; my favorite dish of the night.

The presentations at Galatoire’s can be a bit slap-dash.

Crab Sardou
Crab Sardou
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

My plate of “Crab Sardou” looked like someone had slung creamed spinach and crab meat at my plate from across the line – replete with a skidding effect – and squirted Hollandaise sauce all over it to make sure it stuck. Served disappointingly cool, the creamed spinach had already formed a skin by the time it arrived.

And Lizzy Borden probably hacked her parents apart with more deft than the kitchen at Galatoire’s did splitting an order of the “Poisson Marguery,” which Houston and The Hair shared.

But, for the most part, the food at Galatoire’s is good, even if it’s not perfect.

Fried Eggplant
Fried Eggplant
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

The fillet of Gulf drum – a delicate, white-fleshed fish – was kept warm and moist under a thick blanket of creamy mushroom sauce rich with flavor (Galatoire’s version of sauce Marguery is a mix of Hollandaise and Béchamel). And beneath the dry surface of the broiled pampano, you’ll find a nice layer of fluffy meat with which to run through the attending lake of brown butter à la meunière.

Galatoire’s Grand Gouté,” a crowded sampling of some of Galatoire’s most celebrated dishes, was a table favorite.

Grande Goute
Galatoire’s Grand Gouté
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

The oysters en brochette were, perhaps, a touch over-fried, and the oysters were puny. But the crab maison and shrimp maison – both coated in a light creamy dressing punched with capers and Creole mustard – were fantastic.  Boasting large, meaty lump crab meat, the crab maison was awesome.

The Grand Gouté also included the restaurant’s famous shrimp remoulade.  Tangy, and a shade sweeter than the maison dressing thanks to a touch of ketchup, Galatoire’s remoulade dressing is spiked with spicy paprika, Creole mustard, and horseradish. (The shrimp remoulade recipe can be found on the restaurant’s website.)

Pompano Meuniere Amandine
Pompano Meuniere Amandine
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

The “Oysters Rockefeller” are de rigueur. They’re like none other I’ve had. Whereas I’m used to a bubbly, buttery topping, the Galatoire’s version is more like a spongy spinach breading.  I especially like the strong, spinach flavor of the topping here.  The oysters beneath were warm and plump, swimming in a shallow pool of their own liquor.

The “Fried Eggplant,” too, is well-celebrated, as it should be. These batons of breaded eggplant are crisp on the outside, molten and creamy on the inside. Let them sit for a few minutes and they deflate, turning limp and lifeless. Eat them while they’re hot.

Cafe Brulot
Café Brulot
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

No meal at Galatoire’s would be complete without a bucketful of “Café Brulot.”  We ordered a big one to cap off our meal.

The huge silver bowl full of liquor, fresh citrus, spices, and sugar was set alight in front of us. Our server, a true showman, drizzled the flaming liquor around our table, making a ring of fire, and over our desserts for a flambé. Extinguished with a pot of coffee and served in demitasses, the Café Brulot smelled like mulled wine and tasted like heaven: warm, smooth, and fragrant.

Bread Pudding with Banana Sauce
Bread Pudding
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

A rustic version of bread pudding, Galatoire’s “Bread Pudding with Banana Sauce” is wonderful.

The magic is in the sauce, a brown sugar caramel heavy with praline liqueur. Ours also benefited from a good shot of brandy from the Café Brulot that our server poured over it.  (The recipe for the Bread Pudding can be found on Galatoire’s website.)

The “Cup of Custard” here is milky and mildly sweet, a fine crème caramel.

Cup of Custard
Cup of Custard
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

With such an injection of fat and alcohol, it’s no wonder that diners at Galatoire’s are prone to socializing.  Indeed, it’s the restaurant’s main sport and spectacle.

I thought that only regulars (or tipsies) would be milling about and table-hopping. I did not expect that I, too, would be pulled into conversation with diners at tables around me.

I think I met everyone within two tables of ours, collected about a dozen business cards from all over the country, and swapped thrice as many stories.

I’m sure I joined the entire dining room in singing “Happy Birthday” a hundred times, including to my friend Iggy.  We even sang a “Happy Bachelor” song to a fellow whose friends had dragged him out to drown his love woes in cream, butter, and alcohol.

These are things that I’ll remember the most about my first dinner at Galatoire’s, an experience so hauntingly captured by General Manager Melvin Rodrigue in the Galatoire’s Cookbook that I can only believe that it’s everyday.

Galatoire's
Galatoire’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

“People come here to eat and drink far more than they ordinarily would.  They visit with friends at nearby tables and they visit with virtual strangers, turning them into afternoon – and even lifelong – friends.  In a world that’s become too serious, Galatoire’s is a place where frivolity rules and adults are given license to leave their cares at the door, act foolish, and have fun.  So those who dine here keep coming back.  They tell their friends and families about Galatoire’s, and they come too.  The pleasures have continued for 100 years.”

Galatoire’s
209 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
504.525.2021

* The color of Kool-Aid and having the strength of industrial cleaner, this Sazerac was declared undrinkable by all in our party.  I like my drinks stiff, but not this stiff.
** Besides, the recipes in the cookbook are easy enough for the home cook to replicate.

~ by ulterior epicure on February 9, 2010.

5 Responses to “review: galatwahs…”

  1. The Lizzy Borden comment alone qualifies this as a great post. :) I’m kinda disappointed I’ll miss out on the fun while I’m there, but I’m pretty certain the Mardi Gras season will lend enough. Also, is it just me, or is <$10 for a dozen Oysters Rock a really good deal?

    Totally out of curiosity, how do you decide what order to make your posts – seems random at best, but I'm sure there is a method.

  2. @ Mike: Tut, tut, I made a mistake. Thanks for catching it. It’s $9 and change for HALF a dozen. I’ve made the correction.

    So, are you heading down for Mardi Gras, or for another reason? Either way, you’ll have plenty to see and eat whilst down there. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

  3. Did you find any of the food you had in NO worth traveling for?

  4. I normally go to Los Angeles with my February week off to see The Kings – alas the NHL is on break for the Olympics so I decided on Mardi Gras based on the fact that it seems like fun and I’ve never been to NOLA – the Saints winning the superbowl is just icing on the King Cake.

  5. @ Aaron: Um, sure. The po’boys were great. And there were a few highlights here and there. I’d like to go back to check out some of the places I missed this time. And I’d also like give Stella! another go; I don’t think it happened quite the way it should have. The review of Stella! is up now.

    @ Michael Uzmann: Enjoy! It’ll be mayhem.

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