Dante's Kitchen Round Two
736 Dante Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
I last reviewed Dante's Kitchen a month and a half ago or thereabouts. A small neighborhood restaurant located in New Orlean's Riverbend area, it's reasonably priced, a little funky, and always interesting, if not always predictable. We returned over the second Jazzfest weekend for a casual meal pre the big shindig/my returning home to Sacramento in a blaze of triumphant glory. Something like that.
We started off with the Perique Farms Beet Salad with arugula, citrus roasted pecans, stilton cheese and sherry vinaigrette (8.50). I'm a total beet whore (hurr hurr that sounds naughty) and order them whenever they appear on a menu. I have tried to cook beets before and the results, albeit tasty, left me looking like a serial killer post heinous slaughtering murder. I recall looking at my hands covered in lurid red gore and thinking about how, if I ran outside and started running around in circles and going WAGGA WAGGA, the neighbors would definitely call the police and a helicopter would come. This really made me smile. To address this particular beet salad, it was pretty good: roasted beets combined with peppery greens, stinky cheese, and toasted pecans is a winning combination.
We also tried out the New Orleans Style Barbeque Shrimp with Abita Turbodog beer, rosemary and garlic (9.50). Big daddy shrimp with all the heads and shells on, as befits the BBQ shrimp tradition of New Orleans: peel those suckers yourself, you Yankee wussmunch, don't bother about the clothes. New Orleans BBQ shrimp actually involve no BBQ flavor but DO involve about a two and a half pounds of butter, lemon, worcestershire sauce and other stuff I cannot relate to you at this time. As you may imagine, they are delicious.
I took the Seared Pompano with Louisiana blue crabcake, green goddess dressing, and pickled mirliton salad (26.00) for my entree. I liked this dish: it had a fresh, clean, spring-like quality that is really refreshing in a city that fetishizes rich-ass food. I liked the slightly crispy and skillfully cooked fish in juxtaposition with the meaty crabcake and the crunchy and vinegary flavor of the mirliton. The Green Goddess was interesting and involved some anise-flavored local greens: strong and distinct flavor and something I haven't encountered much before. It was a simple dish but a successful one. As a California spa-cuisine twink, I dig deconstructed variants on New Orleans traditional recipes.
A Mirliton, if you were not aware, is the New Orleans term for chayote, a gourd-like plant common in the Southern USA and Central America, but regularly consumed all over the world. The green fruit has a rather bland taste somewhere between a pear, a cucumber, and a daikon: they are often stuffed with seafood or prepared in casseroles in New Orleans cooking.
My dad tried Bell & Evan’s Chicken Roasted Under a Brick - maple glazed, with a potato and bacon hash cake, topped with egg (23.00). Beyond the obvious question of who Bell & Evan are and why restaurants feel compelled to drop little in-jokes into their menu, this is a nice, hearty dish. The chicken was a little bit sweet for my taste due to the maple glaze (go figure,) but I liked the combo of maple, drippy egg, and smoky bacon. It's in essence a jazzed up variant on breakfast for supper. And who doesn't like that.
My mom tried the Redfish “on the Half Shell” topped with crabmeat and soft herbs (24.00). The flavor profile of this was actually extremely similar to my dish, down to the selection of local herbs used - but that's not a bad thing, as the fresh, simple aesthetic carried over here. Nicely prepared, slightly crispy pan-sauteed fish and fresh crabmeat are a really classic combo and done well here. No flashy business here but doesn't really need it.
My friend tried the Daily Preparation of Local Farm Vegetables served with a goat cheese and caramelized onion croquette (20.00). Vegetarians seem to be forced to contend with a lot of cheese croquettes in this town. Interesting dish here: seemed like they were going for a Thai salad combined with a cheese croquette. Sounds sort of disastrous but it tasted okay to me, though the combo was about as odd as it sounds.
Dante's isn't one of New Orleans must-visit-or-you-will-die dining destinations, but it's a good pick for locals out for a solid meal that won't necessitate a second mortgage or a prescription for beta-blockers. It's a good place to hang out, talk, and drink, and the addition of honest, earthy cooking is icing on the cake. Check it out next time you're out with your friends and need somewhere to nosh.
Also: corn spoonbread with honey butter, complimentary at each table, as tasty as you might presume it to be. Discuss.