Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House
144 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House is located in the oyster bar gulch at the confluence of Bourbon and Iberville, next door to Acme and across the street from Felix's. The Bourbon House, a part of the commodious Brennan's restaurant empire, seems to see its niche as the upscale alternative to the two stalwarts, boasting a fancily designed dining room, an impressive selection of bourbons (no kiddin') and perkier service then is commonly encountered at the other two joints. Basically, this is the oyster place you bring your boss or your uppity in-laws too. This is in itself a service. Us trashy college kids really enjoy wandering by the giant picture windows out onto Bourbon Street while carrying bottle s of trash vodka bigger then our heads, but sometimes we eat here too. When our parents are in town.
The menu offers refined variants on typical New Orleans oyster bar food: you've got your shrimp Creole, your turtle soup and seafood gumbo, and your fried seafood platters, offered alongside non-oyster related raw bar offerings (excuse me, Le Grand Plateaux De Fruits De Mer, you know what I'm talkin' about), steaks, and some interesting appetizers. (Including hummus. At a New Orleans oyster bar. Sort of freaking me out). There always seems to be specials stalking the perimeter here. The frozen Bourbon Milk Punch is absolutely delicious and absolutely bad for you, just like everything else in this evil, hateful city.
We began with the Oysters Rockefeller, Bienville, and Fonseca, three of my favorite old-hat NOLA specialities. These were really pretty superb, and definitely superior to the versions I've tried at Antoines and Felix's. The Rockefellers are of course the classic and were very good, with a rich spinach and cheese topping with just a bit of anise-y flavor. The Bienvilles and Fonsecas were also good, though the flavors were pretty much "cheesy meaty stuff on top of an oyster." Not actually a bad thing.
We also got some raws on the half-shell. Tasty little bastards. Don't get me started on the gulf oil spill or there will be even more swearing then usual on this blog.
I had the seafood gumbo, which I've had here before and enjoyed. It's a good, if not stand-out gumbo, with a fairly dark roux and a smooth, gentle texture. The addition of oysters is paramount here and gives it some briny character. Definitely requires a substantial whomp of hot sauce.
For my main, I picked the startingly tasty Chop Salad Louis with grilled gulf shrimp and "Avery Island" dressing. (This means it done got Tabasco in it). A really fantastic dish: crisp romaine with big, sweet, head-on prawns and a bit of avocado to add a good dose of creaminess. Shelling the little beasts at the table was not entirely in keeping with the fancy interior here, but was definitely New Orleans like. If you don't eat the heads, you are foolish indeed.
My dad had a fried shrimp po-boy, which was quite nice: lightly fried shrimp and the requisite Leidenheimer bread. My aunt had the Shrimp Creole, which was all right - in a very chunky and very tomato-heavy sauce, with more of an Italian flavor then a distinctly New Orleans one. Then again, I agree with Tom Fitzmorris's belief that shrimp creole is never, ever all that good.
My cousin ordered the alligator burger, because she is very fond of alligators, even when this fondness extends to eating them. It tasted like ground alligator, which is to say like spiced and slightly fishy chicken, and was served with some fine sweet potato fries. I suppose if you're into that kind of thing. Unfortunately one does not become filled with the badass essence of gator after eating gator.
On the whole, the Bourbon House is a nice, upscale choice for oysters on the half shell and accompaniments on Bourbon's Oyster Gulch. Felix's is my pick for slamming down oysters and Jagermeister prior to wandering out into the night to do naughty things, but Bourbon House is where you go to have a civilized and tasty meal minus, say, annoyances such as drunken Florida State frat-boys in straw hats. Not to mention there's never any line, unlike at media-darling Acme Oyster House. Nice work, Brennans. Keep doing what you're doing.
Addendum: I also like the Bourbon House because I met one of its chefs on the streetcar a while back. I had run my bike into a swiftly-moving car the day prior and was experiencing some muscle pain: it was also 3:00 AM and I was feeling sort of pissed off about going out drinking instead of staying in bed and recovering, although of course this was all my fault. The chef and I discussed New Orleans bars, the magic of weird seafood dishes, and how awesome Spanish food was during the ride home: he also offered me a sorely needed Advil. Perhaps one should not take pain-killers from people you meet on the streetcar (maybe, quizas, maybe), but he sure was a nice guy. Thanks, guy!