Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Orleans' DOMENICA does it all and at double the size (10-11-13)

If we had any hopes of trying to watch our weight on this holiday weekend trip to New Orleans, that would have been stupid.
Our first night we thought we might be a bit tired, so we decided to eat in our hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Roosevelt, where New Orleans uber chef John Besh has teamed up with Israeli Alon Shaya to create, of all things, an Italian bistro, DOMENICA (www.domenicarestaurant.com). The space is quite noisy with wooden floors, wooden tables and lots of hanging crystals with bulbs.
I didn't feel that a lot of love went into the design, but we loved our corner table with a full plate glass wall window view of the gorgeous onion domed church across the street where we were able to witness a local wedding replete with min-band, handkerchiefs waving and the bride and groom with tasseled white and black umbrellas respectively!
In charge was Chef Phillip Mariano, who indeed was Italian and did his heritage's cuisine great honor. We were sent glasses of Prosecco which we enjoyed with the AFFETTATI MISTI, a chef's selection of salumi and formaggi along with warm marinated olives, pepper jelly, pickled raisins, spiced peaches, cherry-kiwi mostardo and almond panneforte. Our meats were COPPA, a cured pork shoulder, BRESAOLA, air dried beef, LANZA, which I never found out what it was and the most divine creamy rich DUCK LIVER PATE with moscato jelly in a jar that seemed to never end. The cheeses were a creamy LATUR and a new blue to me called BERDA CAPRA. An accompanying basket of savory beignets were amazing and great to spread the various pate, cheese or just anything we wanted in any combo on. Samuel, in an attempt to win points for prizes, started to taste new things. First came the raisins, peaches and even the mild creamy blue cheese, which all went over quite well; the pate was less of a success. He ordered the MARGHERITA Pizza and that was pretty good as well we have to admit.
I also need to mention the bread, peppery olive oil and the wonderful sparkling water which is Mountain Valley from Arkansas!
We moved on to a bottle of GRECO DI TUFO 2010 from Cantine di Manzo in Campania that our charming and helpful server, Angel, recommended. She guided us very well through the large paper place meat menu and we really were able to taste many dishes without overloading. That said, it seems all the dishes in New Orleans seem to be giant-sized! The OCTOPUS CARPACCIO Antipasti for $14 with fennel, citrus and olive oil could have been a meal. Shaved as thin as could be these medallions were superb, and again Samuel went for a taste (not a winner). The CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS (they seem to be ubiquitous at this time of the year) were treated with great respect as they were served with smoked marrow butter that exuded such flavor on toasted ciabatta slices.
The decor doesn't offer much here with wood floors and tables making it quite noisy. The light bulbs have crystals hanging around them. We were blessed with a table at the corner against the tall street windows overlooking the gorgeous onion-domed church across the street. The police arrived to block the street and then a band, and then a wedding emerged replete with waving handkerchiefs and white and black tasseled umbrellas for the bride and grooms--totally local New Orleans style.
We moved on to a bottle of YARDEN "Odem Vineyard" 2010 Chardonnay from Israel, which we figured had to be good at a restaurant where the chef/owner was Israeli, but it became apparent that it was cloyingly intense like an old okay Napa Chard. It wasn't  awful, but not what we wanted. It did do better with our two half pasta orders which were intense themselves:
GARGANELLI with Maine LOBSTER, tomato, burrata and bread crumbs was nice, but the SQUID INK TAGLIOLINI with tons of Blue CRAB and herbs was the big hit.
We all looked at each other after 3 hours of this meal and declined dessert, but Angel brought out some BRUTOS, soft gooey chocolate espresso cookies that we could not refuse. What a superb start to our long weekend away.