Some restaurants go to great lengths to create atmosphere. At Morel’s in New Roads, the length can be measured in a few feet.
From the shore.
Located a few yards east of the public boat landing, Morel’s extends out into False River to make diners wonder if this restaurant might pull up anchor and sail out into the big oxbow lake. With windows around three sides of the building, it makes for an ambience that no amount of artwork, mood music or white tablecloths can equal. The view is ever the same, yet ever-changing, as boats speed by, people fish from the adjacent dock, ducks swim along and, in the evening, the sun sets over the water.
Yet, as a place where recreational boaters are as likely to venture as those dressed for an evening out, it might be impossible to be over- or under-dressed. You can just concentrate on the food.
Based on our recent visit, there is much that is worthy of your attention.
There are several appealing appetizers on the menu, from which we chose the fried shrimp remoulade on fried eggplant ($9.95), with golden brown battered eggplant medallions topped with equally prepared shrimp tails, accented with a tangy remoulade sauce. This dish is satisfying in terms of both taste and texture, and it passes the eye test, too.
We also tried a cup of the chicken, okra and andouille gumbo ($6.95), which was ordinary, and the broccoli, ham and cheddar soup ($5.95) which had carrots, red peppers and mushrooms instead of broccoli, chicken instead of ham and a creamy stock instead of cheddar. Obviously, there was a miscommunication between table and kitchen, and the soup we received was good, even though it wasn’t what we ordered.
There were no such problems with our four entrees: Two from the regular menu, two from that day’s specials, all of them hits. All were served in satisfying but not overwhelming portions.
The grilled eight-ounce pork chop ($17.95) was a thick, juicy, bone-in slab of pork accented wonderfully with bordelaise sauce and served with garlic mashed potatoes topped with onion rings. The meat was most satisfying, and the mashed potatoes were the real thing and not some powdered concoction. We never thought about combining garlic mashed potatoes and onion rings, but this was a good melding of flavors. These rings were not the super crispy variety, and they tended to stick to each other, making this the first time we’ve used a knife on mashed potatoes. It looked funny, but was worth the effort.
The shrimp and eggplant Napoleon ($19.95) combined the two signature items with onions, Swiss cheese and bacon, and it’s hard to go wrong with any of those, particularly bacon. Like the appetizer, the eggplant was fried with a crisp batter, and the other ingredients gave it a bold flavor. The eggplant medallions were placed on top and bottom, which made it look a bit like a sandwich, but we don’t recommend trying to eat it that way.
The four-ounce filet mignon ($21.95) was a scrumptious, tender slab of beef served over creamed spinach and roasted potatoes and topped with fried oysters and béarnaise sauce. Our guest did the smart thing: Inquiring as to what the restaurant thinks medium and medium-rare mean. The answer told her that medium was what she wanted, and medium was what she got: pink center, but no blood. The fried oysters could have had a crisper and more flavorful batter.
Among the specials was grilled snapper with lump crab meat and béarnaise sauce ($24.95). The fish was flaky and flavorful, it’s just hard to beat lump crab meat and a wine reduction to bring all the flavors and textures together. It was served with garlic mashed potatoes.
Our waitress said that two of Morel’s desserts were made in-house: the crème brulee and bread pudding. Unfortunately, they were out of the former, and we weren’t in the mood for the latter. The key lime pie ($5.95) was slightly more tart than sweet — not that there’s anything wrong with that — with a thick, graham-cracker crust and what we decided was a raspberry syrup drizzled on the side. The chocolate caramel pie ($5.95) was OK, but not as decadent as we hoped, a mousse-like filling over a chocolate crust.
We didn’t make a lunch visit, but there are sandwiches and po-boys for those looking for something lighter.