Restaurant revamps menu, renews look
With prevailing dining trends pointing to comfort-food concepts, global cuisine mash-ups and a casual vibe no matter the price range, Broussard’s tacks away so sharply it seems like this old-but-recently-renewed French Quarter restaurant is throwing down a gauntlet.
Expensive, elegant and formal, specializing in Continental cuisine and calling to mind special evenings rather than anytime dinner, Broussard’s feels more like the type of restaurant that has endured rather than one that people would create these days.
And yet it’s hard to see why the place should be anything else. A historic complex in six parts, including three dining rooms, a newly redesigned bar, one of the French Quarter’s great courtyards and an outdoor cloister under a rambling wisteria, it is an ocean liner of a restaurant with a tenure dating to 1920. But its ownership and approach changed enough over the decades that its history is better understood as epochs, and the latest began last year.
Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, the same local company that developed the nearby restaurant Kingfish, bought Broussard’s in March from the Preuss family, who ran it for the past 30 years. A summertime renovation burnished the place from bow to stern, and it reopened in September with well-known manager Chris Ycaza and largely unknown chef Guy Reinbolt at the helm.
A native of France’s Alsace region, Reinbolt takes a traditional approach to French cuisine, though that doesn’t mean it’s familiar. Rife with personal interpretation and creative flourish, it’s classic without being textbook.
Only a handful of dishes speak directly to the local Creole tradition. The most prominent is gumbo ($8), a straightforward rendition with a rich and thick seafood roux; broiled redfish Broussard ($28) and pecan-crusted shrimp ($28) make marquee use of local seafood.
But the unique pleasure of Broussard’s new menu lies with dishes we don’t see very often here, and Elizabeth’s sardine roll mops ($13) tops the list. Marinated sardines, oily and assertive, are wrapped like a belt around a disk of sharply tart apple salad and topped with tangled halos of shoestring potato. More approachable, but no less composed, the smoked duck and mushroom strudel ($15) is encased in crisp filo and artfully arranged around salty, aromatic tarragon barbecue sauce and a big lily blossom.
A whole Dover sole ($42) is baked in the kitchen but then carted into the dining room where a waiter separates fish from bones before your eyes. Lightly peppered, and glistening with an almond butter sauce, the delicate white fish retains a mild, slightly sweet flavor that’s enhanced from being cooked whole but is easier to manage on the plate thanks to the waiter’s nimble work tableside.
Drum goujounettes ($29) are slivers of fish in filo arranged over a finely-textured sauerkraut heavy with clove and broad ribbons of fried potato fashioned into bowtie shapes, while a woodsy, dark composition of red cabbage and chestnuts is the foundation for roasted half pheasant ($35).
Forget poultry when you order the ostrich ($32), which gives red meat with the look and texture of a very lean steak, but the flavor of a much richer cut. Here, ostrich filet is rolled in bits of mushroom and liberally spotted with soft green peppercorns stuck to the meat with a wine-dark demi glace. The dish falls somewhere between hunting lodge and state dinner, finished with an ultra-smooth puree of carrots and olive oil and Anna potatoes, a cake of sliced potatoes and butter that’s like a casserole sent off to French finishing school.
The pyramid-shaped lemon cream Napoleon ($8) is more creamy and tart than sweet and makes a good light dessert. The exact opposite is the duo of Grand Marnier and chocolate soufflés ($12), cooked side by side in a family-sized ramekin and joined by what look like gravy boats of dueling sauces to pour through the crisp top.
Details abound across this operation, from the layered rise of flowering plants in the courtyard to the classically informed cocktails from the bar. Though the Broussard’s name is the same, this is essentially a new restaurant. It’s one that stands out not by blazing a new trail but by giving Old World paths a fresh look.