Brisbi's Lakefront Restaurant & Bar
7400 Lakeshore Dr., New Orleans
THREE STARS (out of four)
Brisbi’s is one of two new restaurants to emerge on the New Orleans waterfront in quick succession last year. The other is the Blue Crab. Both specialize in local seafood, and they trade on the outstanding appeal of their locations on the lake.
Brisbi’s rises right above the docks lining a busy canal connecting marinas to the lake. The restaurant is elevated on 20-foot pilings, putting the dining room and deck up above mast height (there’s an elevator for those not ready to climb the staircase). Inside, the room is soaring, with high, cathedral style ceilings and a large, horseshoe-shaped bar. There’s a stand-up oyster bar in the corner too. But the main attraction is Brisbi’s large, covered deck, which looks directly over the sailboat masts to the lake. This is a prime spot for sunsets and to catch a cool breeze. Below the dining room, there’s a second, open-air bar and patio.
You can keep things pretty traditional at Brisbi’s, or go in a somewhat more contemporary direction. For the first route, start with raw oysters and a cold beer, the mushroom caps stuffed with shrimp and crab dressing or the fried eggplant sticks with red gravy. This is all neighborhood comfort food you already know well. For a different direction, mix it up with the raw, soy-streaked tuna tartare with fried wonton chips to use like nacho chips, or the fried shrimp and oysters tossed in Buffalo sauce.
The setting is head-turning, but this is essentially a family-friendly, casual seafood restaurant. So it follows that the menu revolves around po-boys and familiar fish preparations. The kitchen has the essential, if not subtle, art of seafood frying down pretty well. Batters are well-seasoned and the seafood comes out crisp. Order the seafood platter and you get the usual array, plus calamari and onion rings crusted with panko crumbs. Other dishes are more distinctive. Grilled fish with hollandaise sauce and salmon Florentine are good examples, and the sesame crusted tuna is cut thick, cooked rare and laced with Asian flavors. The fish tacos are a little unusual. Thick, oversized tortillas swaddle the grilled fish, which is drizzled with horseradish sauce and feta cheese. The pastas look like an afterthought, but don’t miss the oysters Bordelaise, with immense amounts of garlic and oil escorting the fried oysters through a tangle of spaghetti.
Desserts are basic and familiar, with bread pudding and bananas Foster dueling with brownies and key lime pie.
There’s a full bar with a good draft beer and a basic wine selection. The bar itself is a centerpiece of the dining room, and there’s a second, open-air bar downstairs.
Brisbi’s is right there in the mid-range, serving most of its main courses in the teens. A couple should expect to spend about $60 on dinner.
This is a modern-looking restaurant with contemporary touches that still fundamentally dials back to an older idea of New Orleans dining – namely, heading to the lake to pair local seafood with pleasant scenery and cool breezes. It functions well as a casual restaurant and superbly as a quick, easy escape from the sweltering city.