819 Conti St., New Orleans, 504-581-3866
Broussard’s is a very old name in New Orleans dining, dating back to 1920 when the original restaurant opened inside a French Quarter mansion. It’s undergone some significant changes in the generations since, and the latest began in 2013 when new owners bought the property and completed a major revamp and redirection in the kitchen.
If you remember Broussard’s from a year ago, the same basic template remains intact: an elegant main dining room, a number of smaller dining rooms suitable for private groups, a bar and, of course, one of the Quarter’s great dining courtyards. What’s different is a substantial rehab to the décor, fixtures, bar and courtyard that has burnished the property’s elegance. As before this is a place for big-deal meals with all the trappings of an upscale dining destination. It takes a lot of people to fill this place up, which tends to happen only when some a large event is in town, so the big dinning room can feel a little barren at times. The courtyard is more beautiful than ever, with new landscaping complimenting its classic lines. The bar is an excellent place drop in for a cocktail and a look around when you want to decide if the ambiance is right for the evening you have in mind.
As befits the setting, the service here is formal, maybe more so than some people are accustomed to in this town. After all, even at the old Creole grande dames it’s common for waiters done up in tuxedo jackets to take a familial approach with regular customers they do indeed know well. This edition of Broussard’s is new, so maybe in time staff and regulars will develop that kind of rapport. For now, though, staff is correct, confident and generally well-equipped to guide customers through what may be an unfamiliar menu.
The biggest change by far from the previous Broussard’s is in the kitchen. Chef Guy Reinbolt, a Frenchman trained in the classic manner in Europe, oversees a menu focused on Continental traditions, given plenty of personal and contemporary twists. There’s a gumbo to start, and a trio of baked oysters, but from there the local Creole references fall off in favor of European dishes not much seen around here. If you like bold flavors, try “Elizabeth’s sardine roll mops,” a sculpted composition of deeply marinated sardines, tart apple salad and a shoestring potatoes. Rabbit rillettes and pan-seared foie gras are classic, while the strudel is a construction of crisp phyllo filled with smoked duck and wild mushrooms with an herbaceous barbecue sauce. Presentations are beautiful and intricate.
A similar style continues across the entrees, which quickly delves from broiled redfish and pecan-crusted shrimp to far-less familiar terrain. Ostrich is a centerpiece, and this very lean, red meat eats like a uncommon but very fine cut of steak, set off by green peppercorn sauce. Phyllo again makes an appearance, this time filled with small, succulent pieces of drum and finished with a tart, pickly sauerkraut and caraway cream sauce. The roasted pheasant works like a woodsy, hearty chicken dish with a more robust flavor from the bird and the Dover sole is an appropriately straightforward presentation of this delicate, distinctively flavored European fish, which is plated tableside with almond butter.
The king of the dessert list is a decadent, double-barreled serving of soufflé, one side with chocolate souffle, the other with Grand Marnier. It’s very rich, and large, and should be shared by at least two diners. More modest is a pyramid-shaped Napoleon of lemon cream with kiwi fruit sauce. Cheese plates are also good, especially if you’re indulging in an after dinner drink.
The wine list is broad but keeps a particular focus on France. The bar features a drinks list drawn from classics updated with a careful hand.
Broussard’s remains very expensive, with most entrees in the $30 range. It certainly looks the part too. A couple should expect to spend at least $150 on dinner.
The new Broussard’s is a promising reinvigoration for an important piece of New Orleans restaurant history in the French Quarter. It calls out for special occasion dining or for a meal when you want something different and don’t mind shelling out for it. Nothing here says “anytime meal” though the bar is good pick for a place to drop in during a spin around the Quarter.