This week, New York Times critic Pete Wells turns his attention to Brennan's, where Ralph Brennan and chef Slade Rushing are attempting to resurrect breakfast (and a local following) at the historic Big Pink. Wells takes readers through the Brennan's saga, from the restaurant's original opening in 1946 to bankruptcy to the revamp and Ms. Ella's return to the building for the first time in 40 years this past November. But onward to food.
Of the breakfast menu, which primarily features Rushing's ugraded classics including Eggs Houssard and Eggs Sardou along with great service, Wells notes:
I’ve eaten a morning feast this substantial, served with this level of sympathy and formality, just once before; that was at Commander’s Palace, and technically it was brunch, not breakfast.
As for dinner, Wells seems impressed that Rushing is attempting to embrace new flavors in the "gumbo pot" of Creole cuisine, especially "one of the best things" he ate, "a duck-confit-studded rutabaga cake, Mr. Rushing's version of a Chinese-Vietnamese pan-fried turnip cake." Rushing is also offering a 5-course chef's tasting menu, which Well notes is "something you won't find at Galatoire's or Antoine's," words sharp enough to deflate your Baked Alaska.
While Wells notes that Rushing's menu could use some tightening up—"a surprising number of dishes were undone by one small detail"—that will likely come together over time. The dessert menu is currently on point, though, despite the 'very ordinary' showboat Bananas Foster.
Overall, Wells seems enamored that Ralph Brennan and Slade Rushing are attempting to take the iconic direction into a new, progressive direction or as he calls it walk "a tightrope of tradition." As Gambit's Kevin Allman notes with an ouch, Wells leaves his readers with these harsh words about the current state of French Quarter institutions:
The French Quarter has become something of a Jurassic Park for Creole cuisine, a contained area in which to see shrimp rémoulade, oysters Rockefeller and other giants of a former age in all their lumbering glory. At Arnaud's, Antoine's, Galatoire's and Tujague's, evolution stops at the kitchen door.
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