A true dining splurge, whether to celebrate a special occasion, a loved one, or to simply experience memorable food, is the kind of treat most New Orleanians can get behind. There have always been special menus offered for various occasions at top restaurants for years, but far fewer places that center it as the main experience. More recently, a number of those restaurants have emerged, promising patrons an inspired, multi-course tour of a chef’s culinary passion and skill. As of November, Serigne Mbaye’s dazzling Senegalese tasting menu dinners have become a permanent fixture in town. Inspired by that debut, Eater has selected four of the most thrilling tasting menus in New Orleans right now worth the splurge, from bite-sized Parisian delicacies to reimagined versions of rustic Mexican cookery.
These options range from $80 to $150, currently, excluding wine or drinks pairing — so try them when the occasion, and the bank balance, feel right.
3814 Magazine Street, Uptown
The most exciting tasting menu in New Orleans in the past few years has arrived at its forever home. Dakar NOLA is James Beard-nominated chef Serigne Mbaye’s dazzling Senegalese dinner pop-up, where Mbaye serves a seven-course menu that riffs on traditional West African and Senegalese dishes and exhibits Mbaye’s meticulous technique, honed over years in kitchens like two- and three-star Michelin restaurants L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in New York and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Courses include Mbaye’s version of what he says is known in Senegal as the Last Meal, which the chef explains as a dish featuring black-eyed peas that enslaved Africans were fed before their forced journeys across the Atlantic. Other courses blend West African and Louisiana ingredients, like the fonio salad with West African millet, finger limes, and satsuma; or Mbaye’s yassa, his version of a spicy Senegalese dish made with habanero peppers, onions, and chicken, fish, or lamb.
Dakar NOLA holds one seating per evening for 30 guests, Wednesday through Saturday. Prepaid reservations for parties of one to ten are available for $150 per person, and there’s an option to consult a sommelier onsite from neighboring wine shops Second Vine Wines and Spirit to purchase a bottle of wine (with a $15 corkage fee) until Dakar NOLA gets a liquor license.
1245 Constance Street, LGD
Lengua Madre is Ana Castro’s modern Mexican tasting menu experience in the LGD, an assured standout in New Orleans’s dining scene throughout 2021. Here, diners enter through a narrow hallway glowing neon pink that casts an enticing glow into the dim, minimalist dining room, a fitting setting for Castro’s similarly minimalist but thrilling cuisine. Well-informed servers will walk you through the five-course, modern Mexican tasting menu, one that might begin with a sip of luscious seafood broth and include dishes like mole blanco cauliflower with brown butter; a luscious fontal tetela stuffed with cheese and topped with charred avocado; a bowl of Louisiana long grain rice with clams, shrimp, mussels, and roe; or cobia al pastor. Served alongside an optional wine for $40, the $80 meal is one of the most intimate, romantic dining experiences in the city right now.
3054 Saint Claude Avenue, Bywater
When Saint-Germain opened in late 2018, there was little local appetite for prix-fixe, surprise tasting menus. As such, the restaurant struck a smart balance — it’s part casual wine bar, part 12-seat Parisian bistro. It succeeds at both, but the tasting menu experience is a knockout — a passionate, technique-driven succession of courses that surprise and exhilarate. The menu changes every week, but often involves dry aging of meats, washed rind cheese making, or a la-minute seafood butchery, and ingredients like white asparagus, venison, and geoduck — one dish example is a crispy pigtail terrine with smoked egg yolk and fried potato broth. And excitingly, the third weekend of every month is a fully vegetarian menu.
Reservations for Saint-Germain’s progressive tasting menu are available Thursday through Sunday. Currently, a 10-course menu that begins at the bar and continues into dining room goes for $135 per person.
2740 Severn Avenue, Metairie
Prior to opening in its new, bolder location, Yakuza House specialized primarily in handrolls, or temaki, and dressed nigiri, as well as a few sandos, and offered an omakase experience. At the new location not far away on Severn Avenue, chef Huy Pham’s menu expands on those offerings significantly, but the omakase option remains the star. Pham’s tasting menu, available in the dining room or the private omakase room (but not at the izakaya bar, of not when reserving) is likely to heavily feature Pham’s specialty, intricately-dressed nigiri like shima aji with yuzu zest; kanpachi with honey miso, shiso pesto, and fried shallots; or Otoro with Murasaki uni, Kaluga caviar, truffle pate, and gold flakes. It will also likely include chef’s sashimi, like yellowtail with yuzu ponzu ad pink peppercorn, and temaki utilizing rare fish like akami.
Yakuza House is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday; ask your server about the omakase option.