Le Meritage puts emphasis on fine wines, upscale fare
by Tom Fitzmorris
Few new restaurants in the past couple of years have been in the white tablecloth category, but that seems to be picking up.
Le Meritage has had to push harder than the others for recognition. The Maison Dupuy assiduously put the word out that they were doing serious food and wine at the hotel.
The location in the French Quarter is not on many people’s dining map, so you must force yourself to think of the place. It’s worth the effort.
Why it’s essential
The menu concept is a striking departure from anything we’ve seen. Instead of sections for appetizers, entrees and the other standard courses, the dishes are divided according to which style of wine they’d best match. The wines appear right alongside the suggested dishes. Every dish is available in either a small or large portion; the wines can be had by the full or half-glass.
Why it’s good
Although the preparations and presentations are entirely contemporary, Chef Michael Farrell adheres to an unambiguously Creole flavor. Few ingredients are off the list of familiar local products, and all are sourced carefully enough. It all comes out in well-composed plates, whether small or large.
When the Maison Dupuy restaurant opened in 1975, then little-known Chef Paul Prudhomme was in the kitchen. It was Prudhomme’s first New Orleans restaurant. Since he left, the space has seen many other concepts come and go. Two of the most interesting were the city’s first all-appetizer restaurant and Dominique’s, which ended abruptly in early 2009.
The dining room has a separate entrance from Burgundy Street through a small patio that gives the illusion of disconnect with the hotel and its bar, which is much more casual. The dining room is expansive, with windows into the courtyard as well as the entrance patio. The service staff is unusually well versed on not only the food but the wines, which Le Meritage takes seriously.
Fried oysters on the half shell with horseradish and citrus zest; crabcake with crawfish; smoked salmon Napoleon with caviar; arugula, apple and pine nut salad; pan roasted redfish with fried green tomatoes; shrimp and grits with tasso; corn and crab bisque; rabbit tenderloin with tagliatelle pasta; sea scallops with beluga lentils; tuna tartare; duck two ways — grilled breast and foie gras-topped confit; grilled quail with andouille and cornbread stuffing; pork tenderloin with molasses glaze; flatiron steak; braised beef short ribs; herb crusted lamb chops with hash of sweet potatoes, apples and bacon; filet mignon with blue cheese tartelette.
For best results
Forget about the entree-size portions, and construct a dinner from several small plates with half-glasses of wine as appropriate.