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Brennan’s (NOLA)

This was my fourth day in New Orleans. I was alone, exploring the city, and tired of deep fried and fast food options so was looking for something clean to start the day with.

The restaurant was recommended to me by a Louisiana native and I had booked marked it as a place of interest. And now I got taken in by the all frosted pink exterior, so came close.

Walking up to and reading their glass boxed menu posted, I saw turtle soup and wanted to come in just for that. My goal was to have a southern experience in the most Southern state, and turtle felt like it would fit that bill.

I walked in to a disinterested hostess leaned over her booth. If I took her demeanour for the rest of the establishment I would have missed out on a good thing. I asked for the courtyard and was refused. I asked for the dinning room area and was rejected. No explanation just a hard exclamation. All she had was one bar seat that I eventually took.

She didn’t bring me in, but pointed around a pillar. I figured I would at least take a look at the space and decide then.

The self playing piano set a bluesy, jazzy, easy tone. Round the corner was a colourful scene of rust red and teal. The wicker of the chairs paralleled the aesthetic of the court yard, especially with the slow rotating ceiling fans giving off a lazy river energy.

For art, a mirrored wall painted with a melangerie of colourful tropical birds and adjacent framed eggs of various sizes and shapes gave us artsy safari.

The courtyard was surrounded by aged brick and over grown vegetation, a mix of local foliage and exotic greenery. All bathed in sunlight.

The pull was the fountain of live turtles bathing themselves in the sun. The restaurant feeds them raw shrimp and we were all surprised that they ate meat. The running joke was how you can choose your turtle if you get the soup.

The dining room was closed for the brunch/lunch service. It can be best described as a boudoir circus, stripped in white and aquamarine with pink accents, scalloped ribbons, and whimsical lamp shaded chandeliers. It was like a candy store on acid.

It was not until I went to the washroom did I discover there was a whole other dining area. Much like the first room in colour scheme except more royal safari caravan with unique columns and ceiling flourishes; an air of regality following the colourful murals.

Although, here I was seated at the plain bar, which in hindsight was where all the action was. The banana foster is the one to order here, flambéd table side (or in this case at the bar). There is a minimum order of 2 and there was enough patrons to make a few, a couple of times. And here I was smack dab in the middle of all the action.

Made to order at their portable station, heated by a propane stove. Each service comes with the how to and the story of how this once breakfast item became dessert. A two minute showcase with a bowl of vanilla ice cream, whole banana, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, banana liquor, and rum flambéed with a raised fire.

Smelling it, I can imagine how good it was for their sweet tooths. The classic combination of bananas and vanilla ice cream, coupled with caramelized sugars and a hint of spirit.

I on the other hand went for savoury. Seeing as I was at the bar, it felt rude to not order a drink. I was done with sweet cocktails so even though I know I don’t like Bloody Marys, had one. Coming from Canada their tomato cocktail without the clam juice does not hit the same. And it is ironic that they don’t use clam juice, considering there is so much seafood in the city.

The Brennan’s Bloody Mary is their Housemade Bloody Mary Mix with Vodka, Pickled Okra, and Spicy Beans. It was spicy and salty with no body, quick to water down with the ice. I got the buzz, but did not like the taste, however I still drank it with interest, due in the pickled okra, which was a new garnish for me. How southern. It was mustardy and peppery, one bite renewed my interest in the drink, following its strong tang and sour taste.

The meal itself started with the fine dining staple of a whole loaf of crusty bread wrapped in a linen napkin. This was accompanied by soften, room temperature butter with their scripted “B” stamped on. Easy to spread on the soft and spongy, bread. Not much on its own, but a nice sponge to the soup below.

The Turtle Soup was a bowl of 100% Turtle Meat, Brown Butter Spinach, and Grated Egg. It is customary to serve with Aged Sherry, which gets poured over at the end, before your eyes and to your discretion. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. The texture was like a lentil soup: grainy and gritty. At first I couldn’t even make out what as meat, until tonguing the spoon and discerning between all the bits. The soft, fish maw-like, gooey, melty chunks were the turtle. Heavy like chilli and one tonal, the Sherry gave it acidity. As is, this was much for one serving.

For a fine dining establishment I was not impressed by how my entree came interrupting my appetizer. I had to ask if there was a timer on my seat. I was half way through and still on my first drink. I wanted to enjoy what would be the most expensive meal I would indulge in on this trip. The server would eventually take it back and leave it under the heat lamp until I was ready for it.

This happened a second time, it coming out when I was still not done. But I gave up on the last bites, and the bread and made room. I didn’t need for this to sit in the warmer any longer and have any more of the micro greens melt.

The Crawfish Omelette Cardinal was just the light bite I was looking for. It felt healthy and lean despite all the buttery sauce. Vital Farms Eggs, Louisiana Crawfish Tails Lemon Scented Mascarpone, and Sauce Cardinal. The omelet had the texture of air and cake: so light and fluffy, the solid seemed to melt on your tongue. And there were enough crawfish chunks per bite of plain egg pancake. I did try to avoid any access sauce as this was too decadent and salty. It was here I wished that I save more bread to dip into it, to cut into some of the extra richness.

Here, each entree comes with a side of either fried oyster or shrimp. I choose the latter which was lovely and a lot cleaner than the other fried seafood items I have had. Well seasoned and crispy as is, where you can actually make out the flavour of the mollusk. Although much better with a dip in the sauce above. A good smear added interest and flavour.

Aside from the cold staff, I had a lovely time, taking my time in such a rich and jovial setting. I would definitely recommend this for the next time you are in New Orleans.

417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States
+1 504-525-9711

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