Galatoire's: A New Orleans Classic
During a weekend trip to my hometown New Orleans for a cousin's wedding, my parents and I decided to hit the town to eat at a few restaurants that I had never been to in my 22 years of being a New Orleans native. The first on the list was Galatoire's. My parents and most New Orleanians I know have attended this fine old establishment at least once if not many times. Somehow, I never got to Galatoire's. That all changed last Thursday when my parents picked me up from the Louis Armstrong International Airport and brought me straight to the French Quarter to make our 9:15 reservation. The Quarter was hopping with people in town for the LSU-Florida game, parents' weekend at one of the local universities, and the usual local crowd. We made our way down Bourbon Street passing the bars, clubs, and loud music to Galatoire's, which was on Bourbon Street long before the street became known for its debauchery.
Jean Galatoire from the little town of Paradies, France came to New Orleans and founded Galatoire's in 1905. The Galatoire family has preserved their simple, classic family style recipes, and traditions of flawless service and ambiance since the very beginning, keeping Galatoire's practically unchanged over the years. Reservations were never taken at Galatoire's often causing a line of hopeful well-dressed diners to trail down Bourbon Street with the longest of waits on Fridays. Now, Galatoire's does accept reservations for the upstairs dining room but first come-first serve remains the policy for the legendary main floor dining room. We did have a reservation for the second floor, however upon arriving, the Maitre'd offered us a main floor table if we waited just a few minutes. We gladly accepted.
Entering Galatoire's, you go back in time and imagine a hundred years ago men in their suits and hats and women in elaborate dresses dining in this black and white tiled dining room. The Maitre'd asked if there was a particular waiter we preferred but since we are not regulars, we were happy to have any of the wonderful tuxedo clad waiters. In many of the classic New Orleans restaurants like Galatoire's, Antoine's or Commander's Palace, you will find career wait staff that have been with the establishment for many years, and diners that specifically request a waiter they have known for quite some time.
We were seated in the middle of the main dining room, which was quite full for a Thursday evening after 9 pm. Our waiter, Lance, greeted us immediately for our cocktail order, and soon after brought us two loaves of steaming fresh baked french bread with butter. We familiarized ourselves with the extensive menu, and instantly decided to order the Galatoire's Grande Goute, a combination of their very best appetizers. The Grande Goute consisted of Shrimp Remoulade, Crabmeat Maison, Shrimp Maison, and Oysters en Brochette.
The Shrimp Remoulade, mildly spicy and succulent, is prepared with a tomato based sauce with creole mustard, celery, onion, horseradish, and hot paprika. The Jumbo shrimp are boiled first then chilled, and tossed in the Remoulade served over ribbons of iceberg lettuce. Crabmeat Maison and Shrimp Maison, creamy with a mild tang, are made by combining fresh jumbo lump crabmeat or jumbo shrimp, capers, and scallions with a Maison sauce of egg yolks, red wine vinegar, Creole mustard, lemon juice and vegetable oil served over ribbons of iceberg lettuce. The final item on the plate, maybe my favorite bite of the evening, was the Oysters en Brochette, oysters fried to perfection then wrapped in thick slices of smokey crisp bacon-simple and divine.
After our first course came the salad, Galatoire's Godchoux Salad, a delightful mix of iceberg lettuce, jumbo shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat, chopped tomato and boiled egg tossed in a light creole mustard vinaigrette dressing then topped with salty anchovy fillets. For the entree, my father ordered the seafood gumbo, my mother the grilled trout topped with crabmeat, and for me the red fish special topped with crabmeat and mushrooms all with a side of steamed asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
My father's seafood gumbo was prepared with a well seasoned dark roux with the fresh taste of the sea from the oysters, crab and shrimp. The trout, my mother's dish, was grilled simply in a delicate butter sauce then topped with jumbo lump crabmeat. My redfish entree, juicy and precisely cooked, was lightly sauteed in a lemony butter sauce with jumbo lump crabmeat and sauteed mushrooms piled on top the fish. The entire dish was drizzled with even more sauce, lemon slices, and fresh parsley and scallions. Each bite was scrumptious and buttery although light and delicate leaving me with utter satisfaction. The large steamed asparagus spears were tender still with a slight bite. The hollandaise, thank goodness it was on the side, was so rich and delicious I was tempted to dunk my asparagus in the hollandaise again and again.
Our meal, although seemingly quite heavy, left me feeling satisfied but not overly stuffed. My memorable Galatoire's experience had as much to do with the classic French Creole cuisine as it did the historic dining atmosphere. Even after living in New Orleans most of my life, there are still so many experiences I have not yet had. Now I can check Galatoire's off my list but there is more. I will continue to return to my beloved hometown to frequent both my favorite places and all the others that I have not yet tried. If you have never been to New Orleans, then please do yourself a favor and go.
Go to Galatoire's and be a part of the romance that is old New Orleans.