Few restaurants can claim a century of dishing up some of New Orleans finest Creole cuisine. However, Arnaud’s is set to accomplish that in 2018. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the original owner, Arnaud Cazenave. A French wine salesman here was a man who felt “…the pursuit of the pleasures of the table is as worthy as anything else one chooses to pursue in life.”
With nearly one hundred years of continuous operation under its belt, it’s safe to say his belief (if not his spirit) is alive and well inside these hallowed halls.
Location: Arnaud’s is located at 813 Rue Bienville (Bienville Street), in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It shares the space with sister businesses Arnaud’s French 75, and Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro.
Menu: Traditional Creole dishes, perfectly executed with a few modern updates sprinkled throughout. The signature dish is Shrimp Arnaud: cooked gulf shrimp served in a zesty (and famous) tomato-based concoction. A number of other classics make an appearance as well, including crab claws, frog legs, alligator sausage, and turtle soup. Many dishes leverage local ingredients, and there’s a definite emphasis on regional cuisine.
Thoughts: Arnaud’s isn’t called a “Grand Dame” for nothing. With its rich history and impressive architecture, picture the restaurant like a noble and eclectic Aunt: wandering from room to room, she doles out food and stories in generous portions. Her crystal chandeliers sparkle like earrings, the warm wood wrapping around her like a fur coat; and the intricate tile floor forming an elegant lace dress from years gone by.
The food, while traditional, receives a much-needed upgrade where necessary. In other words, the chef has done a beautiful job of keeping the essence of a dish while incorporating more modern ingredients. The perfect example? A duck a l’Orange special served during the holidays. The duck breast was a perfect medium rare, tender but toothsome, and gently bathed in a traditional sweet orange sauce. To balance the sugar, the chef selected an underlying bed of root vegetables, including carrot, parsnips, and beets. The earthiness of the fine vegetable dice grounded the dish, toning down the excessive sweetness without overpowering the delicate flavor of the duck.
And their other classics are just as well prepared. The flavors in the Shrimp Remoulade were like being shocked with a bucket of water on a hot day. The sauce leads with heat, a solid punch delivered by Creole mustard oil, and then takes on a sweet and zesty tomato flavor to cool things down. The shrimp add additional sweetness, rounding out the flavor profile. In short, it’s a shrimp cocktail on delicious, spicy steroids.
Blue crab claws come simmered in wine, butter, and garlic, cracked and ready for slurping. The sauce is thicker than a scampi style and perfect for slathering on the accompanying toast rounds. And their souffle potatoes are some of the best in town: perfect, fluffy potato pillows served along with a side of Bernaise.
As if that weren’t enough, the wine and cocktail selections are also exemplary. So much so that Arnaud’s French 75 won the James Beard Award for best bar program last year. Be sure and start your meal with their signature smooth and delicious blend of champagne and cognac.
And finally, dessert. If you manage to save room, a number of delightful sweet treats are available. However, this is New Orleans. And one of the best ways to end the meal is with a drink, right? So order the Cafe Brulot, and treat yourself to a blazing tableside drink spectacular, complete with a tale of thieves, pirates, and voodoo.
Price Range: Soups are in the $9 range, with appetizers clocking in around $15 each. Mains range from $26 to $42, with the two filet mignon dishes taking the top price spot. Cocktails average $10, and there’s an additional selection of reasonably priced wine varietals by both the glass and bottle.
Portions are generous and easily shared. If you bring a few friends and decide to share, your bill will likely range anywhere from $40 to $80 per person, depending on appetizers and drinks.