Now, the Dickie Brennan & Co. restaurant is raising the curtain on a new culinary approach that puts a more refined and adventurous lens on its menu. Tableau has always been solidly French and Creole; now it feels a more modern blend of both.
The revamp was led by chef Gustar Martin, a veteran with the local restaurant group. It’s the most comprehensive change since the restaurant began, and it marks a big expansion from the more limited menu Tableau has served through earlier phases of the pandemic.
The new menu feels contemporary while at the same time very much at home in this grand setting. There’s a lighter touch here, a new riff on an old favorite there, and even some references to modern classics from the expanded Brennan restaurant family repertoire.
Some of the old signatures remain — the Creole onion soup, the truffle crab claws, the tournedo Rossini (tenderloin with foie gras and Madeira demi-glace), to name a few. But more than half the dishes on the brunch and dinner menus are new as of January.
The oyster pan roast makes a bold first impression, and it’s quite different from the dish of the same name served at sister restaurant Palace Café (which is now slated to reopen in March from post-Hurricane Ida repairs and renovations).
This one has both poached and fried oysters clustered around a big honking hunk of gently melting Brie, all set over a base of rich cream sauce aromatically spiked with Herbsaint.
The sweetbreads arrive as dense, crisp pieces interspersed between a tumble of brabant-cut sweet potatoes, smoky tasso and rings of pickled okra, all finished with pepper jelly and Crystal hot sauce honey butter.
That combination of tasso, pickled okra, pepper jelly and Crystal is highly evocative of shrimp Henican, a staple starter on the menu at Commander’s Palace. That landmark is not part of Dickie Brennan’s group, but it’s part of the Brennan family umbrella, and the restaurant where Dickie and many on his crew got their start. Here, it feels like an example of cross-pollination within one culinary family tree.
The pasta bouillabaisse sounds straightforward but brings an unexpectedly beautiful and nuanced balance of fresh seafood and deep flavor. Shrimp, squid, littleneck clams and herbs take care of the first part of that equation; a cloudy and rich seafood broth, a thick drape of rouille and a bed of ruffly, ribbon-like black squid ink mafaldine pasta anchors the other. The textures and flavors play delightfully together.
At brunch, look for new seafood dishes with a distinct flavor of southern France. One is eggs deux facons, with poached eggs set over brandade (golden-brown cakes of cod and potato). The other is pan bagnat, here essentially an open-face sandwich version of a salade Niçoise.
Tableau came about through a redevelopment that brought Le Petit Theatre after financial problems shuttered the long-running venue a few years prior. The restaurant took shape in theater areas attached to the main stage. That meant losing some parts of the theater complex, but keeping its main stage going.
Now, many of those former theater spaces are private dining rooms, which wend around the upper floors, between the restaurant’s courtyard and wrap-around balcony.
Today, this restaurant holds down an important part of the French Quarter, flanking one side of Jackson Square. This is the hub of New Orleans tourism, but this restaurant doesn’t partake in touristy schlock. Instead, it provides a destination with local flavor and its own style, much like the other bookend to the Square, Muriel’s Jackson Square, just across the way.
It’s good to see a restaurant of this stature making a statement on its menu as it looks ahead to better times on the horizon.
616 St. Peter St., (504) 934-3463
Dinner Wed.-Sat., brunch Wed.-Sun.
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