Written by Hulda Lawrence
Newly ensconced at 346 West 46th Street (212) 245-2030 is Bourbon Street Bar & Grille, with an emphasis on New Orleans cooking and jazz. As one enters this high ceiling place with its huge bar, many booths and standup tables, it evokes the charm of that long-revered center of marvelous jazz and special foods. Visitors are handed Bourbon Library, with its great list of all rare bourbons, some of which are 12 or 15 years old and range in price from $6 for Old Forester to $18 for Old Pappy, Rip Van Winkle. They are all aged at least four years and are priced from $6 a glass. One can get a fast high just by reading the list.
Then, too, there are cocktails with such names as The Hurricane, Louisiana Lemonade (with bourbon) and my companion's choice, Dark 'n Stormy (Gosling's Black Seal Rum topped with Ginger Beer). My choice was Mango Martini, a delightful mix of Absolut Vodka with marvelous mango puree, vermouth and topped with fresh mango. a wonderful drink. There are other joys like Watermelon Martini, Bourbon Street Apple Martini and Cajun Martini. Cocktails start at $10.
Above, there is a proper dining room with white tablecloths and a view over 46th Street. However, we opted for a booth on the main floor where we could see everything that was going on. At the rear of the ground floor is an area devoted to jazz which is available at brunch on weekends and where diners can be seated on lounges.
If one wants a snack lunch, there are Po' Boy sandwiches of Oyster, Shrimp, Catfish, Roast Beef Debris, along with a cup of seafood gumbo for $11. We began with Oysters Rockefeller and Shrimp Remoulade. Both are famous in New Orleans. Other appetizers are Duck Spring Roll, Pan Seared Crabcake, Creole Red Bean Dip, Creole Eggplant Fingers and Buffalo Alligator with celeriac, carrot and red onion slaw and blue cheese cream. Appetizers start at $7. There are soups, including Seafood Gumbo, and salads like Creole Tomato Napoleon from $8.
On the day we visited, there was a special of Catfish and Grits done with sausage. Our server, Deanna from Lodi, New Jersey, said we would enjoy it and we did. Other lunch entrees include Shrimp Creole, Cobb Salad, Chicken and Andouille Etouffee and Roasted Chicken "Bonne Femme." Luncheon entrees are from $14 and at night there are additional dishes such as Trout Amandine, Veal and Crawfish, Bourbon Steak and Shrimp, New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp and Roasted Loin of Pork. Dinner entrees start at $17.
From the wine list my companion appreciated Sauvignon Blanc from Sterling Vintners at $10. Wines are from $8 a glass.
We tasted several dessertsa good Bourbon Pecan Pie, Creole Cream Cheese Cheesecake, Dark Chocolate Torte with Grand Marnier Syrup, Beignets and Drunken Raisin Bread Pudding. After my cappuccino I felt all was right with the world.
This restaurant evokes all the delights of New Orleans: flickering lanterns, fringed lamp shades, an ancient sax hung on the wall. For those who prefer, there are tables outside. Park your inhibitions and be beguiled by the charms of New Orleans. Prices are modest and the atmosphere is great.
Hours: Sunday thru Wednesday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Thursday thru Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Brunch with Jazz is available Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Two visits to Brasserie Cognac, 1740 Broadway at 55th Street, (212) 757 3600, have convinced me that this is a delightful restaurant with an inspired chef, a dedicated staff, and wonderful food. Executive chef Florian V. Hugo is a descendent of author Victor Hugo and, although young and good looking, he has a great approach to some of the standbys of brasserie cuisine. He adds his own touches like watermelon and cantaloupe to gazpacho to make it even better.
As this is a true brasserie in its decor, one can dine outside or in its spacious dining room and there are private areas available, too. The daily two-course lunch for $24.95 consists of Salade Verte or Gougères (cheese puffs) or Soupe a l'Oignon and a choice of Paillard de Volaille or Croque Monsieur or Moules Marinieres. Before we perused the menu we were overwhelmed by the long list of cocktails. Some were cognac specials like Sexy of Hennessy, Bailey's, Godiva White, vanilla liqueur; and Do Re-Me of Remy Martin, apple juice, sour mix, St. Germain liqueur, Charles Heidsieck champagne for $12 each. My choice was a Kumquat Mojito of Grey Goose, Le Citron, brown sugar, bitters, muddled kumquats and soda while my companion appreciated Bay Mojito of Bacardi Rum, Bay Leaves, Lime, and Sugar. All cocktails are $12. There is beer on draft and by the bottle, as well as wines by the glass or bottle. We shared Sancerre from Domaine de La Perrière '07 at $14 a glass. Wines are from $9 a glass, bottles or half bottles are more.
We began with a Chopped Salad of beets, potatoes, asparagus, tomato, feta cheese and Poireaux Vinaigrette. Then came the best Moules Marinière, done with white wine, parsley, shallots in a divine sauce. Along with this entrée were thin, crisp French fries and plenty of crusty French bread with which to sop up the sauce. Then came the best Croque-Monsieur ever. The chef toasts together the ham and cheese and then he wisely cuts them into smaller pieces for easy eating. With it came a green salad.
Next time my choice will be Poulet a la Broche, Vol-au-Vent, Sole au Champagne or one of the daily specials. Monday it is Filet de Porc, and Thursday it is Canard l'Orange. Friday, of course, it is Bouillabaisse and Sunday it is Couscous Royal.
After tasting these excellent foods, we were served a platter of desserts to sample. All the baking is done on the premises and it is excellent. We enjoyed a bit of Tarte au Citron, Millefeulle, Chocolate Souffle, Creme Brulee, Tarte Tatin and Fruits de Saison. Desserts are $9 and there also are sorbets and glaces.
Prices are reasonable with dinner entrees starting at $18 for Hamburger a la Carte; the Moules are $19, Steak Frites is $24; the Gazpacho is $12; Bisque de Homard "Cognac" is $13 and salads are from $8.75.
Manager Allel Aimiche was most helpful and escorted me to the boutique where one can purchase all the croissants, cakes, breads and other food to take home.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight even days a week. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.