By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)
(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – The M Bistro is the Ritz Carlton New Orleans’ flagship restaurant. I’ve noticed that bistro dining in New York City has made a bit of a retreat lately. However, given the French history of New Orleans, perhaps the bistro will never retreat here. Even the fine dining spots such as Antoine’s and Arnauds show their “bistroness” on their shoulder in terms of traditional décor and style of cooking with a Creole influence.
M Bistro is set on the 3rd floor of the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans and traditional bistro it isn’t but fair to say this very modern bistro which definitely has a New Orleans bistro feel to its menu It directly faces the stage in the Davenport Lounge where Grammy nominated horn-man and singer Jeremy Davenport performs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in front of happy patrons. If you have a table at M Bistro at the front of the restaurant you can watch Davenport perform from a slightly elevated position that the M Bistro has over the actual Davenport Lounge.
After dinner and a White Hurricane, the dividing line between the Davenport Lounge and M Bistro seems to melt away. Cocktails are extremely popular at the Davenport Lounge but try and get there at least a half hour before the show .It’s a very comfortable if not luxurious setting with chairs and tables and well serviced by a crew of servers.
M Bistro is also very comfortable with its partial faux glass ceiling blue studded leather chairs with two massive chandeliers in its centre. There are three dining areas in the rear of the bistro that can be made private by pulling the curtains. A certain lightness is added by a mirrored wall to the side of the restaurant. Three large square pillars throughout the restaurant break up the large space and create various more intimate spaces.
Once upon a time, in the days of Cesar Ritz, fine dining was introduced as a key component of a luxury hotel. In fact you might wish to say that Cesar Ritz even invented fine dining in hotels in London and Paris. The trend for high fine dining has shifted from the theatrical and dramatic to casual and informal in terms of fashion of diners, service and menu content.
Casual and relaxed is now the word in today’s dining in North America and that’s evident both in décor and menu content at the M Bistro yet that Ritz-Carlton formalism and respect is strongly present with a firm and sincere welcome and the quasi Old World formalism of Jerome our waiter who paces us through our dinner perfectly and offers his experiences with the dishes we are considering. It’s the friendly formalism that distinguishes the Ritz-Carlton from so many other hotels.
The menu at M Bistro certainly has a strong New Orleans element to it unlike so many other hotels throughout the world that pride themselves on their “internationalism” and give short shrift to indigenous cuisine. However as a tourist to New Orleans I’d rather have some local choices on my menu. M Bistro delivers with 17 dishes having a local touch to them including Blackened Redfish with dirty rice, black eyed peas, fried okra and tomato gravy.
Chef Frank Gray delivers with a tender moist fish cooked to perfection with a slightly spicy tomato gravy that intensifies in power and spice with each bite. There is also BBQ shrimp and grits, fried okra, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits and local crab cakes. I find the oysters plump and juicy lacking the saline bite of our east coast Canadian oysters so I’ll go with a little cocktail sauce or horseradish to give these plump beauties a bit more of an attitude.
The M Bistro menu also proudly proclaims, “The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans proudly supports farmer’s markets in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Covington, Louisiana. Our farming team also sources products for farming partners in Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.”
The M Bistro wine list consists of 11 pages. 18 wines are available by the glass including 4 sparklers, 7 whites, one rosé and 11 reds. Once again US and French wines seem to lead the way. Two glorious pages are devoted to Domestic Whites and 4 to Domestic Reds. Domestic equates with California, Washington State and, Oregon.
The menu is a bit shy with international white but as far as I ‘m concerned I am in the United States so I couldn’t give a hoot. I’ll go domestic. Wines are reasonably priced and mains run from $32-$44.
(M Bistro, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 931 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 504.524 1331)