Cuvee Restaurant , New Orleans - Michelin-Star Excellence
Michael J. Reiss, Editor, foodandwineaccess.com
Cuvee Restaurant's relaxed and lively decor.
Cuvee Restaurant, located at 322 Magazine Street, challenges the assumption that there can't be another good restaurant in New Orleans. Opened just six months ago, Cuvee offers an extraordinary fine dining experience. We were greeted at the door by Sebastien Glacon, Matre'd and Sommelier. Sebastien Glacon said he was from France and demonstrated a fine knowledge of wine and great sensitivity to wine-food pairing. Our first course was a "Pan Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with Lime Vinaigrette" ($9). This was paired with a medium-dry Italian sparkling wine, Zardetto Prosecco Brut ($30/bottle). The crisp, yet fruity sparkling wine served as a good counterpoint to the rich, sushi-textured tuna.
Our next course was the "Crispy Mirliton Napoleon [a kind of squash], Spicy Shrimp, Tomato Remoulade, Cayenne Butter, Frisee"($7). This "signature dish" of the restaurant was an extraordinary blended tempura-style crispy, crunchy vegetable layers sandwiching thinly-sliced spicy shrimp bathes in a spicy tomato Remoulade sauce. The contrasting textures and intense flavors of the dish were enhanced by a glass of premium Riesling, Domain Weinbach "Schlossberg" Kayserberg, Alsace ($56/bottle). This wine had a distinctive steeliness balanced by abundant fruit and served as a wonderful accompaniment to the rich and crunchy shrimp-vegetable dish.
What was impressive about the food served at Cuvee is it had all the complexity of Michelin-rated fine restaurants in France. Yet one had superb pricing--$7 for this dish, and the added benefit of having wines by the glass through the careful and thoughtful organization of Sommelier Glacon. What resulted was a culinary experience equal or better that on could find in France. What made this dish unique --despite its European origins-- was the touches of New Orleans Cajun and Creole roots, as demonstrated in this dish's "spicy shrimp Remoulade."
Our next course was the " Pan-seared scallops with Sugared Beets and Fresh Watercress, Finished with 3-Citrus Horseradish Butter and an Aged Balsamic Syrup" ($10.50). Here the scallops were cooked to perfection--seared on the outside, juicy-sweet on the onside with a delicious aged balsamic. Sebastien Glacon chose another winner-wine from his vast and eclectic storehouse of knowledge about wines. This time the Rose from the Langudoc did not over power the delicate flavors of the scallops. (Domain de Pou'jol, 1998) We asked Sebastien Glacon how he acquired his knowledge of wines. Sebastien Glacon told us that he grew up with wines in France, including having contact with a relative, the famed Roger Verge of Moulin de Mougin, which was previously a Michelin three star restaurant. He also attended a formal culinary school in Europe. He is now on his way to becoming a "Master Sommelier," having already passed two phases of the difficult three phase examinations. He says he studies one to two hours everyday, and also at Cuvee wine-food pairing is serious business. In fact the Restaurant offers a daily six to seven course "Tasting Menu" or "Menu Degustation" at $60, or for $40 more, with wine.
The Menu Degustation resembles the "grand repas" prix fixed menu we found in two and three Michelin star restaurants in France and other part of Europe. The difference is that a similar menu in France would not normally be available with glasses of wine paired to each course and would usually be double or triple the price. Our recommendation therefore, for a real treat, is to "go for the Menu Degustation!"
Our next course was the "Sugar Cane Smoked Duck Breast and a Crispy Confit Leg; with Savory Roquefort-Pecan Risotto; Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras" ($22). This course was wonderful, as we had duck served in three different preparations. This dish reminded us of a similar duck dish (also served in three preparations) at the two-star Michelin-restaurant, Lion de Or, in Romorantin, France, although Executive Chef Richard "Bingo" Starr's version was better.
Exec. Chef Richard "Bingo" Starr has been around.
Photo by M. Reiss.
Photo by M. Reiss.
And we asked Chef "Bingo" how so much flavor could be happening on the same plate. "I home-smoke my duck, right in the kitchen," he replied. We also learned that Chef "Bingo" attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York, thus his preference for Hudson Valley foie gras. Indeed Chef "Bingo" has been around. He has worked at the Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas, Texas, and also at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Then Chef "Bingo" worked with well-known New Orleans Chef Emile Lagasse. It seems that Chef "Bingo" and Matre'd/Sommelier Sabastien discuss the dishes with great gusto. Many wine-food pairing are tried before the "ultimate match" happens. At Cuvee we sensed a seriousness and professionalism that showed Matre'd/Sommelier Glacon 's and Chef "Bingo's" devotion to their art.
The atmosphere at Cuvee is relaxed and at the same time lively with historic brick walls of a 19th century building as a backdrop. The day we dined the service was flawless. What food came out of the four-person kitchen exceeded our expectations in its complexity, originality and intensity of flavors, particularly when compared with two and three star Michelin restaurants in France, which regularly have up to 40 persons in the kitchen. In short, for one of the finest and most refined dinning experiences in New Orleans, where food and wine are married with great care, go to Cuvee for a stellar experience.