When the new wine bar Oak opened back in August, I have to admit I was intrigued. First and foremost, the menu was created by Chef Aaron Burgau of Patois…and you all know how much I loved Patois. Second, I had seen all the construction being done to the building and I wanted to see how it turned out.
The only problem was that I just don’t drink wine very often, though it is certainly not for lack of enjoyment…quite the opposite. Unfortunately, the tannins (especially in my favorite reds) are particularly trying on my allergies and asthma. But, as I was about to discover, Oak is certainly not limited to wine. Craving a change from our usual evening pace (WoW anyone?), John and I decided to take a stroll around the corner and see what the new bar in our neighborhood had to offer.
With an unfinished cement floor, a huge marble-topped bar and towering ceilings, it was obvious how “cool” Oak will be in the summertime. Plopping ourselves up at the bar, it didn’t take long for us to choose a few drinks and a couple of tapas-style dishes to sample.
The white-cushioned stools were high, but comfortable as I sipped my first concoction, “Stormy Weather,” featuring rum, ginger beer and fresh lime. Despite the name, I could easily imagine enjoying this simple cocktail on a sweltering hot, New Orleans summer day. I had easily sucked down half of it before our first dish arrived, a nice pile of deliciously crispy, fresh cut French fries adorned with curled, wispy shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and roasted garlic butter. Naturally, John ate most of them because this wasn’t one of my “cheats,” but I couldn’t resist munching on a few before they were all gone.
I ordered a “Jean Lafitte,” made with New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum, apple cider and Peychaud bitters before the next dish came out and enjoyed it almost as much as the first drink. It was light, crisp and not too strong thanks to a light-handed pour by our bartender.
John was still hungry after the fries and his eyes lit up when he saw our next dish arrive, a beautifully rare hanger steak bruschetta with hunks of blue cheese and a tangy, sweet red onion marmalade. The meat was juicy and delicious and I enjoyed my bite immensely, although I thought the dish was priced too high.
Instead of selecting one of their tantalizing desserts (this wasn’t a cheat, after all), I opted for sweet cocktail dubbed a “Josephine Baker.” Made with Van Gogh banana and chocolate flavored vodkas, this sinful treat offered quite a bang for the end of the evening. I’m a sucker for the banana-chocolate combination in anything and with much reluctance, I let John take a few sips.
Buzzing and warm from the cocktails, John and I strolled home under the stars and felt lucky to live in our neighborhood. We also noticed the sign in the empty gelato shop across the street touting the imminent opening of another Oak Street burger spot created by none other than Aaron Burgau himself. Does it get any better than this?