DNR: Tableau

The acronym DNR can mean so many things; Do Not Resuscitate, Do Not Rent, Do Not Rehire, etc. Today, for me, it means “Do Not Recommend.”

Since I do a lot of talking and writing about food and restaurants in New Orleans, people often ask me to offer recommendations for where and what they should eat when visiting. A large percentage of those requests are specifically regarding restaurants in the French Quarter, and I have a handful I like to throw out depending upon what people are looking for. One of those oft-recommended spots is Dickie Brennan’s Tableau, especially for brunch, but after the experience I had the other day, it no longer makes the cut.

I remember over a decade ago when local restaurateur Dickie Brennan pretty much saved the century-old Le Petit Théâtre Du Vieux Carré, financing a respectful redesign of the theater and launching Tableau Restaurant inside the historic space. Every single time I have enjoyed food at Tableau, both as a food writer and an everyman off the street, it has been consistently good, if not extraordinary. To top it off, Tableau is stunning. Two stories of tall, French windows thrown open, inviting the river breezes heavy with the music from a New Orleans brass band performing in the Square. Another more intimate dining room hugs the open kitchen and lets out into what was formerly Le Petit’s post-production hang-out — a lush, tiled courtyard, complete with burbling fountain. It’s like a freaking postcard came to life.

Considering the price of damn well everything these days, and the restaurant’s iconic location, Tableau’s brunch menu is remarkably affordable. Granted, John and I didn’t have any cocktails (who brunches without cocktails?), but for two entrees and an appetizer our tab came to $60 before tip, which isn’t terrible. The food, on the other hand . . .

The pomegranate slaw on the our grilled octopus app included huge, unadulterated chunks of bitter pith, and the arugula chimichurri would’ve been great if it wasn’t excessively salty.

John’s medium burger was hard and terribly dry, no amount of ketchup and mayo could save it; and my Eggs Tableau had perfectly poached eggs and thinly sliced ham resting upon intensely crunchy (dare I say rock-hard?) English muffins, one of which was encrusted onto the plate and would not release come hell or highwater.

The best part of the meal was the complimentary, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread and whipped butter which we gobbled almost immediately, scattering crusty crumbs across the table and into our laps.

Did our dishes spend a lot of time at the pass, languishing under the heat lamps to die a sad death, or perhaps they were re-heated? Possibly. I would hate to think the cooks let it leave the kitchen that way.

Granted, John and I walked in off the street with no reservations and a little sweaty and disheveled after a two-hour walking tour, but we didn’t look a whole lot different from other people waiting to be seated. We managed to eat what we could rather than sending it back to the kitchen because we hadn’t eaten yet that day (we were seated at 2pm), and we waited nearly an hour for the food to arrive.

I’m perfectly willing to give Tableau another opportunity, but until I believe my experience was the result of a “bad day,” it will remain a DNR.

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