Monday, April 13, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: A Purple Truck's Transition @ Boucherie

Boucherie, in the Riverbend/Carrollton area of Uptown, was a welcome addition to the neighborhood in the little cottage that still has "Iris" (which is now in the Quarter) etched into it. The owners of The Purple Truck, or, formally known as The Que Crawl, have parked their mobile establishment on Jeanette Street and renamed a flower a butcher shop (per the French translation). In this sunny little house, they're serving up "fine" Southern food at half the price you'd expect.

But then, for a menu whose entrees are under $15, what kind of quality can you expect?

Well, I'd give 'em an A for effort. They tried, they really did, and I appreciated that. The ambience was really nice, the service was superb, and the dishes nicely plated, but there was a certain lack of depth and complexity in all that I ate. Except for the luscious duck salad on a buttery crostini amuse bouche, the flavors weren't as layered or as deeply penetrating as one would hope to taste in a restaurant whose roots were in barbecue.

The boudin balls were really good, big hearty balls of boudin sausage and dirty rice. There proportion of rice to meat was well considered, and the hard crunch of the outside shell was done up just right. The idea of having a garlic mayo type of sauce was smart, but I do wish there was more garlic in it, since it fell a little flat, along with the seasoning of the ball. I loved the texture, with the soft filling and firm rice and thick shell of breading, though, and for $4, I can't really complain, since I definitely got my money's worth.

Next up was the blackened shrimp on grit cakes. There were only three shrimp on this dish, to our disappointment (since the dish was $8), and they were just average large shrimp, not the colossal Gulf jumbos that are showing up in many restaurants around now. The shrimp were meticulously cleaned, which I highly commend, because there's nothing that ruins a presentation more than a nasty, thick vein, pulsing black or violet under the surface of an otherwise delectable-looking shrimp (another reason why I don't like Gulf shrimp). It was served on top of a fried, solid little grit cake, with Fudge Farms Bacon Vinaigrette. The grit cake struck me as a little bland, and the bacon vinaigrette was kind of subtle, but the presentation was nice. The shrimp was tasty as well, but again, just at initial taste. After the first bites of the sweet shrimp as you smear it all over the plate to get a biteful with the sauce and grit cake, you kind of realize the outside zest is just a dusting of Cajun seasonings and the flavor doesn't penetrate.

For our entrees, Boy and I split two so that we could sample more stuff. They all sounded so good that it was tough to make a decision. I was originally going to shoot for the pan roasted duck breast with stir-fried Brussels sprouts and shiitakes, but it was apparently served on the bone. And the bone looked like a leg bone. This confused me, so I nixed it. The Norwegian Salmon with fennel seed spaetzle and beet emulsion sounded fabulous, but beets aren't a "safe" food for me, since I didn't grow up eating them. Colorful and pretty, but I always forget whether I like them or not.

For the first large plate, we chose the Smoked Black Angus Brisket with Garlicky Parmesan Fries, a side which is also offered as a side plate for nearly nothing -- just $4. These fries rank up there with the white truffle fries from 7 on Fulton, and kick the ass of Gordon Biersch's garlic fries. The thin and freshly shredded Parmesan Reggiano lent salt to the fries, as did the garlic butter that glistened on the surface of the crunchy potatoes. The cheese drooped just so over the medium brown shoestrings (none of that half-cooked golden thing going on here -- these were perfect and crisp to the last one) and the flavor was rich and exquisite. This was a standout, and I think that if Boucherie stays open for the next couple of years, they can bring this depth to all of their food, too. The potential is there ... it just hasn't matured fully yet.

Back to "food" food, though. The brisket was luscious and moist, and the barbecue sauce sweeter than it was tangy (just the way I like it). I would have liked some more sauce since the meat itself had a taste that kind of took the back burner, the "smoked" part of its title not that apparent, but it was very good. The meat came apart easily with minimal aid from a knife, and was tender, which, in my experience, I rarely encounter. All the briskets I've had are a little dry, including the one from the overrated The Joint in the Bywater, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

The other big dish we got was the Pulled Pork Cake with Potato Confit and Purple Cabbage Cole Slaw. A vinegar-based slaw, the cabbage remained crispy and light, but it was kind of in between identities. A little more vinegar would have made it similar to the nice, rich braised cabbage at Maple Street Cafe, and I tend to like vinegar in large quantities. I didn't realize until after the meal that there was a garlic and onion-infused vinegar bottle sitting at the table. Oops. So the whole time we were eating it, it basically just tasted like plain raw cabbage with a few accidental splashes of vinegar, with very little character to speak of.

The potato confit was equally uninteresting, served as little patties of what tasted just like ... sliced potatoes. Sliced potatoes with nothing on them, in them, or around them. They just ... were.

The pulled pork cake, however, was generous portion, and the meat was tender, although a little drier than I would have liked. I like my pulled pork pretty saucy, and that's how I'm used to eating it, since I'm a little bit of a condiment whore, so I felt a lot of flavor was lacking in the pork. The meat itself was pretty tender, and it was good, but it just lacked that oomph I like so much.

The verdict? A great value for a restaurant that's trying to find its sea-legs on stable ground, if that makes any sense. It hasn't come into itself just yet with the more refined food it's trying to serve, which is different than, say, barbecue from a purple truck. Once the chef has the chance to develop his dishes more and get that flavor really injected in there, they'll be really great ... but the prices, I'm sure, will increase by that point. For now, the food is much less sophisticated than you'd expect from the menu, but the creativity used to develop the selections are commendable. Again, A for effort ... but there's still a ways to go.

Boucherie
8115 Jeanette Street
Uptown/Carrollton
New Orleans, LA
504.862.5514


3 comments:

  1. Hi sweetie. I think there's a little typo re: boudin balls. "and for $45 I can't really complain, since I definitely got my money's worth." Just wanted to point something small out! It's a great review though. I'm a big fan of Boucherie for its affordability and down-home kind of feeling and food, but I had some of the same issues as you.

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  2. The breast offered was probably what is called a airline breast. The bone sticking out is the first joint of the wing. Not seen very often but usually tasty because cooked on the bone

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  3. Thanks, Remy - I'll fix it right away! Yeah, it's a great value, with great potential, but it's going through some growing pains, I think.

    Thank you for your comment, Arthur. It's always great to learn something new!

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