Postcard From Tom: New Orleans, La.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

From po' boys and prailines to chicory-laced coffee and etouffee, New Orleans knows how to let the good times roll. No visit to the Big Easy is complete without a meal in at least one of these dining rooms.

GALATOIRE'S (209 Bourbon St., 504-525-2021):

To dine as the regulars do at this revered institution, request a table in the tiled, first-floor dining room and heed the staff recommendations. Among the house classics are fried eggplant and soufflé potatoes (a combination appetizer served with an oddly appealing sauce of Tabasco and powdered sugar), shrimp remoulade and whatever whole fresh fish looks good, likely pompano. Entrees $12-$30.25.

HERBSAINT (701 St. Charles Ave., 504-524-4114):

Glance up from a bowl of gumbo and you might catch a vintage steetcar lumber past your window, slowly slicing through the Warehouse District. Named for the local anisette liqueur, Herbsaint is a study in minimalism. Chances are you'll be focusing more on chef Donald Link's luscious food. His fresh shrimp with custardy grits, sparked with green chilies, is the stuff of dreams, as are the rabbit fricassee with wild mushrooms and the banana-brown butter tart for dessert. Entrees $14-$27.

PERISTYLE (1041 Dumaine St., 504-593-9535)

In a city packed with great places to eat, here's where I'm most eager to return. While honoring French tradition, chef Anne Kearney Sand has her heart in the South. Louisiana crab is spiked with horseradish, local fish are showered with toasted almonds, grilled duck gets treated to salsify-potato croquettes. While the choices frequently change, a first-rate wine list and cozy bistro design are happy constants. Entrees $24-$28.

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