At a meeting Monday afternoon, the group of civic leaders chosen to lead rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina discussed shortfalls in the federal government's relief program.

Some said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was not acting efficiently enough to provide temporary housing for workers.

Some seemed exasperated that too few federal contracts were being won by local companies.

And some complained that the Army Corps of Engineers is not building the levees to withstand the worst of hurricanes, and that that might be keeping people out of the city, too.

"It's just stupid," said Barbara Major, one of the panel members.

Then, on Monday night, they met over dinner with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who sat next to the president, said before the dinner simply that he would be asking the president "for his support," but details of their discussions were not immediately available.

City leaders have become increasingly frustrated by the slow return of people and businesses to the city, and by the federal bureaucracy.

Even the Italian-Creole restaurant Bacco, where the president dined with city leaders, showed the strains. Wines that sell for $12 a glass are served in plastic cups -- because there are not enough dishwashers. Before Katrina, Bacco had 75 employees; now it has 21.

Before Katrina, it had a large menu featuring dishes such as lobster ravioli and pistachio-crusted salmon. On Monday night, the menu had four items, and one of them was a grilled hamburger.

"Staff is our most significant challenge," said owner Ralph Brennan. "We already know that many of them will not return."

Bush's eighth visit here since Katrina, however, was meant to show the recovery here in the best light. He stayed at a luxury hotel near the French Quarter, the Windsor Court, instead of on a military ship, which accommodated him on his last visit.

On Tuesday, Bush is scheduled to visit nearby Covington, La., where the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity is building houses for storm victims. From there, he is to visit a reopened school in Pass Christian, Miss.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, arriving in New Orleans, talk with Benny Rousselle, president of Plaquemines Parish, and Lt. Gen. Russel Honore.