Monday, December 6, 2010

A Closer Look: Iris (French Quarter, New Orleans, LA)

I adore dining establishments that surprise grateful customers with a chef’s selection amuse-bouche, especially a dish that focuses on more intense flavors to give the diner a glimpse into the chef’s style of cuisine. Iris, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, is one such restaurant.

Iris recently relocated to The Bienville House Hotel in downtown New Orleans. In this second location since opening in 2006, the magic in Iris’ kitchen materializes at the skilled hands of Chef Ian Schnoebelen. Utilizing the freshest seasonal ingredients, Chef Schnoebelen creates dishes that are unpretentious yet innovative and memorable.

Our meal began with an amuse-bouche of robust flavored slivered cured duck with balsamic reduction on a thin crostini. The great balance in the flavor profile stood out in the right way and started the evening off on a high note.

The offerings from the dinner menu (which changes daily) was an intriguing mix of palate pleasers for both appetizers and mains. While my husband ordered the Hollygrove Farm Arugula Salad, I opted for a simpler selection of Butternut Squash Soup.

The bitter and peppery salad with pickled sweet onion, roasted red and poblano peppers, Nicoise olives and goat cheese, while appetizing, had a skosh too much red wine vinaigrette dressing which gave the greens a more sour punch than they should have possessed. Nonetheless, it was still enjoyable. The soup, drizzled with goat milk yogurt, was thick and creamy with a hint of nutmeg, giving it a pleasurably seasonal flair.

Entrée choices ranged from Gulf Shrimp with an Asian flair to Steak Frites to Lamb Loin. However, my husband and I selected Duck Breast and Red Grouper, respectively.

The duck was accompanied by house honey cured bacon and Brussels sprouts nestled in an apple brandy jus. Generously sliced and blanketed with a thin layer of fatty skin, the duck breast was tender and pleasantly divine.

Louisiana legumes, pickled okra and Silver Queen corn essence were the backdrop for the grouper, which was expertly seared, creating a slightly crispy coating infused with wonderful flavors. The fish was firm yet moist with a trace of brininess, but in an enhanced manner.

Chef Schnoebelen crafts a fascinating menu covering land and sea that is deserving of more than a cursory glance. The food is fresh, appetizing and infused with lingering flavors. Iris is well worth the visit.

Iris is open Monday and Wednesday-Saturday. Bar opens at 5; dining room opens at 6. Also open 11:30am to 2:00pm Thursday and Friday for lunch. Iris is moderate to expensive, and appetizers can range from $7-$17 while entrées range $24-$31 (bear in mind this is dependent upon the dish as menus change daily).

321 North Peters Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

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