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the new orleans times picayune

lagniappe's dining Guide : brett anderson's top ten new orleans restaurants


Lilette's John Harris conveys big things on small canvases. He's the creator of one of the richest, most sinfully delicious dishes in town, an appetizer featuring toast. White truffle Parmigiano toast. With wild mushrooms, marrow and an intense veal glace. He punctuates a delicate chicken broth soup with a soft poached egg. His salads are always nicely balanced showcases for pretty produce; my favorite at the moment in finished with braised veal cheeks and a horseradish vinaigrette.

His restaurant is one of the city's most exciting. Your apartment's probably bigger. Harris named Lilette after a French woman he cooked alongside during an extended stay in France, and his interest in that country's culinary tradition can be seen in his food - boudin noir with cornichons an spicy mustard, black drum wrapped in a crisp potato shell as thin as parchment - and its surroundings: The restaurant has the casually elegant disposition of a Parisian Bistro.

That said, Lilette is not easily defined. An entire meal here beginning with, day, a friend whole artichoke, and continuing with braciola and polenta, could conjure memories of your long-lost Italian childhood. Or perhaps your grandmother's. The connecting thread is of food that had lasted through the ages and is, in Harris' hands, continuing to evolve. Long live the goat cheese crème fraiche quenelles.