Restaurant August is as fine of a restaurant as there is to be found in the Big Easy. The jewel in Chef John Besh's crown, August does as fine of a job with their vegetarian preparations as they do with everything else on the cutting-edge menu.
For those who are unaware of John Besh (those not interested in fine dining and/or foodies living under a rock), his resume is impressive. Highlights of his career include graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, being named Top 10 best new chef by Food & Wine magazine in 1999, winning a 2006 James Beard Award for best chef in the Southeast and finishing second to Cleveland Chef Michael Symon on the Food Network's Next Iron Chef after beating Mario Batali on Iron Chef America. Besh was a contestant on Top Chef Masters. He is also noted for his service in Operation Desert Storm, and for his brave return to New Orleans post-Katrina, where Besh came with a boat, a gun and enough rice and beans to feed some of the people of the city who were unable to feed themselves.
The atmosphere at August is striking. The restaurant is divided into about four or five intimate dining rooms, and the low lighting shows enough of the beautiful woodwork in the building to impress. The wine loft above the dining room is another beautiful aesthetic accent to Restaurant August.
There are vegetarian appetizers and an entree on the menu. The degustation can also be ordered by vegetarians, although 24 hour advance notice should be given. The chef can also prepare a main course that highlights the freshest ingredients (which is the choice I made).
The amuse bouche was a citrus salad prepared with pink grapefruit, sweet potato, purple lettuce and rosemary. It was a clean, bright explosion of flavor that began the meal with a beautifully understated prelude.
My appetizer was organic greens with pumpkin seed brittle and Point Reyes blue cheese in a pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette. The brittle was a savory addition to an unbelievably perfect salad. The brittle was crunchy, and had a faint spice that made the dish march on in a lockstep unity.
The bread sticks were sourdough, and came with a house whipped butter. They were absolutely fantastic.
The main dish was a vegetarian trio of sweet potato tortellini in brown butter and parmesan, a sweet pea saffron risotto and a dark grilled broccoli and cauliflower combo. All three parts of the dish were great. The tortellini pillows were topped with greens and slivers of cheese, and the rich, herbal butter sauce sings with umami.
The risotto was a bright green foundation supporting herbal foam and chopped tomato, garlic and white onion strings. The risotto was the essence of spring, with fresh flavors that emerged from a creamy base.
The broccoli and cauliflower were deeply charred, and the cooking process added a sweet, smoky note to the veggies. A fresh piece of thyme added another layer of flavor to this simple yet refined item.
The cheese plate came with a variety of local and international selections, as well as another piece of the delicious pumpkin seed brittle. It was served with an herb-infused lavash bread.
The wine list at August is excellent, as one would expect with a restaurant of this caliber. The Dr. Frank Finger Lakes Rkatsiteli, an ancient Georgian varietal produced in New York state, was an interesting selection by-the-glass.
Service at August is also fantastic. The staff did an excellent job addressing vegetarian concerns and creating an experience that sparkled.
Restaurant August is a place that is deserving of its mountain of accolades. The vegetarian experience is as excellent as the reputation of August would indicate.