L’Espalier is one of my favorite restaurants in Boston and the first restaurant I reviewed when I started this blog. The original review was more general and covered several visits and menus; this review is specific to the Mardi Gras Dinner I attended recently.
The dinner was held in a private dining room, which was decked out in the traditional colors of purple, green, and gold. The tables were decorated with colorful centerpieces, beads, and masks. There was a live jazz trio set up in the center of the room who played throughout the evening. The dinner included four courses plus hors d’oeurves and one cocktail, and while the overall experience was more festive and casual than any meal I’ve had at L’Espalier they maintained the standard of service and quality they’re known for.
The dinner started with a trio of bite sized hors d’oeurves: a lobster beignet, hush puppy, and a corn fritter. They were all good but the hush puppy was my favorite; it sweet with a hint of cinnamon, while the other two were more savory. They were small enough to eat in one or two bites and left you wanting just a little more (it seemed by design).
The first course was a New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp. These were baby shrimp in a spicy BBQ sauce, served over a thin slice of toasted bread and topped with mixed greens. Servers also came around with breadbaskets during this course, and options included homemade corn bread and a biscuit. Both were surprisingly light, and the biscuit tasted even better dipped in the BBQ.
Next was a craw fish etouffé with steamed jasmine rice. This came out in two stages: first, the servers brought over bowls of rice with a whole craw fish in the shell, and then came back to pour broth over the whole thing. The broth was spicy and filled with even more chunks of craw fish. I love craw fish but have only tried tails before, eating one whole reminded me more of lobster. This course was my favorite, and seemed like the most authentic New Orleans style dish.
The final and main dinner course was Cochon de Lait, a whole roasted pig with cornbread and smoked oyster dressing. Frank McClelland himself came out to carve the pork in the center of the room. This course came with pork two ways, a slice from the whole roast and a slice of what tasted like a roulade or ballotine. Both were cooked perfectly, and were served with collard greens and a stuffed red pepper.
Dessert was a king cake, and possibly the largest slice of cake I’ve ever had. It was a cinnamon cake topped with a light icing and Mardi Gras colored sugars. It was extremely light and despite being full from the previous courses, I was able to eat about half my slice.
Overall the dinner was delicious and a lot of fun. It was different from the usual L’Espalier experience and made me want to go back and try some of their other events.