You wouldn’t be wrong calling Lilette a neighborhood bistro, but it would be terribly modest and misleading. To put it bluntly, Lilette is an exceptional restaurant in New Orleans–it just happens to be a corner bistro.
It’s easy to underestimate the place. (Keep this in mind if you’re prone to menu sticker shock. It’s not bistro priced.) From the cozy banquettes to the specials chalkboards hanging on ruddy walls to the genuinely convivial front-of-house staff, the restaurant gives off a warm and unassuming vibe. Then the plates start showing up, and lively conversation lowers to a respectful hush. There’s a momentary rapture brought on by ethereal gnocchi bathed in Parmigiano cream and sage brown butter. Or a sigh inspired by the nubs of fatty marrow dotting a disk of white truffle toast with wild mushrooms soaked in veal glace. You see impish delight on the faces of diners, stirred by a plate piled with a golden haystack of crispy fries, alongside hanger steak with a marrow bordelaise that serves as an example by which all others in this city should be judged.
Chef/owner John Harris has perfected the craft behind his mostly French, partly Italian, fully modern menu in the bistro’s 10-year run. You can taste it in the darkly complex, fennel-enriched bouillabaisse, crowded with lobster tail, scallop, shrimp, clam and Alaskan king crab claw. Or the crudo plate of the day–slivers of raw fish decked in deceptively flavorful trimmings like pickled cucumber and spicy sprouts. The same goes for other menu highlights, like braciola nestled in a sweet, rustic San Marzano tomato sauce over silken polenta.
A restaurant like Lilette could easily get away with an average dessert list after cosseting diners so supremely, but pastry chef Beth Biundo’s creations are as indulgent and skillfully crafted as Harris’ menu. This is not the time or place to skip to dessert, most notably the house-made sorbets in flavors like grapefruit Campari or the moan-inducing Nutella custard, topped with a quenelle of caramel cream, nuggets of chocolate hazelnut brittle and a dusting of with fleur de sel. When it’s all said and done, a meal at Lilette can leave you swooning, the vivid sensory recall of every bite producing a food buzz that lingers for days.
Under the direction of celebrated chef/owner John Harris, Lilette delivers the very best in sophisticated, modern bistro fare in a warm, inviting corner restaurant.