Opened 25 years ago in anticipation of the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair in New Orleans, the Grill Room was one of the city’s top fine dining destinations and remained a contender for years, riding on the culinary prowess of such prominent chefs as Kevin Graham, Jeff Tunks, Rene Bajeux and Greg Sonnier. As more contemporary luxury dining options arrived in New Orleans, the restaurant’s reputation waned, particularly in the years prior to and after Hurricane Katrina.
In 2009, under new management and staff, the restaurant was reborn and has recaptured the hearts and bellies of New Orleans diners, first under the direction of executive chef Drew Dzejak. Current executive chef Kristi Butterworth, whose resume includes Lautrec at Nemacolin Woods Spa in Pennsylvania and the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, stepped into the kitchen in 2011.
The menu is luxury incarnate, a pampering of the finest ingredients in both the six-course chef’s tasting and a la carte selections. A traditional caviar service featuring Black River Ossetra struck the richest opening note on a recent menu, which changes frequently. Look for crispy duck, blissful renderings of foie gras, perfectly seared diver scallops with risotto, and dry-aged Prime steaks that rank among the best in the city. For the full Grill Room experience, do not miss the suggested wine pairings of director and sommelier Sara Kavanaugh, a bright and enthusiastic presence in the dining room.
Rich, subdued tones, colossal floral arrangements, gilded mirrors, and other aristocratic British trappings set an extravagant tone in the dining room. The adjacent Polo Club Lounge is one of the most sumptuous watering holes in the city and boasts an impressive wine list and craft cocktail menu. Don’t overlook the bonus bar menu, featuring truffle fries, boudin, and a cheese plate worthy of its surroundings. Le Salon sits adjacent to the Grill Room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Windsor Court’s lush, secluded entrance and is a spectacular setting for lunch or afternoon tea.
New executive chef Kristin Butterworth is shaking things up. With a fresh staff and luxe modern American menu, the Grill Room has made a culinary comeback equivalent to the Saints 2010 Super Bowl win.