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N’awlins Horseshoe Casino and Hotel Tunica Dining Review
by Jen Cuthbertson
N’awlins Restaurant is nestled in the corner of the Horseshoe Casino Gaming floor just to your left of the Village Square Buffet. Remember where it is because when you leave after your meal you may expect the first step out the door you will be on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. My first impression as I walked thru the front door of N’awlins was nothing like what I had envisioned in my mind. None of those scary Mardi Gras masks, no shiny beads, the color purple was no where in the décor but instead a classy sleek modern simplistic look. Two soothing waterfall drop displays add to the relaxation feel while dining at N’awlins. Lush comfy circular booths line two walls of the main dining area, perfect snuggle seating for the romantic evening out. We sat at the traditional square linen cover tables, after all tonight is “work”.
Before we ordered, Tom and I were honored to visit with Executive Chef Werner Zeffener; Assistant Executive Chef Jim Snuggs; and Vice President of Food and Beverage, Joe Maloney and later, Room Chef Kelly English. Ok, I confess, I’m a Chef Groupie. Incredibly so, there is so much culinary talent behind the scenes at the casinos, I feel I must “expose” the culinary celebrities to you.
Just to give you a quick background of who is responsible for the yums, the ooh’s and ahh’s:
Room Chef for N’awlins is Chef Kelly English from New Orleans, Louisiana. Chef English has worked with Chef John Besh at August Restaurant in New Orleans and is a graduate of Ole Miss. Chef English, a 10 year culinary vet, says, “I guarantee Horseshoe’s N‘awlins has the best New Orleans Food outside New Orleans, bar none.”
Executive Chef Werner Zeffener CEC came to the USA from Austria in 1966. He has worked in Atlantic City and Las Vegas before happily settling in Tunica. When I asked him with his vast knowledge and experience, what is the most outstanding experience of his career. He replied, “One of the nicest experiences of my career was working with Jack Binion., because his philosophy is geared toward really good food and the customers.”
Executive Sous Chef Jim Snuggs’s path to Tunica included stops at Disneyland, Jackson, Mississippi’s Downtown Grille, and Marigold’s. Chef Snuggs is a graduate of Ole Miss in Oxford, MS.
Also in the Chef Mix are Chef de Cruisine Chef Carolyn Moraczewski.
Chef John Besh, of New Orleans, August Restaurant is the consulting chef for N’awlins. Food & Wine has awarded Chef Besh one of their “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America,” and New Orleans Magazine named him “Best New Chef” in 1998.
N’awlins Restaurant Manager is the ever so likable Jivani Delwis. Jivani comes to Horseshoe Casino from Shri Lanka. Jivani is an American success story. After listening to “her story” I wanted to belt out and start singing God Bless America. What a charming lady. Now back to the rest of the story…..
After being presented the menus, Tom and I were in awe of the selections and were trying to figure out how to taste everything for you. Maybe some wine will help. Horseshoe has one of the most extensive wine cellars in the country. I choose a Pinot Noir, Byron, Santa Maria 1997. Tom says, “Me too”.
Chef Jim Snuggs rescues us from our decision dilemma by placing two festive triangular plates filled with samplings of appetizers. Immediately my fork goes for the monster sized Besh BBQ shrimp. Unlike the tomatoey sweet mid-south BBQ flavor it is a definite New Orleans blend of spices which awakens your palette gently making you anxious for the second bite. Also in the selection is shrimp cocktail, crawfish remoulade, crabmeat ravigate, and roasted oysters on the half shell with horseradish and parmesan crust. Tom and I are enjoying ourselves when we wonder which one of us is going to go for the oysters. I am not an oyster fan and neither was Tom. The challenge became Tom’s. I was busy tasting the other selections when I heard a wheeeeeeew come from Tom’s direction. He said it wasn’t necessary for me to taste the oysters, as he reached for last one on the plate. I commented that I thought he wasn’t that fond of oysters. With his thumb pointing upward, Tom said, “I never had these before, I love them!”
Other selections from the N’awlins’ Appetizer list include Buttermilk Fried Rabbit with Dipping Sauce and Home-made Natchitoches Meat Pies and Fried Oysters “bordelaise” with garlic, butter and parsley.
Our petite server, Alia, floats like a butterfly, quickly and gracefully she makes sure our silverware is straight, table clean, glasses are full and every possible need we may have is met, smiling the entire time. I am in total awe of her professionalism and efficiency. She thought of things before we did. Absolutely one of the best servers we have ever had.
Soup Time! Soups available include Gumbo Yaya, Turtle Soup, and Crab Bisque.
We are served the trio sampling of all three soups accompanied by a boat of Sherry Wine to add to the Turtle Soup as needed. Since coming from the northwestern part of the country, Tom has discovered gumbo and now considers himself to be a Gumbo Guru. He has worked diligently tasting gumbo everywhere we go. He immediately is full of accolades and starts imitating Justin Wilson. N’awlins wins Tom’s Great Gumbo award.
Now let’s talk turtle. If you have never tasted turtle you may have the same apprehensions I had. If you have had turtle then you think the apprehensions are silly. I had survived living in the backwoods of Tennessee for a few years avoiding the local’s offers of turtle soup with polite no thank-yous. The time has come, no running. I carefully taste the turtle soup, hmmm, I add a little Sherry Wine, after all they must have brought it to me for a reason. I look over at Tom’s Turtle Soup and it is gone! Soon mine is too.
Turtle Soup is definitely on my order the next time we visit N’awlins. Try it!
The Crab Bisque took backseat but not a deserved position, chunks of fresh crab, in a delicate tasty Bisque, yum. All three soups were worthy of center stage.
Choices of Salad are Bibb lettuce with buttermilk bleu cheese dressing and spiced pecans or baby spinach with bacon and Creole mustard vinaigrette. After seeing the very generous portions being served, we opt to leave something for next time and go straight into the Entrée.
N’awlins has two sections of Entrees “From the Gulf” and “From the Farm”. Tom chooses Grilled Bass with Crabmeat Whipped Potatoes and Bouillabaisse Jus. He is pleased with his selection. Tom’s plate is soon clean as he sits back with a wide satisfied smile. I never did get a chance to “taste” his entrée, Tom said I needed to wait and order it next time. Actually I believe the bass was so good he just wasn’t willing to share. Other selections were Almond Crusted Speckled Trout with Hollandaise and Crabmeat Salad, Blackened Redfish with Asparagus and Crawfish Butter, “Bell River” Crawfish Etouffee with Jasmine Rice, Louisiana shrimp with Andouille and Cheese Grits, and Cornfried Catfish with Brown Butter and Pecans.
I order from the “Fresh From the Farm” Selection having Paneed Veal Cutlette with the Best Crabmeat Augratin in the World. Now that is how it reads on the menu. I love the challenge when I see Best in the World. So bring it on, prove it. I dip my fork into the bowl and up comes this awesome thick light layer of parmesan and bread crumbs covering hot melted cheeses with pieces of fresh crabmeat in a white creamy sauce. I admit this very tasty dish is the Best in the World and quickly becomes my favorite. I start thinking of a way to take some home. Tom settles me down by promising to bring me back again for more. Deal made.
The Crabmeat Augratin is the perfect accompaniment to the very generous serving of mouth watering tender pan fried Veal with a hint of lemon. I am extremely pleased with my choice of entrée. Although it creates a problem, next time we visit N’awlins I will need to try something else because there are so many exciting dishes that my taste buds need to discover and I have a feeling I will feel I missed out on a new favorite, the veal.
Ah! Another good reason to put N’awlins on our return often list.
Among some of the other selections “Fresh From the Farm” are: Blackened Ribeye with Shrimp and Crabmeat Stuffed Peppers; Grilled Toumedos of Beef with Crabmeat Bearnaise; Filet of Beef Tenderloin, Asparagus and Spicy Garlic Butter; Buttermilk Fried Quail on Mustard Greens with Tasso, Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms; Double Cut Smothered Pork chop with Cane Syrup Candied Yam and Pan Drippings.
The dessert selections are Sweet Potato Cheesecake; Fresh Parfait; Bourbon, Chocolate Pecan Tarte; Old Fashioned Praline Cake; Jackson Square Beignets with French Roast Coffee Ice Cream; Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce.
Tom selects the Bread Pudding. Again this is a menu item, Tom has become an expert on, and his thoughts of the whole evening weigh heavily on his opinion of the Bread Pudding. He is presented with a large plate with a round serving of bread pudding the size of a biscuit smothered in the bourbon sauce. One bite and N’awlins had him. Is this the end of Tom’s search for the Best Bread Pudding? He will continue to try it everywhere but will give N’awlins “The Best I ever had” tag.
Later in a discussion with Chef Snuggs he learns the Bread Pudding is not made from the traditional bread as we have come to know, but rather from a Japanese type bread. Whether you are a bread pudding fan, or not, this is a must try!
Old Fashioned Praline Cake is my selection. I must say it is very light and flavorful. Layered cake, alternating cream fillings with the side covered in pecans. I suggest starting from the back incase you get too full to finish, that way you don’t miss out on the pecan covered side. If you are looking for a light, sweet dessert, the old fashioned Praline Cake fits the bill.
Next time I look forward to trying the bourbon, chocolate pecan tarte or the Jackson Square beignets with French roast coffee ice cream.
If you have been procrastinating trying N’awlins out, go now. Make your reservations for a true dining experience New Orleans Style. Call 662-357-5568 for Reservations or toll free 1-800-303-SHOE (7463)
tell them Jen sent ya! Bon Appetite!