Acclaimed chef Donald Link is a big deal in the New Orleans dining scene. His Link Restaurant Group has opened up some of the most popular eateries around the city, whether it is a seafood palace (https://kenscale.com/2015/06/21/peche-seafood-grill/) or a sandwich shop next to a butcher’s shop (https://kenscale.com/2015/06/22/cochon-butcher/). And yet, the flagship restaurant of the Link Restaurant Group has somewhat stayed under the radar even though Herbsaint has consistently been ranked in the best New Orleans restaurants list on a perpetual basis. For our first dinner in New Orleans, my wife Jun and I decided to visit the restaurant to see if it lives up to its flagship status despite more publicity around its sister restaurants. Overall, there is a lot of good food coming out of the kitchen and we had a pleasant meal, although I seem to have had a more memorable experiences at Peche or Cochon Butcher.
It is difficult to categorize the culinary identity at Herbsaint. Yes, the base is Southern cuisine, but there are French and Italian elements here and there. Since we are at New Orleans, Jun and I had to try the chicken gumbo first, which was a little too strong in seasoning and surprisingly not as thick as gumbos we occasionally had in New York City. The main dishes that we ordered, however, were both quite delicious. I’m not really a duck leg confit person since the texture of the meat can get a little funky to my palate at times, but the one at Herbsaint, accompanied by dirty rice and citrus gastrique, was absolutely an exception. After Jun meticulously carved out the duck leg down to its bone, I savored every single piece of meat that was coming into my mouth.
I was even more a fan of the citrus glazed jumbo shrimp that came with ham, mushroom and rice. The shrimp was fresh, and the glaze was not too aggressive in seasoning such that the texture of the shrimp was not undermined. I couldn’t get enough of this delicious dish that shows the elements of rustic Southern charm and careful attention to execution, ingredients and flavor all at the same time. For desserts, the banana brown butter tart with caramel was a pure decadence, while Jun the sweet tooth expert thought the cream cheese semifreddo with cherries and figs didn’t contain the similar level of flavor punch that she would expect from a delicious cheese cake.
Herbsaint was quite packed even on a Monday evening when we visited, but getting a reservation wasn’t too difficult online. The overall vibe of the restaurant feels a little bit more modern than classic, with a good mix of younger crowds seated near the bar area and older crowds toward the back. There is full bar with some classic New Orleans cocktails that you should have alongside your meal. Beers are also nice options to have. Herbsaint is a good restaurant that I would recommend if you are in New Orleans for more than two or three days and you want to explore how the kitchen reinterprets the Southern tradition by incorporating European elements. If someone asks me whether it is a destination worthy restaurant that could provide an eye-opening experience, I would rather point them toward Cochon Butcher.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 701 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130
Telephone: (504) 524-4114