After hearing some flattering words about Dijon, the Lower Garden District restaurant featuring contemporary Louisiana cuisine and promising "classical French and Creole influences," I had high hopes. The menu looked solid if not particularly novel or imaginative, and I couldn't have been more excited by the fact that the eatery resides in a converted firehouse. I've been in love with firehouse spaces ever since Ghostbusters. Would the servers gracefully swoop down from a fire pole to deliver our cocktails and entrees?
The space is beautiful and airy, with a clean design and lofty ceilings that belie its former incarnation as an New Orleans Fire Department outpost housing horse-drawn wagons in 1914. It's certainly a neat place to have a meal.
Recent visits, however, found a restaurant with more pleasant details in the decor than in the food. Appetizers delivered mixed results. The fried oyster salad was presented well with perfectly cooked oysters and flash-fried kale that melted on the palate. The sunchoke and crab salad, served with faro and truffled honey vinaigrette, also was a solid starter, even though the sunchoke seemed lost.
Dijon's charcuterie plate, however, was underwhelming. "Duck bacon" was essentially just smoked, grilled duck breast with a leathery consistency, and while the foie gras had a rich, livery flavor, the four tiny dots of it on the plate amounted to a skimpy portion. Duck pate was serviceable, but the rabbit rillettes needed more fat to add depth and help bind the crumbly texture.
For the entrees, it's difficult to pick a clear winner, as all were flawed in one way or another. Saffron-dusted Gulf shrimp and eggplant seemed a nice combination, and while the shrimp were cooked well, the eggplant was rubbery to the point of being inedible. A dish of Muscovy duck — featuring a pan-roasted breast atop duck confit served with Brussels sprouts and pomegranate molasses — just missed the mark. The confit was excellent, and the molasses added a complementary sweetness, but the duck breast, ordered medium-rare, was a solid gray medium-well. And the hunter-style braised rabbit, a rustic dish I've always enjoyed, should have been brimming with country flavors, but lacked complexity. A little more spice or acidity might have saved it.
Desserts were less impressive still. While the cafe au lait creme brulee was topped with wonderfully crispy calas, the custard was watery. A chocolate terrine was as dense a black hole, almost like eating straight ganache, and the pumpkin flan was served with salted caramel that was shellacked to the plate.
Service is amiable and attentive. (When ordering drinks on one visit, a dining companion requested a ginger ale and our server alerted us that the bar only had a mix of Sprite and Coke to approximate the flavor of ginger ale. We appreciated the warning.)
It's a shame that the food at Dijon doesn't come close to matching its attractive location — especially at this price point. Right now, it's not quite cutting the mustard.