In 2003, chef Milton Prudence left one New Orleans dining institution to create, along with owner Tommy Andrade, what is becoming another institution.
"Milton Prudence was the chef at Galatoire's for a long time and has been with us since we opened the door," says Will Lloyd, assistant general manager at Tommy's Cuisine (746 Tchoupitoulas St., 581-1103 www.tommysneworleans.com). "He's one of the best Creole chefs in New Orleans."
Epicureans will delight in Prudence's menu, which includes entrees like lightly battered and fried soft-shell crab served over linguini in Reggiano crawfish sauce.
"We're famous for our oysters," Lloyd says. "One of our specialties is the Oysters Trio."
This appetizer is a sampler of a half dozen oysters, including oysters Tommy (baked with Romano cheese, pancetta and roasted red pepper), oysters Rockefeller (cooked with spinach, fresh herbs and herbsaint) and oysters Bienville (prepared with crawfish, shrimp and fresh herbs).
The restaurant's ambience matches the rich and savory dishes. Featuring soft lighting and wood paneling, the warm but expansive space includes a restaurant and private rooms and is capable of accommodating 300 guests. Tommy's Wine Bar is adjacent to the dining space.
"We can have six private dinners going on at one time, and we often do," Lloyd says. "There's a separate entrance to the wine bar, but (the bar and the restaurant) actually connect. You can order everything off Tommy's Cuisine at the wine bar."
The wine bar offers 55 wines by the glass and 150 bottles, as well as a selection of cheeses and pates. Thanks to a high-tech pouring system, every glass tastes like it came from a freshly opened bottle.
"We have a Cruvinet, the first wine pouring system of its type," says Lloyd, a certified sommelier. "It actually pulls nitrogen out of the air and pumps it into the bottle to preserve the wine for up to six weeks."
Tommy's has a piano player on weeknights and bands on weekends, so oenophiles can enjoy live music as they savor the wine and the atmosphere.
"On Friday night, we have a jazz band, and on Saturday night we have a Latin band," Lloyd says. "The wine bar is really gorgeous — lots of space, the leather seating, the art work. It's beautiful. It really is one of the hidden gems in the city."