CLOSED: Stella! (New Orleans)

Location: New Orleans, USA
Address: 1032 Chartres Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

There were high expectations for Stella! (yes their name contains an exclamation; I’m not just excited every time it’s mentioned). Having heard about it from many sources, all point out Chef Boswell’s inventiveness with his dishes. Upon visiting Stella!’s website and reading more about the Chef’s history, expectations rose from his global experience and working with the “who’s who” of the culinary world – including Iron Chefs (Hiroyuki Sakai and Chin Kenichi) and Chef Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea, just to name a few.

With a choice of a seven-course tasting menu ($125) or four-course prix fixe ($85) we decided to go with the smaller of the two, and found it was more than enough food to satisfy us. An amuse arrived first, which tasted like chicken pot pie in a mousse form on top a cracker … not a bad start. 

A selection of breads arrived next and with it the most delicious brioche. Served piping hot, the addition of duck fat into the dough was the highlight. Not an ounce of butter was required as the aroma and flavours from the duck fat already permeated the brioche. When they inquired whether we’d be interested in a second helping of the bread we of course had to oblige!  

It was surprising how much “Cajun” caviar topped the deviled egg. At first I expected it to be spiced on account of the “Cajun” description.  In reality, the caviar is made by the Louisiana Caviar Company which nicknamed their bowfin roe with this unique name. The roe is smaller than and not as strong as typical caviar but still has that briny flavour.  When the egg was eaten as served (with just the caviar) it was a tad plain (if you can call caviar and black truffle flavours plain). But once you mix in the brioche croutons, sour cream cubes, red onion and chives surrounding the plate it added the necessary crunch and flavours. The foam beside the egg really didn't add much and felt a bit unnecessary, if anything I’d would have liked a truffle aoili with it. 

Similarly, the grouper by itself was rather bland, albeit cooked perfectly. Once mixed with the buttery blue crab on the bottom or the sweet bean sauce on the side it wasn't bad. A pile of swiss chard accompanied the grouper and was decent but admittedly my favourite part of the dish was the succulent blue crab under the fish. Although I didn’t try it, my friends who ordered the pork belly raved about their dish so is a potential alternative if you’d rather have something stronger and decadent.

A popular dish that appears to be a staple on their ever changing menu is the tasting of duck five ways. There’s the safe wonderfully roasted breast with crispy skin topped with sweet sauce and the tender and savoury confit leg. But, Stella! also includes an inventive miso soup (smells so much like duck but still tasted like miso with shredded duck in it), a foie gras wonton (a sweet creamy centre against a crispy wonton skin), and a mushu pancake (nothing extraordinary but still good flavours and crunch). Having had so much duck in my life, I thoroughly enjoyed the array of textures and tastes being offered on this dish, the definite highlight of my meal.

To end, the Thai tea tres leches, a strong recommendation from our waitress, was a great dessert. Essentially a sponge cake that has been soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream it’s a moist and tasty dish. The flavour profile of the dessert was complex with hints of coconut, sweet mango and an herby essence from the Thai tea. It also had an intriguing aroma that I couldn’t place at the restaurant but upon learning more about pandan (a Southeast Asian plant) from Wikipedia, I realize it may have been from this plant which gives food a nutty, floral and bread like smell.

A plates of petit fours were brought out at the end – earl grey cream filled fleur-de-lis chocolates, truffles, a dulce de leche cookie (my favourite of the four) and a blackberry jelly. Aside from the cookie, I found the rest were too sweet for my taste. But, perhaps I was being picky as by the end of the meal I was stuffed and didn’t need anything else. However, it was, as always, a thoughtful and appreciated gesture.

The dining room is intimate and elegant with thick crisp linens and plush posh chairs. Stella! is one of the expensive restaurants in the city but the décor and service matches. Our waitress described each dish so well, I could have listened to her forever with the delicious imagery she paints. Although a couple of my dishes could have been better, I was nonetheless happy with the experience and glad we ate here. 

Stella! was certainly different from the other restaurants we ate at and I thoroughly appreciated the global take on local ingredients (French and Asian being the most prominent). If you’re looking for a place to have an unhurried meal where you can enjoy the experience of eating and conversing, Stella! would be the place to visit in New Orleans.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications -

Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!