Yes, Emeril heads an empire, but he’s wisely seen to it that his flagship, namesake restaurant has not flagged in reverse proportion to his empire’s expansion. It’s still remarkably high quality (and high priced), interesting, and exciting dining. The wine list is intelligent and broad; service is professional and helpful but unstuffy. The room is buoyant with energy, the noise is tolerable. The plate shows clear commitment to first-rate, locally sourced ingredients: A salad of local tomatoes and melon is dotted with tiny, crispy duck hearts, a wisp of herb in the vinaigrette.
The menu builds on tradition in tempered but meaningful ways. Grilled pork chops, done perfectly despite their girth, are artfully glazed with tamarind and tomatillo molé sauces. Quail retain their delicacy even when taking a Caribbean turn with jerk seasoning and ginger-drenched spinach. Submit your chocolate soufflé request when you order your entrées. Then you won’t have to decide what to get at dessert time, because you should also get the banana cream pie (it has its own Facebook page, or at least should). As with so many other fine New Orleans restaurants, the bargain three-course lunch is a serious steal ($23 here). It’s also one of many places where the open-kitchen bar seating is perfect for single diners (or anyone). Reserve well in advance.