When Flaming Torch (737 Octavia St., 895-0900; www.flamingtorchnola.com) opened in the fall of 2004, locals quickly zeroed in on what it had to offer -- intimate, upscale dining with a French continental flair; a sophisticated yet casual atmosphere; friendly service and a convenient location less than a half block off Magazine Street in the heart of Uptown.
Though it's a popular venue for lunch, dinner and special occasions like Mother's Day and graduations -- a delicious meal at this neighborhood eatery doesn't require a lot of planning in advance. Owners Hassan and Zohreh Khaleghi welcome walk-ins and greet familiar faces by name. "We are in New Orleans, and everybody has good food," says Hassan, who's been in the restaurant business for 28 years. "The most important thing to me is good service. Customers know the waiters by name, and we know [the customers] by name," he adds. "My wife and I are always here. We like to greet the customers and see what they have to say about the food."
Among the most popular menu items are: Shrimp Sazarec with red bell pepper, saffron, herbs, Pernod, rye whisky and beer; escargot braised in vegetable stock, lemon peel, yellow chartreuse, butter and garlic; and filet mignon Portugese, an 8-oz. filet prepared with Portuguese sausage, white Burgundy sauce, garlic, shallots, mushrooms and tomato, served over a saffron potato and cheese galette. The Flaming Torch salad -- a melange of mixed greens, mescalun, cucumber, tomato, hearts of palm and walnuts tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette -- is a consistent favorite at lunch.
At least two types of fish are offered daily and can be prepared in a variety of ways, while dishes like the restaurant's coq au vin can be made to order.
Most of the customers at Flaming Torch are seated in the downstairs portion of the restaurant, a contemporary space with a small bar, flame-shaped sconces, tables covered with white tablecloths and windows overlooking the street. The more formal, romantic upstairs dining room is used for parties of 15 or more.
On Wednesday, May 23, Flaming Torch will host a five-course dinner -- each course paired with a different wine from the St. Supery Vineyard of Napa Valley -- as part of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. The dinner starts with a champagne reception and costs $100. For the menu, go to www.nowfe.com
- Zohreh and Hassan Khaleghi serve lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday and brunch on Sundays at the Flaming Torch.