French cuisine is what Gerard and Evelyn Crozier do best, so when a business partner approached them with the proposal of opening a steakhouse in New Orleans, the couple took the bull by the horns and put a French beret on it.
That image -- a beefy cow wearing a classy French beret -- is the logo of the 3-week-old Chateaubriand Steakhouse (310 N. Carrollton Ave., 207-0016), which opened July 23 with a menu heavy on hearty beef offerings and with a decidedly French influence all around. It opened about a year and a half after the Croziers sold their longtime namesake restaurant in Metairie (now called The French Table).
"We have a partner who approached us and wanted to do a steakhouse," Evelyn says. "We thought, 'That's OK, but we're French.' We wanted to stay true to our roots, so we decided on a French steakhouse." Because there weren't traditional models to follow -- "There's really no such thing as a French steakhouse. It's an American concept" -- the Croziers settled on beautiful but comfortable colors and decor for the dining areas and bar, the best cuts of steak cooked like beef-eaters love it, and elegantly presented non-beef entrees and side dishes prepared with a French touch.
"We took French concepts and applied them to things non-steak," Evelyn says of she and husband Gerard, executive chef at Chateaubriand. The onion soup, for instance, is made with port wine and has a traditional cheese crust, and escargot is served in the classic tradition here. Lobster, which patrons can select as they pass a huge holding tank on their way into the dining room, are prepared with a thin layer of bearnaise sauce and are grilled instead of simply steamed. Other specialties include shrimp and duck dishes, but the most often-ordered dish to date is the signature chateaubriand, a 20-oz. prime filet grilled to personal specifications and carved tableside by a server.
All the steaks are grilled at a high temperature with a special flavored butter the Croziers cooked up. "We can't give out the recipe," Evelyn says. "It's a secret. But I will tell you it really makes the steaks taste good." For those who wish to taste the French influence even on their steaks, Evelyn recommends diners order accompanying sauces such as bearnaise, three-peppercorn sauce and perigueux, made with red wine and truffles. "These sauces are great on any of our meats," she says. The kitchen also stirs up a good hollandaise for fish dishes.
Although the menu boasts the quote: "Beef is the soul of cooking," written in the 18th century by M.A. Careme, it also provides plenty of non-beef options with roasted duckling, pork chops, rack of lamb, salmon, chicken, grilled tuna, and lobster as well as an assortment of appetizers, salads and vegetables. The couple also paid attention to the desserts, fashioning the expected créme brulee and ice creams with liquor sauces, but also adding in surprises such as lemon crepes with raspberry coulis and apple bread pudding with Calvados brandy sauce. "The lemon crepes are my favorite," Evelyn says. "All the desserts are good, but the crepes and the apple bread pudding are different than you'd find around town."
To draw guests in to embarking on a new dining experience, Evelyn says she selected colors that were warm but bold -- maroon, forest green and shades of gold and tan -- and décor that was beautiful but inviting. "We were going for warm," she says. "I always wanted a restaurant where people could feel comfortable. I never wanted it to be so grand that you couldn't relax. Nobody feels like it's stuffy. It's beautiful, but it's comfortable and the colors are interesting but warm."
The restaurant has about 30 tables divided among a main dining room and a private party room, which serves as a second dining room on busy nights. It also has a glass-enclosed wine closet that includes a refrigerated wine cooler and a single dining table for guests.
The wine list, which currently contains 150 different vintages, contains mostly French and American makers, but there also are offerings from Australia, Italy and other countries. "It's a work in progress," Evelyn says of the wine list. "We'll keep adding wines as we find them. We also have some older vintages, but we have a good price range on wines also."
Chateaubriand is located in the former Shoney's restaurant space on the corner of Carrollton Avenue and Bienville Street in the heart of Mid-City. The Croziers say they are happy to be in a location that not only has a history but a resurgence of development that promises future vitality.
"We like to be in a building with some history and an area with some character," the owner says. "With the American Can Co. renovations and the new Sav-A-Center, we feel we're part of a revitalization around here, and we like being part of the impetus behind it."
- Restaurateur Evelyn Crozier sits among the 150 different offerings in the wine cellar, which also offers a singular dining table, at the new Chateaubriand steak house in Mid-City.