Herbe Sainte: Did it live up to the hype?

Guest Pick: Martha’s friend and (former) coworker, Michele

Herbe Sainte
1934 South 67th St
Fare: Cajun & Creole
Cost: $100 for two drinks, one appetizer, three meals and two desserts
Reservations: Accepted for groups of 5 or more. Seating was sparse on our Tuesday visit.

Greetings, eaters and readers!

We thought it was a good time to invite another foodie friend along. It was my turn to bring a guest and I couldn’t think of anyone better than my friend and (recently retired) coworker, Michele. As long as Jaclyn and I have done this blog, Michele has always cornered me in the office to ask for the inside scoop. “Where’d ya go? What did you have? How did you like it? Where you going next?” So as a belated retirement gift, I told her to pick where we were going and we’ll meet you there!

I don’t think she knew it at the time, but I have a great fondness for all things NOLA and Cajun food. So when she said Herbe Sainte and I looked it up, I was pumped. Jaclyn, if you’ll remember, couldn’t have been more…unenthused. Not one to enjoy the NOLA fare, she anticipated a bumpy road through this foodventure.

We met Michele at the popular Aksarben spot on a recent Tuesday after work. We joined a bunch of other happy-hour patrons, most of whom were enjoying a cocktail in the southern-comfort, boho chic couches and lounge area. We took a booth by the window and pulled up the menu on our phones to get to work.

Meat Board ($14)

We started things off with a meat board, which came with mortadella, genoa salami, andouille sausage and rice-stuffed sausage for our assorted meat selection. The menu noted it should come with onion jam, but they brought olive tapenade instead. Jaclyn and I were both disappointed at that, but neither of us were brave enough to bother our server about it. Michele was pretty bummed about its absence, too.

Overall, we think this may have honestly been the unassuming winner of the evening. We all enjoyed the warm sausage, warm and toasty bread, and fresh mozzarella. Since we split it amongst the three of us, it was the perfect amount for a starter board.

Cajun Mac and Cheese ($14) — Vermont Cheddar cheese sauce, ham, andouille, roasted poblano peppers

I know it sounds safe and generic on the surface, but when I read things like Vermont Cheddar and roasted poblano peppers, I stopped reading the rest of the menu. If I’m honest, and all of us mentioned it at some point in the evening – the portion felt a little light for the price.

Maybe we’re just spoiled Americans used to getting those hefty servings and knowing you’re getting tonight’s dinner AND tomorrow’s lunch. My dish was warm (could have been hotter, honestly), but yummy. And again, more honesty – I’d rather have had Leadbelly’s famous cavatappi and yummy toppings.

Meatball Fricassée ($15) — Beef and pork meatballs, gravy, dirty rice, slaw

Michele had been to Herbe Sainte once before and had really quite enjoyed her experience. On her first visit, she enjoyed the liege waffle and the shrimp and grits. This time, she wanted to try something different from the typical Cajun menu items and she was happy she did.

The meatballs were spicy and had good seasoning, and she really liked the way the slaw balanced that spice. The gravy was the right amount to flavor but not overwhelming. Michele also mentions she expected a bit more for her money’s worth, but the size/price ratio was on par with the trendy location and other restaurants in the area.

Harvest Steak Salad ($15) —4 oz. seared tenderloin medallion, spring mix blend, candied walnuts, red wine poached pears, blue cheese crumbles, house pear walnut vinaigrette

Jaclyn openly admits she doesn’t like cajun food. With limited options, she landed on a steak salad – sans the blue cheese … and eventually, the red wine poached pears she removed after one bite.

The steak came out well done instead of medium like she asked. It wasn’t all bad, but overall – Jaclyn said the salad was underwhelming. And for $15, she wouldn’t recommend it.

Chocolate Torte ($7) — Chocolate biscotti crust, walnut toffee filling, chocolate ganache tart
Butterscotch Custard ($7) — Topped with pecans

We wish we could tell you about the king cake bread pudding they feature on the menu. But to our dismay, they were out. So we tried the chocolate torte and seasonal dessert – a butterscotch custard – instead.

Jaclyn and I weren’t into the torte. I myself don’t care for chocolate-based desserts and Jaclyn was put off by the layer of nuts. Michele enjoyed it enough and when we scooted out the door to our movie, she said she’d ask for a box to enjoy it later. I learned later, however, she never saw the waiter again to get her box and slowly lost the gumption to wait it out.

The butterscotch custard – while its consistency was definitely not custard – was pretty good. Cold and creamy, Michele and I lapped it up in no time. Jaclyn liked the flavor, but again – wasn’t excited about the nuts. More for us, I guess!

Final Bites

Michele had high hopes when she chose Herbe Sainte, but the experience didn’t hold up for her – or us.

We tried to give our server the benefit of the doubt – but honesty, it felt like our presence was an inconvenience from start to finish. Michele said the kindest word she could think of was that he was “apathetic” to our presence and I have to agree. But again, we keep it in our head that today’s restaurant staff is probably (most likely) woefully understaffed and stretched thin so we’re giving that part of the experience grace and space.

Unfortunately, even if we only consider the food and our enjoyment of our dishes – even that fell short. It wasn’t enough to make any of us go “Oh – THAT’S why people love this place!” Maybe next time, if there is a next time, we’ll just come for the swanky couches and fun cocktails.

The Good Bite Gals & Michelle

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