A city is doing something seriously right when it wins more prestigious James Beard awards per head of the population than anywhere else in the US. Step forward, New Orleans.
Hutchison House is in that stretch between Statue Square and Admiralty where decent venues for a bite are thin on the ground, unless you’re a member of one of the private clubs. Things always sound much sexier in Italian than in English, so ‘Osteria Felice’ basically means Happy Eater. Well, ‘happy restaurant’ to be precise, but Happy Eater resonates better, at least with Brits of a certain age.
Inside is pretty sleek, a mix of plaster mouldings and oak flooring, marble and lots of geometric brass. The bar at the entrance is impressive, serving up complimentary arancini and drinking fuel from 5-8pm daily, with the long dining room extending beyond it.
Dinner reuniting the old foes of Fox and CNN starts with five salumi from ‘Cinta Senese’ organic black pigs from Tuscany. On the platter ($198) come the brilliantly named ‘Salami bastardo’, culatello, guanciale, mortadella and pancetta, along with some rather splendid ‘mustard fruit’. A new one on me, these are sweet, spicy and sticky due to being preserved in syrup, the perfect foil to the rich and fatty cuts. (Incidentally ‘salami bastardo’ refers to the fact that it breaks from tradition and is a hybrid, as it mixes pork with beef.)
More guanciale (pork cheek), never a bad thing, here with some very good olives, fat green and peppery black:
Everybody already loves Burrata, but if they don’t then maybe a spoon of Oscetra caviar will help convince. ($228). I’m not convinced the traditional caviar accompaniments of chopped egg and onion bought much to the party.
The first two dishes show good sourcing, if not great kitchen technique, but the next show they clearly know what they’re doing with other Italian classics. The Tuscan classic Garganelli with pork & beef ragu ($168) is an absolute belter of a bowl, the sort you end up begrudgingly offering to share. It ticks all the boxes of very well made pasta cooked just right, a sticky, slow-cooked sauce where the meat has imparted depth of flavour without overpowering the dish. At this price, it’s also a steal compared to many in town which over promise but under deliver.
Likewise Linguine with some enormous Sicilian red prawns. At $298 it’s not cheap, but every care is taken with the premium ingredients and again the pasta is bang-on.
At this stage the three of us are starting to flag, even before a veal Milanese the size of a small town is bought out. It’s perfectly executed, crisp and crunchy on the outside, but still tender within. Rocket, tomatoes and lemon are the classic counterpoints to the richness.
In the interests of research, a lemon tart and tiramisu were also shared, but I could barely summon the energy to photograph them. This dinner was courtesy of a PR invite, but would run approx $4-500 per head sharing three courses, not including drinks. Red wines are big and full-on in an Italian way, while service is swift and friendly.