Dickie Brennan's Tableau: A Disaster

A Disaster
A recent meal at Tableau turned out to be abyssal.

The Brennan family are among New Orleans’ most legendary restaurateurs, having fed generations of locals and tourists for decades at some of the city’s best restaurants, including Commander’s Palace. Dickie Brennan and Chef Ben Thibodeauxare doing their best to put an end to the Brennan legend at Brennan’s newest establishment, Tableau, overlooking Jackson Square at Le Petite Theater.

The food, at best, is average and does nothing to further the extraordinary culinary advances being made in New Orleans, which has more restaurants today than the city did prior to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. The fairly typical Creole menu features the standards, but offers little to remember and no dishes that stand-out as unique or must-tries.

On our recent visit, what stood out as the defining and memorable experience was the exceptionally poor service and troublesome unintended additions to our salads.

Upon arrival, we were left standing several minutes before being greeted and then stood for another ten or twelve minutes while “our table was being prepared.” Although we had requested a table in a less trafficked area, we were placed in an area through which the wait staff was constantly passing. That might have proven to be a good thing if any of them had actually bothered to stop and wait on us.

The management at Tableau has apparently instructed their staff to only perform specific pre-designated tasks. So the person taking our drinks order is not responsible for delivering them; a different person took our order and another delivered the meals. No one took responsibility for our needs during the meal itself.

We ordered a bottle of Prosecco, which arrived 15 minutes later but was warm, which surprised the “manager” who had been tasked to find a bottle. Upon opening it, at least a glass and a half sprayed out onto the table and floor, yet the manager still proceeded to try to pour a glass, acting perturbed when we suggested he bring a bucket of ice and chill the Prosecco before serving. He offered a glass of house champagne as an alternative. Five minutes later, a bucket with no ice arrived and we twice had to request ice from two different members of the wait staff before it arrived. It was fully 35 minutes after we ordered the wine before we were able to drink a cold glass. Not once after the first warm glass did any member of the staff offer to pour a glass of Prosecco for us. Every single glass we poured ourselves until the bottle was empty. Even when staff members passed by us as we were lifting and pouring the bottle, they did not think to offer to do it themselves. Obviously it was not their responsibility – or anyone’s for that matter. No discount or alternative was offered for the loss of more than a glass onto the floor.

At some point during that fiasco our Lyonnaise Salads arrived, an interesting sounding but mostly tasteless effort. After a few forkfuls, I bit down onto a sharp, piercing piece of jagged thin plastic, and asked for a manager, who appeared and was appropriately apologetic before disappearing into the kitchen and returning with a description of what I already knew – it was a piece of container plastic. In the interim I had poked through the salad and discovered another sharp piece. He appropriately took away the salad and offered an alternative, and I accepted a fresh but uninspired Crabmeat Ravigote.

To cap the evening, as we were considering dessert, the fire alarm went off several times, automatic fire doors closed, and fire trucks arrived. There was no reaction from the staff, no explanation, no suggestion if we should stay or leave, no apology for the disruption. Instead a check arrived.

New Orleans hosts many of the world’s best restaurants, and a Brennan family restaurant is typically elevated automatically to 'Best Restaurant' lists with little critical evaluation. Unfortunately, Tableau has been included on several lists even though it clearly is undeserving and has a poorly trained and managed staff who care little about their guests. Because it is so well-situated on Jackson Square, Tableau appears to be comfortable depending on tourists, and management cares little about reviews or return customers. I’ll be surprised if it remains open another year without a major upheaval in management, menu and staff.

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