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Sylvain Brunch in New Orleans

U.S. Brunch Review
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I’d planned an extravagant four-day visit to New Orleans with my best friend, Steph, from college. With the help of the kind folks behind Visit New Orleans, I’d crafted an itinerary that was filled with food, booze, and live music. Let’s be real: it was pretty much all about food. We’d had some incredible dinners at Maypop and Otium, and loaded our three-day weekend with three days of brunch. (My full guide to New Orleans comes out on Friday—be sure to check back!) But, above all of the restaurants, I was most looking forward to brunch at Sylvain.

From the website to the pictures of the space, to the story behind the building, everything about Sylvain enchanted me. I also loved that Sylvain’s kitchen is run by a well-respected female chef. Everywhere we went in New Orleans, people would ask where we planned to dine on our visit, and everyone nodded in agreement at Sylvain, expressing their regards for Martha Wiggins, the executive chef.

Sylvain is built into a carriage house that was built in 1776,  in the historic French quarter. So, the building is quite literally as old as our country. The space is stunning and minimal, with wooden tables and old black-and-white city sketches giving off some serious farmhouse vibes. We were seated in the stunning back courtyard, which is enclosed by a brick wall and lined with palm trees. It was exceptionally warm, which I love, and we cooled down immediately with cocktails.

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Like many of the best restaurants in New Orleans, Sylvain has an impressive cocktail program. Upon being seated, the manager, Coco, whisked a couple of Orange Lazarus cocktails our way. Served in a coupe glass, this brunch cocktail was made with Aperol, Old Tom gin, and orange. It was light and refreshing—and went down oh-so-easily. We just might have had several.

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The menu features inventive, light brunch fare with Southern vibes. There’s a chicarron scramble, a Gulf shrimp n’ dumplings, and a crispy pork shoulder with grits. It all sounded pretty incredible.

We started with the scrambled egg toast. The soft, open-faced brioche sandwich was topped with fluffy, soft scrambled eggs, and house-smoked fish, creme fraiche, olives, and fluffy, soft scrambled eggs. It was a beautiful and elevated execution on a classic breakfast dish.

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We both like to get our veggies and protein in, so Steph and I knew we would be ordering the shaved Brussels sprouts salad. We were so pleased that we ordered the salad, which was a large pile of fluffy shavings of Brussels sprouts and apples topped with shaved Grana Padano cheese and surrounded by hazelnut haves. The trick was to dump a lot of it on your plate, mix it all up, and enjoy thoroughly. And enjoy, we did. I always appreciate being able to get my vegetables in an unhealthy fashion, such as topped with cheese and between bites of crunchy hazelnuts. Heaven!

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The Gulf shrimp was not top on our list, as I’d naturally been eyeing an appetizer labeled “French fries & champagne.” But, we wanted to eat somewhat healthy and the waitress highly recommended the shrimp. We were glad she did. The enormous, fresh Gulf shrimp were served cold and beautifully presented. The plate was garnished with thin, sliced radishes, greens, rye croutons and a house-made Old Bay, cucumber and horseradish emulsion. This sauce packed the most incredible flavor, and the shrimp were oh-so-fresh. It’s a great appetizer to share.

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Steph and I are both mad for short rib—as evidenced by our last brunch together in Los Angeles and some infamous mac n’cheese with short rib and Cheetos! So, we went with the short rib hash over the steak and eggs for our protein-packed main course. Again, this was a beautiful, clean, and elevated execution on a brunch dish. The short rib was moist and packed with flavor, served on a plate covered in au jus and mixed in with diced Yukon gold potatoes. It was topped with a beautifully fried egg, micro greens, and lovely ciabatta crisps. We devoured it, which was necessary to coat our stomachs for the day of drinking that lay ahead.

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After taking our sweet time and enjoying another round of cocktails, it was time for dessert.

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The Sylvain team brought not one, but all, of the brunch desserts out for us to sample. Despite the fact we had been eating relatively healthy at this brunch, we quickly lost our willpower and sampled all of them, repeatedly, in the name of research. Naturally, the chocolate pot du creme was delightful, as when is it not? Served in a ramekin, the pot du creme was incredibly rich and decadent, so dense that you could hardly pull it off the spoon.

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Next, the PB&J ice cream sandwich, which is never my favorite type of dessert. While I love a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I tend to prefer chocolate desserts and would prefer a chocolate-peanut butter confection over one with jelly. However, this little sandwich was delightful: moist, oatmeal cookies with creamy, house-made peanut butter ice cream between, nestled atop a raspberry jam. It was smooth, creamy, and satisfying.

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However, the true winner was the rum cake. Despite my preference for chocolate, this cake was one of my favorite desserts to date. The dense, moist brown butter cake was the consistency of pound cake, with strong rum flavors. It was topped with a lime honey and a fluffy whipped butter cream, which was more dense than whipped cream, super sweet and fluffy. Despite being utterly full, I couldn’t stop myself from eating this cake. With its lime and rum, this cake was a perfect tribute to New Orleans, and I’ll remember savoring this dish, with my best friend, on the patio at Sylvain on my first visit to Nola for years to come.

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It’s worth noting that New Orleans is not a city that serves iced coffee: this was the first of three brunches wherein Steph, who gets easily overheated, asked for her coffee iced, and the restaurant was not able or struggled to accommodate her request. It makes perfect sense, given the small kitchens in old buildings in this charming, but muggy, city.

The Bitches say: A, for a beautiful ambiance, a memorable dining experience, and deliciously simple brunch fare.

Sylvain
625 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA
(504) 265-8123

A big thanks to Visit New Orleans for helping us make the most of our trip!

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