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Magi Loupe

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Circuit Court New Orleans

The Palace Cafe
605 Canal Street. New Orleans, LA
(at the entrance to the French Quarter)
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4/9/02

Out front.Welcome back, boys and girls, for another edition of Magistrate Loupe's New Orleans Füd Adventure. The morning before my latest food outing, I happened to check my horoscope for the week. It read:

"Libra -- You have the potential to make a profound difference in the lives of others. Your life, however, will be the same monotonous hell it's always been."

Uh-oh. Ignoring the implications I decided on The Palace Cafe on Canal Street, just across from the central business district downtown. The atmosphere was comfortable and just on the dressy side of casual. However, the Palace is very popular with business lunchers and you may feel uncomfortable in shorts with all those Brooks Brothers pinstripes walking around. I, of course, felt right at home in my magisterial robe. I was seated by the large front windows, perfect for a little skirt watching as the female executives and secretaries fled their offices across Canal Street.

Eggplant sticks.First to be judged were fried eggplant sticks with a jalapeno dipping sauce. Light, crispy little eggplant fingers, with just a passing mention of Creole spice, and a big, fat, whopper of a sauce that had me wishing for extra fingers to eat with. Yum. Next was a wonderful little salad of mixed greens, sliced fresh strawberries, rings of purple onion and a handful of roasted nuts tossed with the lightest olive oil-based vinaigrette. Very nicely done. Ha! My horoscope was proving to be less portentous by the bite.

Following the salad was an unusually rich version of turtle soup. Thick and dark, full of turtle meat and redolent of sherry and lemons, I savored every drop. OK, so I have never actually savored anything in my life. I have enjoyed. I have relished. I even delighted once, but that was in college after a few beers and if you tell anyone I'll just deny it. Let's say the soup was pretty darn tasty and leave it at that.

Turtle freaking soup.I must admit that after these great starters I had high hopes for my entree. It sounded delicious on the menu. How can you go wrong with potato crusted gulf fish? But I was wrong. It was cold. The shredded potato crust for the fish was greasy, a big surprise after the light, greaseless eggplant sticks. The shrimp in the sauce were small and tough and the sauce itself was unbalanced, with a preponderance of tomato. To be fair, I did not give the kitchen a chance to rectify the situation by sending back the dish, as I was pressed for time. If I had, perhaps things would have been corrected

Bread puddin'.For dessert I chose the specialty of the house: White chocolate bread pudding. Let me preface this by pointing out that I am not a bread pudding expert. It's usually my last choice as a dessert course, so I only have a passing notion of what a great one tastes like. This one ain't great. Dry. So dry that I had to take sips of water with every bite to get it down. The white chocolate sauce helped a bit, but the few bread puddings I've enjoyed have had a custard texture, and this was like a dry cake.

All in all, the Palace didn't entirely disappoint, but it didn't leave me feeling like royalty, either. Not bad, but at just under $40 (not including tip), a tad pricy for a cold entree and dry dessert -- especially on a magistrate's salary. Although potentially a four corndog establishment, justice must be served. Two corndogs.


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Contact Magistrate Loupe at magistrate@neworleans.com

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