By Danny Garrett
Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian or carnivore. No matter what label you fall under, you deserve a fine and casual dining experience.
You know this type of experience. Your meal is meticulously prepared by a professional and discerning chef who can tell you the difference between braising and poaching in a tenth of a second, and a chef who can whip up a Bernaise sauce in his or her sleep. And, in a similar vein, this chef can conjugate French and Italian culinary terms — pot au feu, saltimbocca — frontwards and backwards with striking fluency.
The complex dishes they prepare and their perfect flavor pairings are evidence of their culinary genius.
The house floor of a fine dining venue may be familiar to you. The music’s elegant. The staff’s refined. The house tables and bar tops are of dark oak. The glass from wine and liquor bottles seem to reflect and consume the mood lighting that surrounds them.
And, quite the imperative, the menu shows no signs of an impulse to limit its range. It’s a menu that’s global in reach and local at heart. The result: meals that use what’s best in culinary procedure and philosophy from around the world, yet don’t neglect the freshness and diversity of locally sourced ingredients and the warmth that exudes from their home-cooked feel.
All of this is 1910 Restaurant, located on 949 Ryan St. Similar to other fine dining establishments, 1910 has meat entrées that many diners crave: Australian sea bass with haricots vert and chimichurri; an 8- or 18-ounce USDA prime tenderloin filet with crabmeat or foie gras.
But unlike some fine dining restaurants I’ve been to in the past, 1910 is accommodating to diners who have different diets than most.
Therefore, when a vegetarian or vegan orders on or from outside the menu, the response isn’t, “let our chef just take off the meat from our Pasta Isabel,” with no thought as to whether that meal would work in terms of flavor and texture — essentially, ingredient pairings.
1910 is different. The chefs there know vegetarians and vegans don’t constitute the majority of their diners, but this fact doesn’t translate into not having prepared meals for them.
I first experienced this considerate treatment at 1910 with my friend Carol from Baton Rouge a couple of months back. She’s a vegetarian, too, so we always trust each other’s restaurant choices whenever we go out; in other words, we know that we’ll both be accommodated, no questions asked.
Carol and I were both impressed by the restaurant in its entirety. Beautiful artwork by Edward and Sally Cappel graced the light teal and burgundy red walls. The staff was friendly, warm and knowledgeable. The whole gastropub was quaint and comfortable.
We first ordered an appetizer, the cheese plate, which comes with assorted cheeses and accouterment. The cheeses were a Port Salut and a Triple Cream Brie, along with a couple of others my taste buds couldn’t place. The cheese plate delivered that perfect blend of sweetness, creaminess and sharpness that put both Carol and me in a blissful mood.
The accompaniments with these cheeses helped set the meal apart, providing further evidence that 1910 is an authentic gastropub that allows its chefs to be creative, and — lucky for us — creative with food beyond meat.
The accompaniments were cherry blossom honey, pickled watermelon and honeydew melon, and toasted almonds. The sweetness of the honey and the piquancy of the pickled fruit complemented the cheeses well.
For entrées, we went the salad route, which is rare for us. When we eat out in Baton Rouge, it’s usually at Thai restaurants or Cajun/Creole brunch spots, where we feast on curry dishes (Thai) and vegetarian omelets — basically everything but salad.
But we couldn’t pass up what 1910 had to offer that day on the salad menu. While Carol ordered the Fried Goat Cheese salad, I ordered the Beet and Balsamic. Hers came with mixed greens, champagne vinaigrette, fried goat cheese, toasted almonds and blackberries. Mine was mixed greens, honey-balsamic, massaged kale, roasted beets, goat cheese, red onions and walnuts.
Both of our meals were delicious: perfect pairings of sweetness, crunchiness, freshness and thoughtfulness. We couldn’t help but sample off each other’s plates.
When Carol returned to Baton Rouge, her absence didn’t curtail my cravings to return to 1910 once again and more times after that. The experience kept getting better and better every time I dined at the gastropub.
One of the last times I was there, I decided to go beyond salad. I went as far as to speak with chef and owner Andrew Green about how much a vegetarian like me and others could order on and off the menu. On the menu, he’s a fan of the P’tit Basque Melt, which is composed of melted sheep’s milk cheese mixed with caramelized onions. The dish comes with a baguette for dipping.
I put it on my list of meals to try. Since Carol and I had gone wild on the cheeses last time, I decided to order a meal that had more green vegetables, and a wider assortment of vegetables in general. Green recommended a dish off the menu. It was a vegetable medley stir fry. It came with haricots vert (French-style green beans), asparagus, kale, grape and cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. At its base was a beurre blanc, which was a beautiful addition. The green beans in this dish were picked raw, shocked in an ice bath, and then sautéed.
If you’re going to order the vegetable medley, always ask for the beurre blanc sauce. It’s a French emulsified butter sauce made with vinegar or white wine. The subtle richness of the sauce amplifies the vegetables, which are already meticulously prepared, to an amazing degree.
I didn’t stop there with my meal. I ordered a Pappardelle pasta as well. I had to try one of 1910’s herbaceous and aromatic meals. The dish fulfilled my expectations. The rosemary, lemon juice and garlic shallots gave the pasta the definition I was looking for.
During my entrées, I enjoyed a cocktail. 1910 is famous for its diverse selection. While I was deliberating, a doctor from Memorial Hospital ordered a Sazerac. Even before it was made, he explained and praised the finer points of the drink to his family.
Unlike the doctor, I chose the New York Sour. It’s a cocktail that comes with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, lemon and Simple Syrup, all topped off by red wine. The mixture’s as tasty as it is beautiful to witness.
As you might well guess, I had to order one more thing off the menu before I called it quits. Apparently, my Epicurean nature knew no bounds this afternoon.
Under that charm of culinary hedonism, I ended with dessert. I chose the Dirty Blondie. It’s a brown sugar brownie combined with Venezuelan chocolate, topped with ice cream and based on 1910’s house-made chocolate sauce. The sauce was so dark and rich that the taste reminded me of espresso.
1910 is a restaurant that follows the philosophy of seasonality, which helps keep their menu organic and free-flowing. So, their dessert menu changes every so often. Currently, they also have a white chocolate blueberry cheesecake that comes with white chocolate ganache and blueberry glaze. Next on the list is a lemon bread pudding with toasted meringue and a lemon Crème Anglaise.
Very soon, 1910 will have a coffee custard dessert with Kahlua whipped cream and caramel Panna Cotta.
This will not be my last time at 1910. I still haven’t been for their famous brunch. I can’t wait. Their gastropub style extends to their brunch menu. It’s a place that has quail eggs; fried green tomatoes; waffles with local apricot pepper jelly and Steen’s cane syrup infused with cream cheese; and French Toast stuffed with cream cheese, toasted pecans and Granny Smith apples.
1910 ranks at the top of my list for restaurants in Lake Charles. The atmosphere’s relaxing and elegant. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. And the food is creative and delectable, thanks to the well-trained and thoughtful chefs in the back of the house. It’s what one should expect from a fine/casual dining restaurant.
The added advantage is that it’s a restaurant that’s not just for one type of diner. If you’re the type of diner who enjoys poultry, steak and seafood, 1910 is for you. If you’re the type of diner who loves vegetables, fruits, cheeses, nuts and herbs, 1910 is for you, too. In essence, no one is left out.
Come for a visit. 1910 is located at 949 Ryan St. It’s open Monday-Thursday, 10:30 am-9 pm; Friday, 10:30 am-11:30 pm; Saturday, 4-10:30 pm; and Sunday, 10:30 am-2 pm. To make a reservation, call 602-6278.