Anderson: Brigsten’s off radar, but tops in NOLA

Published 1:15 am Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why haven’t we been before? Frank Brigsten apprenticed at Commander’s Palace in 1979 under Paul Prudhomme. Then he worked for Prudhomme at K-Paul’s for seven years before he and his wife, Marna, opened their own place in 1986. Frank won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 1998. And he is still cooking on Dante Street in an old house uptown beyond Carrollton and his Cajun/Creole food still connects. The restaurant itself looks dated; pleasant, not grand or chic. But the food is good. Why is he so off today’s radar? I found an old New Orleans cookbook from 1998 that mentioned him. Our daughter-in-law had been talking about him but we had just never gone. But last week I couldn’t get a reservation at the hot spot, Shaya, which I love; I called Brigsten’s. You have to call. No online or open table for them. I did find where they are not forgotten. The Times Picayune named them to the top 10 in 2017 along with such names as August, Commander’s, Herbsaint, Shaya, Peche, La Petite Grocery, and Brennan’s.

Shrimp remoulade remoulade—on guacamole with deviled eggs and corn relish.
Connie Anderson/Star-News

We started the evening with cocktails. My husband had his usual New Orleans drink, a Sazarac. I looked at the drinks menu and they had an Aperol spritzer. I have been reading about them this summer and decided to try. I like Campari and this is a slightly sweeter version and popular in Italy as an aperitif, I am told.

The menu is said to change daily and uses what is available. That is not really old school, but the cooking is I think. My husband had to have the sweetbreads, which he invariably does when they are on a menu. I tried a shrimp remoulade—on guacamole with deviled eggs and a cold mirliton corn relish. It was a great summer starter. And I could do that one at home easily. Maybe this fall when the mirliton come in. Our vines are the biggest and best we have ever had—now, if they will only produce.

My husband and I both chose the seafood platter named “The Shell Beach Diet.” It was a tasting of several dishes but not too much food. There was a grilled drum with crawfish and jalapeño lime sauce; baked oysters Le Ruth with shrimp and crab; crawfish cornbread with jalapeño smoked corn butter; sea scallops with fontina cheese grits and fire-roasted vegetable salsa; stuffed artichoke baked oysters; and a shrimp boil salad with corn and potatoes. Sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t.

I found this recipe of his online that I might try this fall also when the butternut squash come in. It is one of his signature dishes.


Butternut Shrimp Bisque

3 tbsp unsalted butter

2 cups diced yellow onion

1 bay leaf

4 cups butternut squash—peeled, de-seeded, and diced into ½ inch cubes

2 cups peeled fresh shrimp

2 ¼ tsp salt

3/8 tsp ground cayenne

1/8 tsp ground white pepper

½ cup shrimp stock (heads and shells in a saucepan covered with cold water; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes; strain)

6 cups heavy whipping cream


Heat butter in a heavy duty saucepan over med-high heat and cook onions and the bay leaf, stirring constantly until the onions become soft and clear, 3-4 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add squash, stir occasionally until the squash softens, 6-8 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, add shrimp, salt, cayenne and pepper, cook stirring occasionally until shrimp turn pink, 2-3 minutes.

Add shrimp stock, cook, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes. If it sticks to bottom, just scrape.

Discard bay leaf; puree in food processor.

Return puree to saucepan and add cream, whisk until blended, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, 2-3 minutes.