From the bar, and from certain seats around the dining room, you can still see the casino floor. But at the table what you’re seeing is Emeril Lagasse‘s ode to French food, told with steak frites, seafood towers, French wine and nods to the chef’s own time working with French masters.
Emeril’s Brasserie is the newest restaurant from the celebrity chef, and it’s inside Harrah’s Casino. The restaurant has been open for walk-up service for the past few days, and beginning to book reservations for Nov. 8 and on.
It’s the latest change, and on the food and drink side by far the most high-profile change, as the casino gradually becomes a Caesars property.
Lagasse and his company the Emeril Group have been on a roll lately. Just a week before they re-opened the flagship Emeril’s Restaurant with its luxurious new tasting menu format, a thoroughly redesigned dining room and kitchen, and a new wine bar, the Wine Bar at Emeril’s, all developed with the chef’s son E.J. Lagasse at the helm.
Emeril’s Brasserie is a separate project that has been progressing on its own parallel track in partnership with the casino.
Significantly, it is the first French restaurant from Lagasse, but it’s tied to a long journey, one that is told in photos past to present that line a wall in the dining room.
Before he arrived in New Orleans, where he was executive chef at Commander’s Palace, Lagasse spent a formative phase of his career in France cooking under classically trained chefs in Paris and Lyon. He said developing Emeril’s Brasserie has meant delving into the lessons and memories of those early days.
Up front, all ages
Emeril’s Brasserie holds down an important part of the casino property, located at the busy Canal Street entrance. Visitors cross the threshold and see the restaurant immediately.
That entrance has been redesigned to allow separate access to the restaurant from the gaming floor. That makes Emeril’s Brasserie the first restaurant in the casino that is open to all ages (visitors to the casino must be 21 or older).
Another first is outdoor seating. The restaurant will have a patio, scheduled to be complete in a few weeks, with tables on an elevated, covered area over Canal Street, about level with the tops of a passing streetcars.
Inside, the restaurant has two private dining rooms, and there’s a chefs counter for a few seats for a direct view into the kitchen.
On the menu
The chef de cuisine is Eric Ivy, a veteran of the BRG Hospitality restaurant group, and he oversees a menu with a mix of French classics and reinterpretations.
The French onion soup is capped by a rugged terrain of croutons and draped with cheese, covering a piping-hot tangle of soft onions and broth underneath.
The tarte flambée, a flatbread native to the heavily German-influenced Alsace region, has a pastry-like crust, buttery and crisp with smoky cuts of bacon embedded in the white sauce.
Rendered andouille gives the steamed mussels an extra dose of smoky flavor, beside frites that stay crispy as you work through the dish.
The apple tarte Tatin arrives with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, slowly sending creamy rivulets between the bronzed apple slices and the sweet dough crust beneath.
The restaurant also has a quick-serve, counter-service café called Petite Brasserie, which faces the casino floor and serve coffee, breakfast pastries and sandwiches with a menu changing through the day.
Petite Brasserie is another spot fielding what I call the “Euro train station sandwich,” for those ready-made sandwiches found in such tempting, easy, grab-and-go availability in European train stations. There’s a classic here with ham, butter and cheese (in this case Boursin, instead of the more expected Brie).
Other quick bites from this counter-service stand are not French at all, but delicious, like the double-stacked hot sausage sliders, which feel like New Orleans bar food.
A casino’s next phase
The 210-seat Emeril’s Brasserie restaurant is done in marble and gold finishes, reflecting an overall Caesars design that is remaking the casino inside and out through stages.
Some areas around the casino floor still have the old Harrah’s décor, but piece by piece the new Caesars look and style is taking over, with the official change over scheduled for mid-2024.
The overall project includes a new hotel tower and a restaurant by international sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa, set to open next year (this restaurant will also be open to all ages).
In March, the casino debuted a much more casual restaurant option — a new food hall concept with walk-up eateries from three celebrity chefs.
That includes Nina Compton’s Caribbean-inspired Nina’s Creole Cottage, Bobby’s Burgers from Food Network star Bobby Flay and PizzaCake from “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro.
Harrah’s Casino, 2 Canal St.
Open for walk-ins now for dinner daily; the restaurant is taking reservations for Nov. 8 and on.
Initial hours: daily 5-10 p.m. (11 p.m. Fri., Sat.)
Petite Brasserie serves daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m., with expanded hours to come.