I almost had myself fooled that I wasn’t going to eat at Lillette this trip. Too expensive, I told myself. Too many other places to try. What about August? Dick & Jenny’s? And then today, right around lunchtime, I broke down. I just happened to be in the neighborhood.
For about two seconds I considered one of the other items on the menu, but I knew I was kidding myself then as well. The braised pork belly on a cucumber-tomato-basil salad and garlic bread was the main reason I had come back. So, I confined myself to just ordering that one dish and a glass of a very smooth Côte du Rhone.
The pork belly was once again perfect: crisp on top, fat rendered, and tender meat below the layer of fat. With every bite I took in a cucumber or grape tomato and felt the light vinaigrette slice cleanly through the fat. The wine, too, helped cut through the cut. And I, daughter of New Jersey, felt absolutely no inclination to add salt to anything. Not even the salad.
After I finished, I asked the waiter if he knew how it was made. He said they braised the pork belly for hours and hours at the lowest temperature (he said twelve hours, but I wonder) in white wine, garlic, shallots, jalapeño chilies, and thyme. I wish I had had my pen and pad, because he mentioned one or two other ingredients. Never mind. Clearly that’s a recipe to conjure with. The cucumber-tomato salad is dressed with only olive oil, rice wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. That’s it.
I don’t think anyone would dispute that Lillette is one of the top five restaurants in New Orleans. I suppose I should just resign myself to my inability to stay away while I’m here and plan accordingly.