Stella’s is a cosy dining room set in the the New Orleans French Quarter. The room has exposed brick walls, wooden floors, simple wooden chairs and chandeliers providing a soft light. Chef Scott Boswell is from Louisiana but has trained for a time in France and Tokyo. The wine list was fairly global, with examples such as Trimbach Cuvee Frederich Emile 2000 at $100 for a wine that costs $40 retail, while the excellent Torres Mas La Plana 2001 was $95 for a wine you can buy in the shops for around $45. Wine pairing for the tasting menu was available at $75. Warm, white bread rolls were very pleasant (15/20).
A nibble of Louisiana shrimp kim chi with mango and champagne puree with tarot root was robustly spiced, the prawn itself tender (15/20). Louisiana jumbo lump crab with gulf shrimp and avocado salad was served with grilled corn, roasted red pepper salsa and sweet corn emulsion. This all sounds very appealing, if rather complex, but was not really seasoned and ended up being rather a mush of indistinct flavours (13/20).
Japanese Kbocha squash puree with applewood smoked bacon and Valrhona xocopoli (a spicy chocolate) was better, the natural sweetness of the squash working well with the smokiness of the bacon, while the chocolate was fortunately subdued (15/20). Louisian gulf shrimp was tender, served with caramelised maitake and chanterelle mushroom risotto, along with with English peas, scallions and virgin olive oil. The tendency to add just one (or three) more flavours than strictly necessary featured in this dish, but it was well executed (15/20).
Next was “fish and chips”, tempura of North Atlantic skate wing with sweet potato puree, curried taro root chips and spicy red chilli caramel. The tempura batter itself was reasonable but the sweet potato was too dominant a taste, making the dish overall taste uncomfortably sweet (13/20). Seared prime fillet of beef tenderloin was nicely cooked, served with Clyde’s Farm Araucana egg with breakfast potatoes, truffled Hollandaise, “Texas toast” and foie gras butter – all very pleasant (14/20). The next course of Gouda cheese with dried bing cherry compote with candied pistachio was a train wreck of flavours (11/20). Better was a good, rich chocolate cake with hot buttered pink lemonade (15/20).
Overall the cooking was capable, but the chef seems to me to be just trying too hard, with too many flavours not always successfully combining on the plate.