Sunday is usually a day that you have to pry me off the couch, especially during football season. However, I had heard about the once-a-month New Orleans Jazz and Food lunch at Washington Platform (1000 Elm St., Downtown; 513-421-0110), and since whatever the Bengals did wouldn’t matter, I asked my friend Barbara to check it out with me.
It was a really cold, snowy December afternoon when we showed up at Washington Platform. I didn’t know that it was a buffet and I usually just don’t do buffets, but I was super hungry and a buffet seemed to be the perfect cure. Of course, I have eaten at Washington Platform many times over the years, but it was usually for lunch or with drinks after work. The food has always been reliable and a good value, but service has consistently been an issue. The same can be said about the Jazz buffet.
We had reservations (which are recommended) for 2 p.m., which is the time the buffet begins. The New Orleans Jazz and Food buffet is offered on the second Sunday of every month from 2-5 p.m. We were promptly greeted and informed that they weren’t quite ready to seat anyone. After a long line of guests filled the vestibule, we were eventually led into the room adjoining the bar. I must say that the setting was very pleasant and the Jazz being played in the corner of the room by The Mike Sharfe Trio certainly provided a welcoming atmosphere.
While the room quickly filled with guests, we decided to hit the buffet line before it got picked over. The buffet offered a nice selection of both cold and hot food. The cold offerings included fresh fruit (where did they get such good watermelon in December?), a very nice Caesar salad and a rather tasteless seafood pasta salad.
The hot food was more interesting as it included dirty rice and etouffee, spicy beef tips, juicy southern fried chicken, seafood alfredo penne pasta, steamed crab legs and a carving station with both ham and turkey. The crab legs were certainly a hit with the crowd as they disappeared quickly, but I found the perfectly cooked, moist turkey to be my favorite.
However, both the turkey and the ham seemed out of place with the rest of the dishes, as it was neither New Orleans in any fashion, nor were there proper accompaniments to go along with the meat. I would have loved to have had some rich Southern gravy or a potato or other starch dish. The only side dish available was green beans almandine, which was pretty standard. There were dinner rolls, but corn bread would have been so much better and more fitting with the theme. While overall the food was tasty, I was disappointed that there weren’t more dishes fitting with the New Orleans concept.
While the main dishes were good, the desserts were much better. In addition to standard cherry and pumpkin pies, a delicious chocolate cake, brownies, blondies and mini cream puffs, there was a very good mocha pie and an exceptional bread pudding. Bread pudding is certainly a New Orleans staple, and if done correctly can be the ultimate comfort food. Washington Platform’s version was dense and rich with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, drizzled lightly with chocolate. It was so good that I wanted to take the whole pan home.
Kudos to the kitchen for keeping the buffet well stocked and hot. However, there were problems with the front of the house service. Most of the servers seemed disorganized and disinterested. I do want to point out that the gentleman manning the carving station was so personable, his attitude almost made up for the rest of the staff.
CONTACT BILL HATFIELD: