Restaurants New and Revisited
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHS
Another month, and yet more notable restaurants are opening in New Orleans. There was a time when I reacted to a half-dozen serious restaurants opening in post-Katrina New Orleans with amazement.
Then I was baffled, then dumbfounded, confused, amazed again, then sleepy, so I took a nap; then I was confused again but for other reasons, and now I’m just resigned to the fact that we’re soon going to have more restaurants than residents.
As I write, Mizado (5080 Pontchartrain Blvd.) is set to open in a newly constructed building. It is slated to be a pan-Latin restaurant with a more South American bent than typically seen in New Orleans.
Mizado is yet another restaurant by the Taste Buds group, the folks who run Semolina and Zea Rotisserie & Grill; the previous building at Mizado’s address was once home to a Semolina restaurant.
Petite Amelie (900 Royal St.) has opened as a companion to Café Amelie at the corner of Dumaine and Royal streets in the French Quarter. There is seating in the restaurant, but there’s an equal focus on take-out, or “cuisine rapide” if you don’t mind people laughing at you, which seems like a fantastic idea for the French Quarter (the take-out, not the laughing). There are salads and a lot of pressed sandwiches on the menu, as well as soups and fresh juices. Breakfast is an option, too, with panini-style “waffle melts” such as the jalapeño popper (goat cheese, pepper jack cheese, bacon and pepper jelly) and the crunchy peanut butter and banana (with seasonal jam and the addition of bacon for another $5) available. Petite Amelie is open from Wednesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 412-8065 or find Petite Amelie on Facebook to learn more.
Then there’s Cane & Table (1113 Decatur St.). This rum-centric spot in the space formerly occupied by Pravda is another venture by the kids behind Cure and Bellocq (Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Estopinal, Matt Kohnke and Nick Dietrich) and Adam Biederman, of Company Burger. It is sort of a tiki-bar crossed with a colonial Caribbean public house, but with a deep-fryer and without the malaria. Go for the rum drinks; stay for the jerk chicken and deep-fried ribs. You can call Cane & Table at 581-1112 to find out what’s happening.
One of the things about this writing gig is that I get to try a lot of new restaurants. It is a pretty sweet deal, but it invariably means I don’t get to patronize some restaurants I’d really like to visit more often.
Then there are restaurants that have been around for years but that for one reason or another I haven’t visited. Atchafalaya (901 Louisiana Ave.) was one of those until I visited late this summer. I am glad I did, even if it means I now have to add the restaurant to the list of those I don’t visit as much as I’d like.
Atchafalaya is tucked away in the section of Louisiana Avenue between Magazine and Tchoupitoulas streets on a quiet, well-gardened corner. What you’ll see in the beds and planters outside the restaurant’s entrance will no doubt change with the seasons, but this attention to detail is reflected in the interior design of the place. There is art everywhere, and clever elements are integrated into the restaurant’s very structure – the wall dividing the bar from the main dining room is made from old window frames, painted and connected into a visually appealing divider between the two spaces that nevertheless keeps the overall atmosphere open and airy.
This would be nice but meaningless if the food weren’t good as well. Chef Chris Lynch’s menu is a mix of classic Creole with the sort of locally-sourced cooking that’s become obligatory in restaurants with any ambition. Food trends come and go, but it seems to me sourcing ingredients locally is one that doesn’t have many downsides, at least not when you live someplace as fertile as Southern Louisiana. And Lynch comes to it honestly, with experience at Emeril’s and the now-shuttered Meson 923 under his belt. At any rate, the crabmeat in a special soup of watermelon gazpacho was sweet and generously portioned, as it was in the free-form ravioli with shiitake mushrooms and a buttery tomato sauce. Duck confit with rapini and white beans came with tart oven-roasted tomatoes and a sweet onion marmalade that together set off the richness of the duck. The bread pudding changes frequently, but the version I tried – with huckleberries – was delicious. I am more a fan of light-airy bread pudding than dense, and like my wife I prefer it without raisins; Atchafalaya’s came through on both counts.
It is nice to “discover” a place that’s been around for this long. If you’ve never been, trust me and go soon. Call 891-9626 to make a reservation before you do. Atchafalaya is open for lunch Wednesdays through Fridays, for dinner every night and for brunch Saturdays and Sundays. Visit AtchafalayaRestaurant.com for more information.