Cui­sine Scene

New Or­leans restau­rants get fired up

Where New Orleans - - CONTENTS - BY LORIN GAUDIN

Slow-roasted meats, fire-cooked seafood, wood­charred kale—this town is smokin'.

W hile Louisiana has a long-held smoked meat tra­di­tion ( Ville Platte is billed as the “Smoked Meat Cap­i­tal of the World”), New Or­leans is some­what newer to the smoke­and-flame game. A re­cent bar­be­cue craze that hit citywide has re­sulted in the open­ing of a half-dozen new pit-smokin’ joints. Add to that all the wood-fired ovens lend­ing flame, scent and fla­vor to ev­ery­thing from breads to veg­eta­bles, meat, seafood (yes, there are places smok­ing oys­ters and craw­fish!) and even sweets (see p. 20 about the grilled s’mores at Prim­i­tivo). The rein­vig­o­rated lo­cal taste for all things smoked, grilled and charred has restau­rants, chefs and din­ers fired up. Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the spirit of this month’s Bayou Coun­try Su­per­fest (p. 14), din­ing leans cow­boy-style; food straight from the camp­fire, part­nered with lusty side dishes.

In the Cen­tral Busi­ness District, Chophouse New Or­leans’ (p. 22) 28-day-aged steaks come charred on the out­side (your choice for in­te­rior tem­per­a­ture). The meal to have: a 22-ounce bone-in rib­eye, ta­ble­size (shar­ing is car­ing) creamed spinach and oniony, rich and deca­dent Ly­on­naise pota­toes. And though it may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, Pêche (p. 23), known for its seafood, fire-cooks a large, ta­ble-shar­ing rib­eye steak that begs for a side of white beans and ba­con, while the sig­na­ture whole fish, skin slashed and charred, comes dressed with salsa verde. Go all in with grilled greens doused with lemon and chili.

On re­vamped Oretha Cas­tle Ha­ley Boule­vard in Cen­tral City, chef Eric Labouchere is all about the smoke and fire at Prim­i­tivo (p. 23). Here too there are big cuts of beef, chicken and duck for shar­ing. For some­thing smoky and a lit­tle off the beaten path, check out the creamy smoked mul­let with field-pea puree, crispy earthy charred kale and the stand­out sur­prise, a smoky, tomato-rich plate of tripe (do it, trust us) spiked with chile, and mel­lowed by crou­tons and a hefty amount of grana (Parme­san) curls.

Walk a few blocks down­town from Prim­i­tivo, where chef/per­son­al­ity Isaac Toups has his restau­rant Toups South (p. 24), ad­ja­cent to the South­ern Food & Bev­er­age Mu­seum. There the chef puts to use the orig­i­nal smoker of Aaron Franklin (of Austin’s Franklin Bar­be­cue fame), which was do­nated to the mu­seum, turn­ing out steaks, a lus­cious foie tor­chon and deep, smoky lamb legs plated with sweet corn chow­chow, heady aged sheep cheese and roasted red pep­pers.

Up­town at Pa­tois (p. 29), chef de cui­sine Jonathan Lomonaco reg­u­larly fires up the pit for the pop­u­lar smoky lamb ribs with green tomato rel­ish, but look for the “Smoked and Cured Duck Breast” that comes with foie gras jus. Yes, foie gras jus. Down the street at Clancy’s (p. 29), the hand­writ­ten menu fea­tures the restau­rant’s iconic and lightly cherry wood-smoked soft-shell crabs with lump crab­meat and roasted gar­lic me­u­nière. Divine.

On a busy Mag­a­zine Street cor­ner near the Whole Foods Mar­ket (there’s a smoker there, too), Ken­ton’s (p. 29) chef Kyle Knall stokes the pit fire, putting a smoky stamp on oys­ters, steak, pork and fish. The stun­ner is a slow-smoked trout with charred red onions, mush­rooms and ca­pers. At brunch, pair a “Smoked Chipo­tle Bloody Mary” (made with bour­bon, pick­led veg­eta­bles and ba­con) with the creamy grits, smoked pork belly, poached eggs, broc­coli and cilantro.

Par­a­digm Gar­dens (paradig­m­gar­den­snola.com), which grows and sells pro­duce to Pa­tois, Prim­i­tivo and other lo­cal restau­rants, also holds reg­u­lar events where chefs cook in an open-flame, brick-hearth oven. Tick­eted and open to the public, it’s a party of live, lo­cal mu­sic

and wood-fired food from such well-known es­tab­lish­ments as Ken­ton’s, Coquette and An­cora. Ev­ery­thing from pizza to chicken legs and cur­ries comes from the flames.

To­day’s list of New Or­leans bar­be­cue restau­rants is lengthy, and each place has a skilled pit mas­ter slow-cook­ing the usual sus­pects (ribs, brisket, pork butt, etc.) and a spe­cialty menu item in­cor­po­rat­ing some­thing from their pits. There’s a banh mi ( Vietnamese sandwich) with house hogshead cheese and smoked pork at McClure’s in the tap room at NOLA Brew­ing (p. 54); rich, glossy pork belly at Frey Smoked

Meat Co. (p. 28); brisket na­chos and pulled-pork eggrolls at Blue Oak BBQ (p. 28); killer coleslaw at Ugly Dog Sa­loon (401 An­drew Hig­gins, 504.569.8459); jalapeno-cheddar sausage at LA 23 BBQ (9661 LA Hwy. 23, Belle Chase, 504.657.3693) and Cen­tral City BBQ’s (p. 23) smoked craw­fish and oys­ters.

As the weather warms and fes­ti­val sea­son swings, New Or­leans restau­rants get cook­ing cre­atively with fire and smoke.

Pa­tois

Pêche

Blue Oak BBQ

Toups South

Ken­ton’s

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