May 11, 201710:40 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
An Opening and a Closing
The Picayune Giveth, and Noodle and Pie Taketh Away
A little bird told me that the Picayune Social House was having its soft opening this week, and is currently open from 11 a.m until around 2 p.m. Actually, I saw the sign across Camp Street from my office, and I stopped in to pick up some food to eat at my desk.
That’s not the best way to experience a restaurant, obviously, but given the proximity of the place to my place of business, it’s probably an experience I’ll repeat – because I tried crab dip with naan bread, and shrimp cooked in the tandoor, and I liked both of them. But beyond those dishes, the place demonstrated an attention to detail that ensured I’ll be checking them out as they work out the opening-day kinks.
The crab dip is made with cream cheese, and I like that combination; at least when, as is the case at the Picayune, one adds some heat from chiles to the mix. I wasn’t all that impressed with the naan, which was fairly dry, but it served to bring the dip to my mouth, and that’s at least adequate. I suspect that when the place is up and running, the bread is going to be cooked to order, and I’ll reserve final judgment on it until I can sample it as it was meant to be sampled.
I mentioned the tandoor earlier, but I want to emphasize that they’re cooking with a real tandoor at the Picayune. I’ve seen it, and it’s beautiful. The shrimp that came out of that oven were perfectly cooked – just a bit of sear on the exterior and still juicy inside. The tabbouleh was pretty good too, though nothing extraordinary, but the rice? The rice was really well done.
I’m particular about a lot of foods, but I’m obsessive about rice. There is very little that ruins a meal for me more rapidly than being served par-boiled, “instant” rice. If you can’t spare the time or attention to make rice properly, why the hell would you serve rice? Boil some pasta, you barbarian.
But if you can produce something that goes beyond the standard steamed rice, you’re ahead of the game with me. The rice that came in my take-out container was basmati, and as is the case with properly cooked basmati, each grain was separate, with just a bit of texture. It was also fragrant with cloves and cinnamon, and it was salted just enough.
You may think it faint praise of the restaurant if I say that the rice was the best thing I ate from the Picayune today, but trust me when I say that’s not the case. The rice did not change my life; the rice did not save a drowning puppy, and the rice has not convinced Kim Jong-Un to give up his nuclear weapons program. But it was pretty good rice.
They’ve not been open a week, so things are still being worked out. Not everyone there is completely familiar with the menu, but the folks I met were friendly, and I’d prefer that over a dissertation on where the pig that produced the pork chop on my plate was raised. I have high hopes for the Picayune, and not only because I work within a few dozen feet from the place. My hope is that they actually pull off what they’re trying to do, because if they can, it’s going to be spectacular.
And in less upbeat news, this week the folks at Noodle & Pie made the following post on the restaurant’s Facebook page:
The time has come for us to say goodbye. This chapter of noodle & pie has come to a regretful end at State & Magazine. Thank you to our neighbors who supported us and ramen loving customers from across the city, state & elsewhere. Our final day of service will be Mother's day, Sunday May 14th. Thank you.
This is unsatisfactory. That place is outstanding, and while a little bird (no) has also told me there is another ramen restaurant in the works not all that far from Noodle & Pie’s location (about which more when I can share details), I was looking forward to patronizing both places regularly.
The good news is that according to my pal Todd Price, at Nola.com, the issue is not the demand for noodles or pies, but rather the lease on the property. Hopefully they’ll open another joint before long, and hopefully it won’t be in the Bywater. Because no offense to those of you who live in the Bywater, but you don’t need another hip, Asian-influenced restaurant that also serves delicious pie.
I’m hoping to stop in at Noodle & Pie before they stop serving at the end of the week, because I’m really going to miss the place. If I hear anything firm on plans for a future N&P venture, I’ll let you know. If, on the other hand, you hear something, and haven’t seen anything about it here, please email me with the details. I will give you full credit for the “scoop.” (I will not give you credit).