Nov 5, 200912:00 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Changes at Cuvee
The red grouper amandine at Cuvee was served with capers and fresh thyme, a twist to the classic preparation.
Photo courtesy of Robert Peyton
Sept. 25 was chef Bob Iacovone's last day in the kitchen at Restaurant Cuvee, where he’d been executive chef for the past seven years. Bob’s wife, Julianna, recently gave birth to the couple’s first child –– a son named Witt –– and he decided to forgo the long and difficult hours required of a chef to spend more time with his family. He’s also focusing more on Rambla, the tapas restaurant in the International House Hotel that he co-owns with Kenny LaCour and Kim Kringlie.
Cuvee has long been one of the most elegant restaurants in New Orleans, and that hasn’t changed. There’s also continuity in the front of the house, where maitre d’ Reno DeRanieri remains as affable and ready with wine advice as ever. Do not, however, believe a word he says about me –– unless it is complimentary, in which case it is true.
Chef Kristen Olsen was hired as the sous-chef at Cuvee in August, and when chef Iacovone left, she was given the position of executive chef. From my recent experiences at Cuvee, she is up to the challenge.
Olsen has experience with upscale Southern food, having started her career with Frank Stitt at Birmingham’s Highland Bar & Grill. From there, she moved to Hot and Hot Fish Club, also in Birmingham. She then spent time with chef Todd Humphries at the Martini House, which is located in California’s Napa Valley.
Olsen was initially hired by the folks who run Cuvee as the sous- chef at Rambla. In her brief time at Cuvee, she’s not yet put a definitive stamp on the menu. That’s understandable; it took Bob a while to do that, too. Indeed, there’s still at least one holdover on the current menu from chef Bingo Starr’s tenure at Cuvee: the spiced shrimp napoleon with fried mirliton, rémoulade and cayenne butter. They will not remove that dish from the menu if they know what is good for them.
At a recent wine dinner Olsen had a chance to demonstrate her creativity. And as it turns out, she’s very creative: A seared diver scallop was served over a kaffir lime leaf butter with hazelnut gnocchi and grapefruit sections. Fennel pollen-crusted duck breast was accompanied by a fennel root and bacon gratin and an olive-duck jus. A slow-cooked beef short rib described as “osso bucco” came with a corn spoonbread, mole sauce and a salad with herbal and citrus flavors that approximated gremolata. It was an interesting take on the classic Italian veal-shank dish.
Cuvee remains open for lunch during the week and for dinner Monday through Saturday. From a recent lunch, I can confirm that the shrimp napoleon is as good as ever. I also enjoyed a dish of red grouper amandine that was executed very well, with a broken sauce and tiny, diced brabant potatoes. The addition of capers and fresh thyme was a twist to the classic preparation –– at least as we know it in New Orleans –– that was not at all unwelcome.
Cuvee is located at 322 Magazine St., and you can reach them at 587-9001.