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Sep 2, 201012:00 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Food, Drink and Music on Frenchmen

The fish in the seviche at Three Muses changes based on what's available.

Photo courtesy of Robert Peyton

Three Muses opened at 536 Frenchmen St. on Aug. 11. The restaurant-bar takes its name from its three owners: Chef Daniel Esses helms the kitchen, Christopher Starnes manages the operation, and Sophie Lee is the music coordinator.

It’s a relatively small space, with six low tables and eight more high two-tops along either wall, with additional seating at the bar. There’s a piano to the left of the entrance that backs up to a stage where local jazz musicians play every night Three Muses is open. The interior is dark, with colorful art by Brandon Delles along the wall to the left of the entrance, between the stage and the bar. The opposite wall features dark wood paneling that matches the columns that run down the center of the room.

The space gets pretty tight when things are hopping, and there’s a definite sense of controlled chaos engendered at least in part by the necessity of ordering both food and drinks at the bar. But the chaos really is controlled; at least in my experience, orders are filled in a timely manner even when the place is crowded. The servers, harried as they may be at times, are friendly and fairly efficient. It’s never going to give Stella! a run for its money where service is concerned, but you’ll get what you order, and it usually won’t take too long.

When I spoke to Esses before writing about the restaurant in the Restaurant Insider a couple of months ago, I was left with the impression that his menu would be something of a tour of the Mediterranean. He mentioned Italy, Spain, southern France and countries from the north of Africa such as Morocco and Tunisia. He did mention that Korean food would be on the menu, but I don’t think he mentioned the food of Central and South America.

On my second visit to the restaurant, I had an excellent seviche served with house-made chips. The fish in the seviche change with what’s available; it was drum when I dined, and it was cut into large slices before being marinated in citrus, chile and red onion. It was a good rendition of the dish: tart; a little spicy; and served with supremes of orange, diced peppers and cilantro. There’s also a skirt steak served with chimichurri sauce and tostones on the menu and rabbit empanadas served with a sun-dried tomato aioli.

The Korean selections change, but recently Esses was serving bulgogi with house-made kimchi, two vegetables and steamed rice; beef eggroll triangles (think pot-stickers); and a vegetarian trio that replaces the thinly sliced grilled beef in the bulgogi dish with fried tofu. Esses has done a good job so far with the vegetable accompaniments to the bulgogi and tofu. Korean meals often feature a half-dozen or more small plates of vegetables and other tidbits prepared a number of ways. The cucumber pickle and bean sprouts that came with my bulgogi recently were excellent, as was the kimchi. The pickled cabbage condiment that is the hallmark of Korean cuisine takes patience to make, and the vagaries of the process mean that no two batches are exactly the same. I love the stuff, and Esses does it right.

There are a number of snacks available if you’re just peckish. The feta fries are delicious, as are the rosemary-and-cayenne roasted cashews. There’s also a cheese plate that changes with what’s available, and the marinated olives featured a few different high-quality varieties. When I first visited the place, there were fried chickpeas on the menu; those have given way to falafel “bites” as I write, and by the time you read this, it may be something else entirely.

That’s the spirit of the place, really. Esses told me that when they have down time in the kitchen, they start thinking of other things they could do. Sometimes they run these ideas as specials, and the popular ones end up as “regulars” on the frequently changing menu. I have the impression that the kitchen at Three Muses is a pretty collaborative place, and that works to the benefit of guests.

There are a few desserts on the menu, though those change even more frequently than the rest of the menu. The cookie plate was a nice way to wind down an evening, and the lemon ice box pie looked good, as well.

Three Muses is open from every day but Tuesday, starting at 4 p.m. They stay open until midnight most nights, as business dictates. You can find out about the changes to the menu and the specials they’ve got working by calling 298-TRIO. I’d try to parse that number out for you, but I no longer have a phone that uses the alpha-numeric code, and I figure if you give two shits, you’ll figure it out yourself.

Editor’s note: Three Muses can be reached at 298-8746. And Robert Peyton needs a vacation.

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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