Restaurant Insider

Although we’ve had an influx of restaurants featuring Latin American cooking, to my knowledge, Oriente de Venezuela (115 Chartres St.), which opened in January, is the first restaurant to feature the cuisine of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Pabellon Venezolano will be familiar to anyone who’s tasted the Cuban dish Ropa Vieja. There are versions of this shredded beef dish in almost all countries south of the U.S. border, and the Venezuelan recipe didn’t disappoint. Indeed, the dish comes with a soupy take on black beans, either white or yellow rice, fried sweet plantains and, for an extra $2, fried eggs and a very bland white cheese. I would skip the egg and cheese addition next time and order extra arepas, which are small in diameter but very thick tortilla-type pieces of bread that manage to be both filling and light at the same time. As is the case with Salvadoran and Honduran pupusas, you can also get arepas stuffed with cheese, beef or chicken. The restaurant’s name refers to the eastern portion of Venezuela, which includes some of the country’s most beautiful beaches so it’s no surprise that seafood features on the menu as well, including a tomato based seafood soup with mussels, squid, fish, yucca and tender little masa dumplings. Call the restaurant at 265-0622.

Coquette, (2800 Magazine St.) a French bistro, has replaced the Japanese-fusion Takumi. Chef Mike Stoltzfus was most recently a sous chef at Restaurant August. The front of house is run by Lilly Hubard, an alumna both of August, where she was briefly in charge of the wine program, and Commander’s Palace. To say that those are two of the finer places to train in New Orleans is an understatement, and their experience shows both on the plate and in the attentive service. Physically, the restaurant is largely unchanged from its prior life, with one exception: where Takumi had a glass-enclosed “penalty box” for its sushi chefs, Coquette has a service station.

The food is what you’d expect from a bistro, or at least a bistro in South Louisiana. There is a salad with frisee, bacon and poached egg that’s topped with fried oysters. The burger is garnished with andouille in addition to cheddar and onions, and andouille shows up again in a chicken stew. Also there’s country ham in a risotto that accompanies the redfish. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a purely French dish that Coquette does very well: the pork rillettes were some of the best I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot. Contact them at 265-0421.

The kids over at Cork & Bottle have an event this month that may also be worth your time: it’s going to be held at Savvy Gourmet (4519 Magazine St.) on April 15, and will feature four or five courses prepared by Daniel Esses, paired with choice bourbons from Buffalo Trace Distillery. The next night, they’ll release for sale the bourbon they selected when they toured the Buffalo Trace property. That latter event will include some spectacular photographs taken by Marc Pagani.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? E-mail Peyton: rdpeyton@gmail.com

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