Katrina be dammed – it's time to eat! Our picks for some hot new spots
Alberta. Famed local caterer Alberta Pate has opened a homey, neighborhood restaurant on Magazine Street. Daughter and executive chef Melody Pate and her culinary staff kick out hearty, satisfying foods, plated prettily, not fussily. Their wine list is smart with a reasonable selection and price range. One of the best appetizers is the roasted mushroom soup with duck confit ravioli. The skirt steak with chevre gnocchi crosses textures nicely between toothy and silky, while the flavors are bold and clean. Desserts include creamy, flavor-rich ice creams and moist cakes.
Chops Bistro & Martini Bar. The restaurant space that held longtime eatery Charley G’s now houses Chops Bistro. Executive chef Shaun Holtgreve showcases his deft cooking skills on a polished and uncomplicated menu. The food reflects Holtgreve’s classic French cuisine sensibilities with obvious nods to Louisiana. Seared lump crab cakes are shockingly decadent with crab meat, bound lightly, then seared and served with a drizzle of bright green parsley oil to enhance sweetness. The filet mignon is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Its accompaniment of savory bread pudding is nice, but potato lovers might opt for the garlic or sweet-potato mashed varieties. The menu continues to expand and the current desserts are solid standards (cheesecake and crème brûlée).
Latil’s Landing/Burnside Cafe at Houmas House Plantation. A drive to Houmas House Plantation reveals a strikingly restored plantation house, gorgeous grounds filled with native plants, and a well-tended vegetable and herb garden. At lunch, diners eat in the wide-open pavilion called the Burnside Café. Red beans and rice with smoked sausage, a fat, juicy burger with fries or a piled-high seafood poor-boy are among the local specialties on the menu, with prices ranging from $7 to $10. The dinner hour features elevated cuisine with contemporary Louisiana inspirations: a sweet and succulent crab and mango cake with a dollop of spicy remoulade, foie gras with lost bread, and “black drum Sam” – a pan-sautéed fillet set atop lobster ravioli and surrounded by flash-fried oysters and crawfish-cream sauce. For dessert, mint julep custard is a must.
Ohi’a. Hotel Le Cirque has a new restaurant called Ohi’a. Pronounced “oh-HEE-uh,” the contemporary-style bar-restaurant is named after a tree indigenous to Hawaii. The menu is a modest listing of appetizer-size dishes influenced by Asian and Pacific Island cuisine. Proprietor Vicky Bayley and creative partner Mike Fenelly of Mike’s on the Avenue fame have created a “ … place where people can gather to enjoy the comforts of a cocktail or a glass of wine in glamorous surroundings, with the option of having a bite to eat.” Chef Colin Smith leads the kitchen, offering popular small plates that include the gingered shrimp-and-pork meatballs with Asian slaw and ponzu sauce, seared sea scallops with coconut curry and crispy wonton, and grilled beef tataki rolls with a tahini-soy dipping sauce. Prices range from $6 to $11. –L.G.