Restaurant Insider

New Orleans owes its existence almost as much to Spain as France, and in the last decade or so that’s been reflected in the dining scene. One example is Restaurant Madrid (300 Harrison Ave.), which has moved from its former location on Roosevelt Boulevard in Kenner to Lakeview.

Chef Juan Hernandez’s new space was a grocery before Hurricane Katrina, and while that’s still apparent, the food is as good as ever. At a recent dinner, I had one of the best examples of stewed rabbit that I’ve tasted. The meat was succulent, in a perfectly seasoned thyme-scented sauce. The calamari in ink sauce was another winner, as was the tortilla – a sort of omelet with potatoes and onions. The restaurant is serving dinner only, Monday through Saturday. Call them at 482-2757 for more information.

Another Spanish restaurant, Galvez (914 North Peters St.), above, has taken over the space formerly occupied by Bella Luna. The space is as beautiful as ever, and is still a great place for a party or a reception, which seems to be a big part of their business.

The menu at Galvez focuses on tapas, and they’re generally played straight. A welcome exception is the chipotle aioli that accompanies the grilled shrimp “Pinchitos.” Where a more traditional take on the sauce might include slightly spicy Spanish smoked paprika, the chipotle fits in perfectly. The potato croquettes marry perfectly crisp exterior to a light, airy center and are served with a roasted tomato sauce. They are open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; “happy hour” is from 3 to 5 p.m.; dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.; and there’s a jazz brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You can contact them at 595-3400 for reservations.

Chef John Besh is adding another restaurant to his already impressive roster with the opening of Domenica, in the newly re-opened Roosevelt Hotel (123 Baronne St.), above, a Waldorf Astoria property. It is a historic property that’s languished for a number of years, and including a new Besh restaurant in the plans is a signal that the owners are aiming high.

Domenica will focus on the food of Italy, where Executive Chef Alon Shaya (most recently chef de cuisine at Besh Steak) spent a year immersing himself in the culture and the cuisine. Although Domenica, like all of Besh’s restaurants, will feature local ingredients, this isn’t going to be a “Creole Italian” place. There is nothing wrong with our local variation on Italian food and, in fact, it’s one of the things that make the New Orleans area distinct. But we do have a dearth of “traditional” Italian restaurants, and Domenica looks to fill that gap. The restaurant will have a wood-burning brick oven and will feature house-made salumi and both fresh and imported pastas, cheese and olive oils.

July brings the seventh iteration of Tales of the Cocktail, an event that features “mixologists” and experts in drinks from all over the world. It includes “spirited dinners” at multiple restaurants, as well as seminars and parties for attendees. More information is available at talesofthecocktail.com.

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

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