Best New Restaurants

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Patrick’s Bar Vin
Classy and Sassy!

Through an iron gate that faces the 700 block of Bienville Street, there’s only a small courtyard that separates the often-crazy world of the French Quarter from a very sophisticated setting that would fit quite well in New York City.

The urbane proprietor and owner, Patrick Van Hoorebeek, is both a Belgian and the answer to the puzzling question, “Why isn’t New Orleans home to more European characters? They fit in so well.”

Patrick’s Bar Vin is a comfortable oasis two doors from Bourbon Street and the college student and Uptown attorney hangout, Absinthe House. It has nothing in common with its neighbor. Bar Vin’s wine list is well-chosen and diverse. Wines of every style from around the world are available both by the bottle or the glass. Hoorebeek’s national heritage with beer is well-represented and a wonderful selection of well-made cocktails is featured.

The side view, with access, is of the fountained and covered courtyard in the recently renamed Hotel Mazarin, formerly the St. Louis Hotel. Bar bites, as prepared by Louis XVI chef Agnes Bellet, complete the charms of an impressive space and drink menu. 

- T.M.

Patrick’s Bar Vin, 730 Bienville St., 200-3180,
Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m.- 11 p.m., Friday, 2 p.m.- 1 a.m., Saturday, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.

Vietnamese Stylishness

When owner Kim Nguyen first opened the doors to Magasin during Mardi Gras, she assumed the crush of patrons was because of Carnival season.

Imagine her surprise when, long after Fat Tuesday, the crowds kept coming. Six months out from its launch, Magasin fits the profile of an overnight success. “It is really surreal,” Nguyen admits. “I never thought that in a hundred years it would happen so fast.”

Before the doors opened, however, a lot had to be done. Nguyen’s family owned the property, which her mother operated as a corner grocery for decades, but turning it into a restaurant entailed a total redo. “I saved enough money and bought the business and renovated the entire place,” she says. “But since college I’ve always loved Magazine Street and I saw a real opportunity here.”

It was a smart move. While there’s a lot of good Vietnamese food around, most of it’s on the West Bank or in New Orleans East and many of these places are short on ambiance. With Magasin, Nguyen brings authentic Vietnamese food to a well-positioned Uptown location with a stylish build-out to boot.

In the kitchen, Nguyen’s fiancé, Lou Tran, is the chef. “He puts his heart and soul into the cooking,” Nguyen says. Magasin sets itself apart with a spring roll station open to the front. “I wanted people to see that they were being made fresh to order,” Nguyen says. “In many other places, they make them in advance and they sit around.” Additionally, Magasin offers nine versions while other places offer just one or two. Stock for the pho is simmered for 14 hours and uses oxtail along with beef bones for added richness. A filet mignon pho is offered, as well as a vegetarian version featuring broth made from carrots, daikon, leeks and onion, along with the usual aromatics. Crowd-pleasing dishes, in particular a grilled pork vermicelli bowl, are light and flavorful, punched up with the usual fresh garnishes.

In a bit of a twist, the bread for the banh mi comes from the nearby La Boulangerie rather than a Vietnamese bakery. Turns out the ever-increasing demand for Dong Phuong’s baguettes has made its prices less competitive. Produce and herbs are gathered daily from local markets, in particular the Vietnamese market out in Versailles. “I go out there with my mom each morning,” Nguyen says. “Herbs there just taste better than what you get in the big stores.” Despite the tony location, price points are kept admirably low.  

- J.F.

Magasin Vietnamese Café, 4201 Magazine St., 896-7611,
Lunch Monday-Saturday; dinner Wednesday-Saturday

Tamarind By Dominique
Succeeding by Crossing Cultures

Tamarind by Dominique couldn’t be in a more New Orleans location. Lee Circle is one of those intersections that we cross many times, usually without much thought. It divides downtown from Uptown and the Warehouse District from the blossoming corridor along Loyola Avenue.

Tamarind, located in the Hotel Modern (formerly LeCirque Hotel), has a full picture-window view of the proceedings around Lee Circle, including the passing St. Charles streetcars and the visitors driving around who can’t figure out which is the proper lane from which to continue on the circle or get off.

More than a place, however, Tamarind is also a state of mind. Dominique Macquet has once again reached into his island-nation Mauritius background and this time paired that culture with his Vietnamese-born sous chef of 12 years, Quan Tran. The French Colonial influences of the South China Sea meet the Indian Ocean, far off the coast of Africa, all together on a plaza named for an American Confederate general.

A tamarind is a tropical fruit that Macquet enjoyed in his childhood. The restaurant is modern, befitting its location in the hotel of the same name, and provides a contemporary comfort.

Taking many of our local ingredients, like fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables, Macquet and Tran have created exciting new flavor combinations. The appetizer named Louisiana Shrimp is actually just that, but the preparation is tempura kohlrabi coupled with tamarind remoulade. When I think Louisiana shrimp, that thought doesn’t spring to mind. Tamarinds also pop up in a spicy coconut sauce that accompanies the Morgan Ranch charred Wagyu beef tartare.  

Entrées are also worldly and creative. A shiitake mushroom and scallion risotto accompanies the sautéed flounder with a Vietnamese coriander and citrus vinaigrette. Fire-roasted shrimp topped by a kaffir lime beurre blanc are joined by a crispy mirliton and winter squash relish. The grilled diver scallops are topped by a lemongrass beurre blanc alongside wok stir-fried garlic noodles.

And there’s yet another sexy aspect of Tamarind: the cocktails. Kimberly Patton-Bragg at the bar’s helm carries through with the restaurant’s theme and has created delightful libations featuring tamarinds, lychees, lemongrass syrup and jackfruits, along with local stars including satsumas, kumquats and loquats.

To the back of Tamarind is the cocktail bar, Bellocq, which is making quite a name for itself as a gathering spot for the young and eternally hip crowd.  

It all adds up to a complete project continuing the true melting pot theme that is so New Orleans. In reply to the classic question, “Can’t we just all get along?” comes the answer, “Of course we can, when it involves fine ingredients, excellent beverages and chefs willing to see how it all fits together.”

- T.M.

Tamarind By Dominique in the Hotel Modern, 936 St. Charles Ave., 962-0909;
Breakfast seven days a week; lunch Monday-Friday; dinner Monday-Saturday

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