Spring Has Sprung
Bright flavors and unexpected elements
Oysters with Sour Mash at Maypop
sara essex bradley
I adore chef Michael Gulotta. He left his cushy, guaranteed-to-make-him-a-superstar position as chef de cuisine at John Besh’s flagship Restaurant August to mortgage his life to the hilt and roll the dice on a spot in a strip mall next to a snowball stand and behind a Burger King. Opened in early 2014 with a name some found offensive, MoPho was an instant success, marrying Louisiana ingredients with the flavors of Southeast Asia and launching him into national recognition as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2016.
Recently nominated for the second consecutive year in the category of “Best Chef – South” by the James Beard Foundation, the Brother Martin and John Folse Culinary Institute graduate is everywhere. Team MoPho also includes his brother, Jeff Gulotta, and their childhood friend, Jeff Bybee. Together they also run popular pop-ups Tana at Trèo on Tulane Avenue and Rum & The Lash at Finn McCool’s pub.
Their latest venture, Maypop, pushes the menu further into explorations in fermentation while pulling influence from the disparate cuisines – Vietnamese, Cajun, Creole and Sicilian – that routinely inspire Michael Gulotta. Maypop is decidedly sleeker and more daring even than MoPho, which is saying something.
The centerpiece in the dining room is a stunning wall map from Farouki Farouki. From one angle, it appears to be a map of the Mississippi River, from another you’re looking at the Mekong Delta.
At the table a thick grey-black smear on a plate turned out to be the mash left over from the making of the small-batch Blue Grass Bourbon-barrel aged soy sauce Gulotta started using at MoPho.
“I started wandering what they do with the byproducts from the soy sauce. They said I could have it all if I paid for the shipping.”
With his new, odd treasure in hand, the chef worked the inky substance into an aioli and pairs it with crisply fried P&J oysters, aged Idiazábal cheese from Spain and spicy cucumber salad with heavy Asian notes. Who else would think of this? The outcome is divine.
Other head-turning double-takes on the menu from Gulotta and his chef de cuisine Will “Trey” Smith include Bibb lettuce chaat with coconut cucumber ranch dressing, beet citrus relish, cashews and bánh xèo crisp; crispy skinned pompano in a bright Panang curry; hot chicken Vindaloo with crispy sticky rice cake and pickled mirliton; and charred Lamb with cream cheese roti, coconut milk glaze nuoc cham, harissa, a fried egg and puffed field peas.
Get ready for an adventure.
Chef Carl Schaubhut recently opened DTB (Down the Bayou) in a bustling block along the Oak Street corridor. A kitchen alum of Commander’s Palace, Cafe Adelaide and Bacobar in Covington, with DTB Schaubhut returns to the Cajun roots of his native Des Allemandes. Look for new interpretations on some familiar dishes recreated with refined technique and a focus on plenty of Gulf seafood, Cajun flavors and fresh seasonal produce.
Crawfish Boiled Chips riff on a crawfish boil with seasoned tempura-fried red bliss potato slices with lemon marmalade, popcorn crema and herb salad. The vegan Mushroom Boudin Balls look and taste confusingly like the real deal but they are made with three types of mushrooms, charred eggplant and Louisiana jasmine rice, and served with a smoked tofu mayo. Crawfish Bread is a light and airy twist on the Jazz Fest favorite. It features pâte à choux mini-loaves stuffed with local crawfish tails and green chili fonduta. It is served with pickled seasonal chow-chow.
For the cocktail program Schaubhut brought in the celebrated Lu Brow. Her brilliant creations include a Brown Butter Old Fashioned (brown butter-washed bourbon, bitters, satsuma and “damn good” cherries) a Louisiana Cocktail (sassafras-infused rye whiskey, barrel-aged Peychaud’s bitters, Amaro and a pecan oil drizzle) and Fire on the Bayou (Magnolia vodka, Lillet, fresh citrus and pepper jelly). This creation is served as a shot alongside a pony beer to lessen the heat.