[Editor's Note: Robert Peyton is out this week, but please enjoy this blog post, originally published July 25, 2013.]
The subject of this week's entry is another one of those places I've been meaning to visit for a long time, but haven't. There are a number of reasons for my lapse – we have no shortage of restaurants in New Orleans, and certainly no shortage of new restaurants, which are what I tend to cover here. I also get about a half dozen press releases every day about one food-related event or another. That's no excuse for my failure to visit Atchafalaya until recently.
I place the blame for that squarely on my own narrow shoulders. I knew the place was there, but I just hadn't gotten the motivation to visit until my wife and I were trying to decide on a place for lunch that didn't require me to drive into the University section of town and didn't require her to come to the CBD. I think it worked out.
The restaurant is not on the beaten path; at least not the path beaten by average restaurant patrons. Atchafalaya is located not far from the Louisiana Street wharves, but longshoremen, trenchermen though they may be, are probably not the target demographic for Atchafalaya.
There are herbs and flowers growing in beds and boxes outside of the restaurant's entrance at the corner of Louisiana and Laurel. It's a cultivated look that's duplicated by the view when you enter. There's a sense of space that you get from the wall dividing the bar from the main dining room. The ceilings are as high as you'd expect in a New Orleans restaurant, and the wall between the rooms is made of mismatched window frames. It highlights the size of the room while keeping the scale intimate, if that makes sense.
All of which would be nice, but not particularly important if the food I had at Atchafalaya hadn't been so good. But it was, kids; it was. Check out the menus. Everything looks pretty good, right?
A special of watermelon gazpacho with crab was just a bit fizzy and delicious. Fried green tomatoes aren't exactly cutting edge, but when you top perfectly executed slices of unripe tomato with lump crab and a spot-on remoulade, you've got a classic. The duck confit was also done right; tender and unctuous over a white bean ragout with an onion marmalade that cut the richness a bit. I think it would have been a more effective dish had there been any of the rapini the menu said was included, but it was a good plate of food nonetheless. The free-form crab ravioli with a tomato buerre blanc and shiitake mushrooms was good as well, though at least in the portion served with the $20 three-course prix fixe menu it was a little scant. Rich, but a little scant.
That three-course menu is a good deal, by the way. Soup of the day or a house salad, a choice of a few entrées, and a dessert at that price, and with the quality on the plate at Atchafalaya is a no-brainer. There's a pretty good cocktail list and despite my handicap in these matters I thought the wine list was pretty swell too. I'd invite comment by those better equipped to judge, of course.
Go check this place out, kids, or I'll hunt you down and eat your pets.