July is a special month for Annunciation; it was one year ago that chef and co-owner Steve Manning opened the doors to his elegant new space. The cafeteria-style setup of the old Deanie’s Restaurant disappeared in the course of his renovation, replaced by a white-tablecloth destination which feels as if it could be just as easily tucked away in a quiet corner of Uptown rather than its location on the urban edge of the Warehouse District. Which isn’t surprising, considering Annunciation shares essential DNA with Clancy’s, where Manning spent more than 20 years at the helm.
Comparisons to Clancy’s are therefore inevitable, but they don’t paint the full picture. “I’m proud of Clancy’s,” Manning says, “But I think Annunciation is evolving away from the kind of work I did there. We are doing a lot of lighter dishes, and the menu format is different as well.” The smaller kitchen means that Manning can source from smaller purveyors that specialize in local ingredients and also gives him more flexibility to change up his menu. The result is a more expressive Creole restaurant that skews toward the soul food end of that spectrum, rather than the stuffier, more hide-bound direction of haute French-Creole cuisine.
For July, look for soft-shell crabs and speckled trout to rotate into the mix. Manning’s chicken Bonne Femme, an evergreen option, isn’t your typical afterthought chicken dish. An airline cut of chicken (half a chicken, boned except for the wing) gets seared skin-side down in clarified butter. The dish is finished in the oven, lifted out of the pan and flipped over and served on a bed of mushrooms, potatoes, bacon, garlic and herbs, along with a jus made from deglazing the pan. “The chicken doesn’t get moved once until it comes out of that pan,” Manning says.
The result is a tender and juicy cut of fowl with a heavenly crust of crispy skin.
Traditional Clancy’s fans will find lots on the menu as well, including Manning’s signature oysters and brie appetizer. Plump, sweet crabmeat makes an appearance in his excellent light crabmeat Ravigote salad. Because even though he’s moving in new directions, Manning has a clear vision of where he sees himself in the flood of new eateries that have swept over the city over the past few years.
“I think a lot of the places that are opening up are great, but they aren’t very ‘New Orleans’ places,” he says. “I think our customers kind of expect that we have that traditional New Orleans-Creole kind of cuisine.”