The long, hot season is upon us, friends, and if that doesn’t make you pine for the unusually cold winter we had in New Orleans, then you’re like my wife, who far prefers the heat. This month also marks a milestone for me: my son turns 13. He is a fantastic kid and it appears that I’m going to be spared the difficulties typical of having a teenager in the home for a while yet. Indeed, he’s reaching the age where he’s interested in food, which is nice, because my 2-year-old daughter has just reached the age where we can’t take her to a restaurant and expect to actually sit for a meal. If my prior experience is a guide, she’ll be capable of sitting reasonably still again sometime in 2018.
Justin LeBlanc is the owner and chef at Bevi Seafood Co. I first heard his name, and about the restaurant, from a friend whose judgment I trust – not least because he works in a couple of the city’s best restaurants. LeBlanc came from that end of the industry as well, having worked at Peristyle, Chateaubriand and the Southern Yacht Club. You won’t find white tablecloths or other trappings of high-end dining at Bevi, but what you will find is attention to detail and care with ingredients.
Everything on the menu at Bevi is made in-house, apart from the stuffed artichokes and the tamales. Though he’s expanded the staff since opening in December 2013, it’s still a fairly lean operation and those two labor-intensive specialties are usually better farmed out anyway.
When I visited for the first time, LeBlanc told me that because quality crabs weren’t available at the time (mid-April), he wasn’t serving them. “Don’t do it if it’s not good,” was the way he put it. That isn’t necessarily a good business model in the short term, but if you never serve sub-par food, it’s much more likely you’ll get folks to return.
Bevi is located at 4701 Airline Drive, between Clearview and Transcontinental boulevards; it was a boiled seafood joint when LeBlanc took over, and apart from a few updates to the signage and photographs in the inside, that’s still what it is at heart.
Bevi is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; until 8 p.m. on Fridays; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Call them at 885-5003 to find out what’s cooking now.
On my first visit to Oak Oven, I ran into two friends who live in River Ridge. When I asked, they seemed as excited about the location as the meal.
Oak Oven takes its name from the wood-fired oven that’s central to the food, starting with the pizzas. Those run from the standard – tomato-basil, pepperoni, four cheese and sausage and peppers – as well as a few more interesting options such as lamb meatball with chile and ricotta, shrimp, crab and artichoke with oregano and a vegetarian option with spinach, arugula, portobello and thyme.
A lot of those same ingredients show up on sandwiches available at lunch served on ciabatta. Fresh pastas are made in-house and include fettucine Alfredo and frattura with grilled mushrooms, arugula, pine nuts and feta. The panéed veal comes with the Alfredo, but the restaurant was willing to substitute the frattura for a small upcharge.
That veal, a highlight of the entrée portion of the menu, was excellent, with a crisp brown exterior encasing tender meat. Veal is also prepared à la Parmigiano and Piccata, and there’s a wood-grilled New York strip with rosemary, sage, garlic and fried potatoes. Gulf fish topped with crabmeat, mushrooms and a white wine-butter sauce is served alongside angel hair pasta with Sicilian pesto.
The place is casual despite the relative sophistication of the food. There is a short wine list and beers include selections from Abita and Bayou Teche breweries as well as standard domestics and Peroni, an Italian import.
Oak Oven is located at 6625 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, and you can call 305-4039 to find out more.
Haifa opened in March in a space that was once a gas station, and the food is better than you’d expect from a place that seems to focus as much on hookah service as food.
The hookahs are central to the operation, which under the name Hookah Café was located at the corner of S. Carrollton and Cleveland streets, not far from its current address at 4740 Canal St.
The menu at Haifa is Turkish, a cuisine that’s not all that common in New Orleans. Appetizers of note include borek, in which cheese and sometimes meat are wrapped in light phyllo-type dough before being baked or fried. There is a paste of red pepper, walnut and feta cheese that’s offered as the “Haifa Special” on the menu, and a very smoky take on baba ganouj.
The majority of the menu doesn’t stray far from the standards at local Mediterranean joints, but the large menu has more depth than I’ve seen at like operations.
Haifa is open Sundays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.; you can call them at 309-7719.