You may not like brunch; most chefs don’t, but you cannot deny that it is popular. Some say that’s because the menu is generally accessible and easy to love. Others say it’s a great way to meet up with people you don’t want to see first thing in the morning on a weekend, with good food and a defined end point. I’m in the first camp, in that I like the food when it’s done well.
I am a bit behind on this, but Gris-Gris has a 5-day-a-week brunch thing going on at the restaurant. I was late getting to Gris-Gris for the first time, too. I was a fan of the restaurant it replaced, Square Root, and it took me a while to want to check out the Creole menu chef Eric Cook was offering at the new place.
It only took one abbreviated meal to convince me Cook is the real deal. I stopped in because I was in the neighborhood for some other reason, but I only had about 30 minutes. I ordered two dishes; I know one was pork belly and watermelon, and I believe the other was shrimp and grits. Both were outstanding, and subsequent visits have only confirmed my initial impression.
This is a chef who understands what makes a classic dish great. It takes that sort of understanding to create a version of a classic dish that’s yours, and that’s what Cook does.
Since I was last there, the menu seems to have changed a bit. I see chicken gizzard grillades and grits on the menu, and I would have remembered that dish because I want it very much. Cook’s chicken and dumplings are pretty fantastic too, though, and not a dish I get to eat very often.
The brunch menu has a few of the same entrees as the dinner menu, but adds a deviled egg steak salad and Cook’s version of eggs Benedict with oysters - two fried oysters over creamed spinach with a fried egg, Boursin cheese and hollandaise sauce.
A lot of thought goes into the cooking; the chicken gizzards are prepared sous vide for example, but at the end of the day this is straightforward, classic food done with aplomb. Take the Flambeaux shrimp: perfectly fried shrimp with a Crystal-honey-butter glaze/sauce over carrot, parsnip and mirliton slaw with Cajun caviar ranch dressing. It is a damn near perfect bite if you like that sort of thing. Whether that flavor combination is your cup of tea or not, the important thing to understand as a prospective diner is that each element of that dish and pretty much everything I’ve had there was done well.
Gris-Gris is located at 1800 Magazine Street, and is open Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (‘til 10 on Friday and Saturday). You can reach them at 504-272-0241.