For the last several years, the overriding story about the restaurant scene in New Orleans has been the number of new places opening. That’s still true, of course, but now and again restaurants close as well.
This week, in one of my infrequent visits to Facebook, I saw that the Japanese restaurant Horinoya and the small bakery Rivista are closing. I like both of these places quite a lot, and I thought I’d write a bit about why.
I wrote about Rivista very shortly after it opened, on a tip from a friend who knew owners/chefs Lisa and Chris Barbato. I was blown away by the baked goods, particularly the tarts, whether sweet or savory. The shop’s location in the middle a the block of Napoleon that’s jam-packed with other businesses made it difficult to find parking after about 9:30 a.m., and I haven’t been in a few months. Fortunately, as I write this Rivista is still open; they won’t shutter until May 29, and they’ll still have a selection of baked goods (including some pretty kick-ass breakfast burritos) on Saturday’s at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market.
Horinoya, on the other hand, has already closed. About two weeks ago, I considered bringing some work to the sushi bar there, as I’ve done at least once every month or two for the last decade or so. I decided against it, and I certainly regret that decision now.
I developed an interest in sushi and other Japanese foods many years ago, and as is my habit in these things I ended up doing a lot of research on the topic. I’ve read a number of books on the topic generally and on how sushi restaurants became so popular in the U.S.; I have cookbooks that cover Japanese cuisine as a whole and on such esoteric topics as making quick pickles in the Japanese style.
I’ve also written about sushi restaurants, and stand by my advice that your best bet is to find one you like, sit at the sushi bar frequently and develop a relationship with the chef, so that he gets a sense of your palate and, if you like, can begin to introduce you to things you might not otherwise order. In my case, that restaurant is Kanno California Sushi, and the chef is Hide (“Elvis”) Suzuki.
But I work downtown, and now and again I would walk to Horinoya with something to work on while I sat at the sushi bar. I can’t say I developed a close relationship with chef Horimoto; about the most I could say is that his wife Mie, who served as the hostess, recognized me when I came in, but I always found the food to be outstanding. From the quality of the raw seafood to the texture of the rice that forms the basis of most sushi dishes, just about everything I tasted was spot-on.
At least, that is, to the extent I had any idea what “spot-on” meant in the context. Horinoya’s menu was more extensive than most, particularly in the dishes prepared by the kitchen, and there are a few things I wasn’t familiar enough with to judge whether they were just delicious, or also prepared “authentically.” I never really cared, to be honest.
When I heard the news about Horinoya, as I said, I was on Facebook, and I wrote on their wall, asking for an update if they open at another location. I got a pretty quick response, to the effect that they will, if they do decide to come back.
Hopefully both Rivista and Horinoya will be back; if so, I’ll do my best to make you aware.