Though I’m an enthusiastic cook, by the time August rolls around I want nothing to do with a heat belching oven, roiling liquid in a hot pot or even hot food. I am in the mood for cool, refreshing soups, crisp salads, light vegetable-forward sandwiches, raw anything (pretty much) and fresh sushi. How fortuitous for me: I have plenty of company in my seasonal culinary aversions and New Orleans is loaded with spots at which I may indulge my passion for cold fare.
To enter Haiku on Magazine Street one must first cross a covered, raised outdoor porch to reach the entrance. The intimate, jewel-like interior pretty much lacks natural light and is, instead, subtly lit to reflect the tiny metallic flecks in the stone counter of the sushi bar, and hung with serene art. The overall effect is c-o-o-l. I go here when I want to forget there’s a hot, powerful sun shining outside.
The extensive menu includes hibachi options and delicious house-made ramen offered with choices of tonkatsu, kansu, shoyu and miso broths – all of which I enjoy but currently eschew in favor of fresh unadorned slices sashimi and inventive rolls, my favorite being the White Ninja combining yellowtail and transparent slices of both lemon and jalapeño with a splash of Ponzu sauce.
At Luvi the indigo-and-white wallpaper that looks like undulating snow-capped mountains rendered in Batik is enough to remove me from the blast of heat outside. In the afternoon it’s quiet and cool, the perfect backdrop for chef Hao Gong’s “Feed Me” menus, one of which is all raw and cold, the other a combination of raw and cooked – none of which is piping hot, and, therefore acceptable under our extreme atmospheric conditions. Both of the menus are constantly changing but offerings may include Shanghai Bund, one of those concoctions of seemingly disparate ingredients – paper thin slices of yellowtail, crisp green apple, Manchego, vinegar soy and basil oil – that Gong is known for bringing together with a brilliant magic touch. Other stow stoppers that may make an appearance of the Feed Me are Sunny D (salmon, Asian pear, seasoned soy and basil seeds), Light of Summer 12 (thin pieces of salmon, whitefish, Pink Lady apple, cucumber, yuzu-Creole vinegar and Matcha powder) or Bottoms Up 12 (Gulf tuna, pink dragon fruit and spicy sesame soy sauce).
I am definitely not cool enough to be a regular at Hoshun, the sleek Asian-fusion money machine in the LGD, but the rivers of metal, cold stone counters and low ambient lighting beckoned me in from the outdoors where it felt like a big dog was breathing on me. Cold and raw foods abound on the extensive menu: Tuna Tataki (seared rare tuna drizzles with ponzu and scattered with scallions) Yellowtail Jalapeño (yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño salsa) Beef Tataki (rare ribeye with ponzu and scallions) and cucumber salad with sesame and soy.
Oh, so refreshing.
808 Bienville St., 581-3567, GWFins.com
4430 Magazine St., 301-0850, HaikuNola.com
1601 St. Charles Ave., 302-9716, HoshunRestaurant.com
5236 Tchoupitoulas St., 605-3340, LuviRestaurant.com
Speaking of cool, chef Tenney Flynn of GW Fins (New Orleans’ answer to Eric Rippert and his Le Bernadin in New York City) will release his long awaited ground-breaking seafood cookbook, The Deep End of Flavor: Recipes and Stories from New Orleans’ Premier Seafood Chef, on August 15.
“As fearless as my restaurant guests have become in ordering fish they’ve never heard of, most people are often skittish about cooking fish at home,” Flynn said. “It’s perishable, delicate and generally more expensive than other proteins. I want to ease those fish-cooking phobias forever.”
As an avid diver and spear fisher who’s licensed to serve what he catches, Flynn is especially passionate about encouraging consumers to open their minds beyond the better known – and often overfished – species. A Georgia native, Flynn’s recipes meld his life-long love of Southern cooking and appreciation for the flavors of his adopted Louisiana home with his passion for the flavors of countries he’s visited, including Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico.