Seoul Shack

Chef Dan Esses and Sophie Lee’s Frenchmen Street restaurant, Three Muses, has been a hit since it opened in August 2010. Blending great food and live music, the restaurant has always served at least one Korean dish to honor Lee’s mother, Moon, but at Seoul Shack, the restaurant Esses and Lee have opened in the Dragon’s Den at 435 Esplanade Ave., Korean food is the star.

Esses told me that most of the dishes are based on Lee’s mother’s recipes, but like any good chef he’s developed his own sense of the flavors and ingredients involved. The kimchee is made in-house at Seoul Shack, and soup-stew called kimchee-jigae is a perfect vehicle for the stuff. It is hot, spicy and full of tofu and chiles, in addition to the kimchee.

Bibimbap is another iconic Korean dish in which a number of simply prepared ingredients are served atop a bowl of rice. At Seoul Shack, Esses and chef de cuisine Matthew Stacy add carrots, cucumber, marinated sprouts, spinach and a sunny-side up egg, along with the spicy miso-like condiment gochujang. You can order the dish with grilled beef, pork or tofu. In the latter case, and without the egg, the dish is vegetarian; Seoul Shack’s menu has ample meat-free options.

As I write, the restaurant is open Thursdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m., but Esses said they were planning to open every day but Monday. For more information, call 417-6206.

Korean Star

Bao and Noodle

In October, Bao and Noodle opened in the Marigny at 2700 Chartres St. Chef Doug Crowell spent a number of years cooking at Herbsaint before opening a restaurant serving Chinese cuisine. The menu is tightly focused, with a half-dozen small plates and a similar number of more substantial dishes.

The restaurant’s name comes from two dishes featured prominently. Bao are typically steamed wheat flour buns with various fillings. Crowell does them two ways; in one version he first steams then fries the buns, leaving them with a crisp exterior and a light interior. They are also baked and filled with Chinese-style roast pork.

Ma Po Tofu is a Szechuanese tofu dish that was said to be Chairman Mao’s favorite. In most versions the chef adds a little ground pork to complement the soft cubes of tofu; at Bao and Noodle the pork is served in more substantial pieces and roasted rather than simply stir-fried. The sauce gets heat from both chile and Szechuan peppercorns, the latter of which leave a tingling sensation on the tongue that, if not used with restraint, can overwhelm the palate. Fortunately, Crowell knows what he’s doing, because he shows an admirably light hand in using the pepper in both the Ma Po Tofu and the spicy pork Dan Dan noodles.

Bao and Noodle is open seven days, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner. Call 272-0004 to find out more.

Korean Star

Awaiting a name

As I write, Robert LeBlanc’s planned Uptown restaurant lacks both a name and a chef. LeBlanc had planned to open the restaurant at 3607 Magazine St. late this year or early next, but when chef Alex Harrell (formerly of Sylvain) decided to open his own restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Stella!, LeBlanc decided to go back to the drawing board.

To his credit, LeBlanc has nothing but positive things to say about Harrell, without whom, he says, Sylvain would never have been successful. He credited Harrell with teaching him a great deal about operating a successful restaurant, and said he had no doubt that Harrell’s new place will be outstanding.

Still, as of this writing the restaurant LeBlanc was tentatively calling “Manor on Magazine” is in flux, despite the fact that LeBlanc has already cleared one hurdle that causes problems for many restaurateurs: obtaining a liquor license. LeBlanc told me that he is certain of two things; he’s definitely going forward with the restaurant, and the building is spectacular.

LeBlanc is a talented restaurateur and he’s already got some leads on a chef to replace Harrell, so I expect to enjoy the new place when it opens. LeBlanc says that could happen as early as May, but that September was more likely. Whenever it opens, you’ll undoubtedly be reading more about it here.