I was enamored of Luvi, the restaurant Chef Hao Gong opened on Tchoupitoulas Street a few years ago, but I wasn’t entirely sure it would survive. The place is not exactly on the beaten path and I had my doubts about whether Chef Gong’s ambitious food would find enough patrons that he could make a run of it.
So, when I visited recently on a weeknight and saw that the place was packed I was very happy both for Chef Gong and New Orleans, generally, because I love the fact that we are a city that can support a place like Luvi.
Luvi is outstanding, kids. This is a place run by a man who knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well. Chef Gong is from China, but he worked in Japanese restaurants in the U.S. before opening Luvi.
There is raw fish on the menu at Luvi, and while it’s not necessarily what you’d expect from a sushi restaurant, it’s outstanding stuff. Take the yellowtail snapper with apple, soy, basil oil and Manchego cheese on a Japanese menu. Is it traditional? No, but is it delicious? Yes.
Then there’s the Malla Holla, which is one of the best reasons to visit Luvi. It’s a classic Chinese preparation in which a beef shank is deboned and braised in an aromatic broth and served with Szechuan peppercorn – the “ma” means “numbing,” which is what those peppercorns do, and there’s some heat from ghost peppers in the dressing, and the whole thing is something you should taste for yourself.
I will say the same thing about the “Golden Nuggets,” which are fried balls of shrimp and if that does not sound good to you then you are either my wife or a fool. This is the sort of place where things that are fried are fried properly, where the outside is crispy and the interior is tender and juicy.
I’m running out of superlatives at this point, but Mama’s dumplings are great too; pork and cabbage and toothsome wrappers in a soy broth.
I do not get to visit many restaurants frequently, because my remit is to write about new restaurants, generally and I cook more often than I dine out. I will be back to Luvi, though, because it’s a place that would be a standout in any city in the country and we’re goddamn lucky to have it here.
If you haven’t been, go.
Thus endeth the lesson.