This evening I dined with my wife on the occasion of her birthday.

We have been very busy the last few weeks, so the chance to go out on our own, even briefly, was welcome. My folks had offered to watch the kids, but circumstances intervened, and they had to be out of town. Our friend Sarah offered to take their place, and all that left was for me to figure out where to go.

That’s a complicated question for me, for a number of reasons. First, there are a lot of restaurants that are only open for dinner, and since most of the meals I eat outside of the home are during lunch, I have a hard time visiting such places.

Last week was the first time I’ve actually eaten at Sac A Lait, for example, despite the fact that I’d toured the place and interviewed the chefs. (Great place, great kids, and it was an excellent meal, by the way). I’ve yet to make it to Carrollton Market or Cava, despite the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things about both and that the guy who runs the latter, Danny Milan, is one of my favorite people.

Until tonight, I’d also not been to MeauxBar, or at least not since my friends Matt and Jim sold it. Kristen Essig is the chef there now, and I like her food, so I thought it would be a good place for the event. I was right.

We didn’t make it past the snacks and small plates section of the menu.

Snacks: fried chickpeas – very good to start with a cocktail. Pork belly rillettes – also very good; served with chicharones and a sweet pepper-jelly sauce. Could have used some bread.

Small Plates: goat cheese tart – fantastic, flaky crust with a nicely tart-sweet wine-infused topping of onions and cheese with a couple of boquerones as a salty lagniappe; Louisiana crab & peach salad – quinoa as a base, with crisp haricots vertes as a textural element and a lot of smoke flavor from the dressing. Big pieces of crab and large slices of peach worked better than that sounds on your screen.

Pork belly & scallop may have been the best thing I tasted. There were a half-dozen or so rectangular pieces of (I assume) braised pork belly, and 3 or 4 golden coin-sized pieces of fried scallop, over a slightly spicy, slightly sweet dressing that included cashew nuts, kimchi and citrus. Finally, sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and served over a blueberry jus with a slice or two of curried zucchini bread topped with goat cheese. Damn fine stuff, all of it.

I’m glad we had the chance to eat at Meauxbar again, and I’m glad to see chef Essig is knocking it out of the park. I wish I thought I’d have the chance to go back in the near future, but alas. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check the joint out, though I’d recommend a reservation. Call 569-9979 to do that, or to find out more about the place.



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