I first got to try the food that the kids at Blue Giant were cooking at an event put on by New Orleans Magazine at the end of 2018. I went back to their station more than was proper but they had some absolutely delicious pork and shrimp dumplings and I am not apologizing.
They were supposed to open early in 2019. They did not, and there was a time when I feared it wouldn’t happen. Happily, they’ve started serving lunch and dinner in the Lower Garden District.
I was writing a week or two ago about “authenticity” and how it is over-valued as a concept. That applies here, to some extent. When I spoke back at the end of 2018 to Bill Jones and Richard Horner, the guys behind the restaurant, they made a point of saying that they wanted to cook Chinese-American food. They were talking about egg rolls, fried rice and lo mein noodles. Those are all options on their menu, but there’s a good bit more going on.
When I was a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the “Chinese” food I ate came from a shack on Veteran’s Highway called, and I am not kidding, “Takee Outee.” The food was fried and sweet and sour and salty and I was delighted every time we drove through and picked it up.
I’m unclear on the dates because I am old and my memory fails but not long thereafter a restaurant opened on Metairie Road called the Great Wall. It was a typical Chinese-American restaurant, but the owners were awesome and while there was very little a person born in China would recognize on the menu, the food was really very good.
When I was much older and had more experience with “authentic” Chinese cuisine, I remember asking the owners whether they’d consider doing more of that sort of food. They had no interest in it; American people don’t want to eat that sort of food, is essentially what they told me.
And they were almost certainly right. They served about as adventurous a menu as any restaurant in town, and they did it well. We did not have the market for much more than that at the time.
I will always credit the Great Wall for expanding my palate beyond what I’d experienced as a kid. It was a good restaurant, and I had more great meals there than just about any other place I’ve eaten.
Now if that sounds to you like I don’t know Chinese food, I do. I’ve since eaten great meals at Chinese restaurants here and elsewhere and I have studied regional Chinese cuisine to an extent that is a little embarrassing. I am the sort of man who sets a wok over lump charcoal in a chimney starter because that’s the only way I can get the heat necessary to properly stir-fry.
And yes, it may seem like a couple of guys who are not Chinese making explicitly “Chinese-American” food skews toward the hipster, but I am telling you that the shrimp and pork dumplings they were putting out at that event in 2018 were as good as those I’ve had at “authentic” Chinese restaurants from San Francisco to New York to Singapore. I don’t care if they’re hipsters if they make good food, and they do have a pretty good pedigree as alumni of restaurants such as Cochon and Coquette. They’re making everything from scratch, too, apparently and yes that’s über-hipster but get over it.
I don’t think these guys are cooking Chinese food ironically, but at the end of the day if the food is good, I don’t really care. I’ll report in more detail when I’ve had a chance to check it out, unless it sucks.
Have you been? Tell me what you thought in the comments, please?