Newly Found Places
AJ&J Asian Bistro, Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House and Latitude 29
AJ&J Asian Bistro
AJ&J Asian Bistro opened earlier this summer at 2240 Magazine St. The location is just down the block and across the street from Stein’s Deli and District Donuts and Sliders, which is how I noticed it many months ago when the place was still under construction. (I end up at either District or Stein’s once every couple of weeks, those places are outstanding.)
AJ&J is, in my experience, that rare restaurant that can pull off “pan-Asian” cooking. The sushi menu is fairly serious, by which I mean they offer things like sea urchin, toro, abalone and live scallop, and also that some of those things are not always available. Unless you’re paying close to $200 per person, you don’t want a sushi restaurant where the entire menu is always available – you want the fish to be fresh, and that means they’ll run out of things from time to time. If you like rolls, they have those, too, in an abundance of varieties.
The restaurant also serves Chinese and Thai food, with an emphasis on stir-fried, curries and noodle dishes. AJ&J is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and until 9 p.m. on Sundays. Call 609-2282 to find out more, including whether you are in the restaurant’s delivery area – they deliver to customers within 2 miles.
Latitude 29 was born at Tales of the Cocktail, the international celebration of spirits that takes place every July. Tales is why Tiki cocktail expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry first came to New Orleans, and when he did, he and his wife Annene stayed at the Bienville House hotel. Berry had been looking for a place to open a bar and restaurant, and when Iris closed earlier this year he found it.
The restaurant is still a work in progress, but it should be open and serving tropical cocktails and southeast Asian food this month. Berry picked Chris Shortall to be the executive chef, which at first blush would seem to be an odd pick, but Shortall is versatile; he’s worked locally at two of the best restaurants in New Orleans – August and Coquette – and has a background in Thai cooking as well.
I have no inside knowledge of the business end of things, of course, but I have a great fondness for Berry’s approach to both cocktails and food. I will be there when the place opens and will update you as to the experience. I hope there are enough people like me to make the place a success.
Latitude 29 is, as noted above, located in the Bienville House hotel at 321 N. Peters St. No hours or phone number as yet.
Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House
I frequently get asked by people staying in the French Quarter for a recommendation along these lines: “Someplace we can get New Orleans food, but not too expensive and nothing fancy.” There are a lot of places along those lines in the French Quarter, but not all that many I’d recommend. So I was pleased to stumble across Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House at 512 Bienville St. recently.
The restaurant is a fairly narrow space carved out of a former parking garage in a luxury condominium building, with about 35 seats on the first floor and another 60 or so on the second. There is an open kitchen at the rear of the first-floor dining room and full bars on both levels. Mr. Ed’s restaurant empire (including the first iteration of this restaurant on 21st Street in Metairie) is built on consistently good food, and the new place doesn’t need to break culinary ground to be successful. There are a few different char-broiled oyster preparations, boiled and fried seafood, poor boys and a seafood muffuletta, and red beans with sausage, fried catfish or stuffed crab.
Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., though those hours may be extended. Call 309-4848 to make sure.