I don’t have the space in this column to give Emeril Lagasse the credit he deserves for promoting our food culture, and food culture generally, over the last two decades. It has been a while, though, since Emeril opened a restaurant in New Orleans; in September, the chef opened Meril at 424 Girod St. in the Warehouse District.
Chef Will Avelar is in charge of the kitchen; he’s a native New Orleanian and most recently sous chef at Delmonico. His menu at Meril is eclectic, with small plates dominating, and just about every item is under $20.
There are influences from all over the world. “Snacks” include shrimp and grilled pork spring rolls with mint; catfish tacos with mango slaw and piri piri crema; a buttermilk biscuit with foie gras butter and blackberry preserves; and house-made meatballs with buffalo mozzarella.
A wood oven puts out a few different flatbreads, including one with mortadella and green chile; pastas include fettucine nero with crabmeat, toasted almonds, Calabrian chile and argula; and fennel rigatoni with shrimp, broccoli, spicy Italian sausage and Pecorino cheese. Finally, there’s a robata grill for things like a hanger steak with black beans and a red chimichurri sauce, a daily fish preparation and chicken thighs with preserved lemon and pimentón.
Meril is located at 424 Girod St., and it’s open Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; and until 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Call 526-3745 to make a reservation.
Peruvian cuisine has been “up and coming” for a decade or so. I think it’s because the food is both exotic and relatable; the nation is renowned for ceviche, but seasoned mashed potatoes form the basis of its most iconic dish. It hasn’t taken off here as predicted, but I’m always happy to see another place I can eat causa, and even better if it’s only a few blocks from my home.
Cuzco adds to the restaurant revolution on Freret Street. It is a family-style place run by four friends – Luis “Lucho” Ampuero, Mirtha Gallegos, Monica Concha and Angelica Moscoso – all of whom were born in Peru. The kitchen puts out specials on a regular basis, with the result that Cuzco fairly represents the diversity of Peruvian cuisine. Ceviche, the aforementioned causa, is a dish of cool potato purée, generally flavored with aji chile and topped with various salads of seafood, chicken and/or vegetables. Some standards from South and Central America show up as well, such as arroz con pollo, but some, like Cuzco’s take on chicharrones, are somewhat different; at Cuzco they’re not just crispy pig skin, there’s a lot of meat involved and the result is delicious.
Cuzco’s small dining room seats about 35, and they’re considering adding sidewalk tables to increase their capacity. The restaurant is located at 4714 Freret St. and is open Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon-3 p.m., and 5-8 p.m.; and on Sundays noon-4 p.m. Call 345-2884 to learn more.
Susan Spicer is one of the best chefs in New Orleans, and so the news that she planned to open a third restaurant (after flagship Bayona and Lakeview casual Mondo) comes as good news to anyone who loves to eat in the Crescent City. The new venture, which opened fully Oct. 19, is Rosedale, named for the street on which it’s located.
Like Mondo, Rosedale will be a fairly casual affair, fitting for its semi-residential setting. Chef Spicer told me she wants it to be a neighborhood place. Brett Duffee will be the executive chef, moving from the same position at Bayona to open the place. The menu focuses on New Orleans and Louisiana home cooking, with items such as duck and andouille gumbo with German potato salad; turtle soup with spinach dumplings and an egg mimosa; rosemary barbecue shrimp; and fried oysters with celery root slaw showing up as appetizers. Larger plates include a cochon de lait poor boy with hot mustard and fried pickles; panéed pork chops with pink eye peas and hot peach mustard; and lemon-herb grilled chicken thighs with olives, red bliss potatoes and tzatziki sauce.
The restaurant is located at 801 Rosedale Drive, and is open Wednesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-’til; I suspect the “’til” doesn’t mean 3 or 4 a.m., but I was told they don’t want to hedge their bets at this point. You can call 309-9595 to get a better idea of their closing time.