Restaurant Insider

New Orleans hasn’t, until fairly recently, been the kind of place where you’d find “mixologists” behind the bar of your local watering hole. But now there are a couple of relatively new local joints where you can find inventive drinks prepared with care, and food to match.

CURE (4905 Freret St.) is the most recent addition to the cocktail-centric bar scene. While I wrote about it some time back, it’s worth another look because in addition to the cocktails, CURE is serving Chef Jason McCullar’s food. McCullar was most recently the sous chef at One Restaurant, and he’s worked previously at Clancy’s, Herbsaint and Delachaise. Here, he focuses on small plates; some standouts include the rich and delicious duck liver crostini and the pork spare rib “pinchos” that are finger-licking good.

Clever, (3700 Orleans Ave.) the bar attached to Cork & Bottle, is also known for its cocktails. Recently, Chef Dan Esses has been serving tapas on Tuesday nights. Chef Esses has also started a company that, in addition to tapas, makes fresh pasta and sauces for retail sale that you can currently find at the Tuesday Farmers Market Uptown, and by the time you read this, also at Cork & Bottle and a great little wine shop called Swirl (3143 Ponce de Leon St.).

The Windsor Court’s Grill Room was once the finest restaurant in New Orleans. In the recent past its standards had fallen off and the restaurant was a shadow of its former self, even jettisoning the name “Grill Room” for a while. Recently the hotel brought in a new general manager, David Teich; a food and beverage director, Hector Rubio; and Sara Kavanaugh as director of the Grill Room and Polo Club Lounge. Most importantly, the Grill Room has a new chef, Drew Dzejak.

Dzejak, who was most recently executive chef at Charleston Place, in Charleston, S.C., mixes the ambition of a top-class chef with a grounding in local and Southern regional cuisine.

The Grill Room’s current menu is divided into four sections: Southern, Unadulterated, Steakhouse and Indulge. Southern is, I hope, self-explanatory.

The Unadulterated section includes “lighter” choices, such as grilled asparagus with Bibb lettuce, a sunny side up egg, pancetta and a lemon emulsion, or Florida Pompano served with a watercress salad, Gulf rock shrimp and white balsamic vinaigrette. That section also includes one of my current favorites, butter-poached shrimp and grilled king crab with blood orange oil and orange segments. It may seem odd to call anything butter-poached “light,” but it worked out on the plate.

The Steakhouse portion of the menu is heavy on the beef, but with the kind of upscale focus in which a prime New York strip steak paired with butter-poached lobster fits right in. Indulge is where you’ll find lobster again, but this time paired with foie gras and an entrée that combines filet mignon, foie gras potato puree, short ribs and spinach into a decadent, rich entrée.

I went into my dinner at the Grill Room a skeptic, and emerged a fan of chef Dzejak; I have a feeling you will too.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? E-mail Peyton:

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