Restaurant Insider: Irish Eyes Are Smiling

New Orleans has an abundance of Irish bars, but until recently there was not a great deal of Irish food. That changed in August, when chef Matt Murphy opened the Irish House (1432 St. Charles Ave.) in the former home of upscale Mexican restaurant Taqueros/Coyoacan. The interior décor now reflects Murphy’s homeland, but the open, airy feel of the space remains.

The Irish House is open every day from 7 a.m. until midnight, and the menus reflect Murphy’s Irish heritage as well as his fine-dining background. The breakfast menu, which is available all day, includes a full Irish breakfast – two sunny-side-up eggs, rashers, Irish sausage, black and white puddings, baked beans, roasted mushrooms, grilled tomato and potato hash. Daily lunch specials include chicken curry with mushrooms and chips (excellent hand-cut fries) on Tuesdays, and a burger with Irish cheddar, bacon and garlic sauce on Thursdays. Guinness beef stew and shepherd’s pie are available daily, and both are hearty and excellent renditions.

Dinner is where Murphy’s fine-dining background is most in evidence. A slow-cooked lamb belly over a green onion polenta cake with mint sauce and the fig-and-brie-stuffed duck breast over a purée of celery root with caramelized zucchini relish and sour cherry-brandy sauce are exemplars of the menu. Irish cuisine is still available on the bar menu, served until midnight, which is more typical of “pub food.” In addition to fish and chips, you can order bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), bacon and cheese croquettes with onion marmalade, and the aforementioned chips with curry sauce, garlic mayonnaise, melted cheddar cheese or onion gravy.

From the consistently good meals I’ve had at the Irish House, and from the relatively full house each time I’ve been there, I’m confident that Murphy will make a go of things. He is a talented chef, serving both great comfort food and ambitious fine-dining cuisine in a welcoming atmosphere. Call 595-6755 to learn more.

Company Burger (4600 Freret St.) opened in August, adding to both the plethora of restaurants within a dozen blocks on that street, and to the number of burger joints in New Orleans generally. There are four burgers on the menu, including the Company – two patties, bread and butter pickles, American cheese and red onions – and a few other items, including the “cornhog,” a cornmeal batter-crusted pork belly on a stick. If that doesn’t sound good, I’m not sure there’s hope for you. Company Burger is open every day but Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 267-0320 to speak to them.

Merchant is set to open in the Maritime Building of condominiums (800 Common St.) in the CBD. The menu, designed by Neal Bodenheimer of Cure, is based on the concept “coffee.crepes.grapes” (sic) and will feature small plates, sandwiches and salads. Merchant will also have the only Illy espresso service in New Orleans and will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant has not opened as I write, but you can reach the Maritime at 522-4555.

For the last several years, GW Fins (808 Bienville St.) has been offering a three-course lobster menu, and this year the meal is available until Oct. 29. Choices for the appetizer include fried lobster with a Vietnamese glaze or creamy lobster risotto; some options for the second course are lobster salad with mango, papaya and avocado or lobster bisque, and diners can choose among entrées such as baked lobster with deviled crabmeat or flash-fried lobster poor boy with Crystal butter.

The meal is $47, not including tax and tip. GW Fins is open Monday through Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Call 581-3467 for reservations or more information.

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