Restaurant Insider: Open Wide!
As I write this in late January, I haven’t yet received the many gifts I expect from you, dear readers, on the occasion of my birthday on March 7. Please don’t send me additional copies of An Idiot’s Guide to Food Writing. I don’t need to read it again; I live it.
January saw the opening of yet another outpost in the growing empire of John Besh restaurants. Borgne, in the Hyatt Regency downtown (601 Loyola Ave.), is primarily a spot for local seafood, but executive chef Brian Landry’s menu is extensive enough that even diners who prefer meat or poultry can find something to order. Landry was most recently the executive chef at Galatoire’s and Galatoire’s Bistro in Baton Rouge, but when the Bistro closed to relocate closer to the center of the capital, Landry was left with only the classic Creole grande dame as a location for his cooking. At Borgne, Landry is still grounded in local traditions, but he’s able to innovate in a way he couldn’t at Galatoire’s. He tops pompano, for example, with a sauce of garlic, tomatoes, hazelnuts and croutons, and serves sheepshead en papillote over caramelized onion and fennel with a sauce enriched by crab fat. It is a promising start and, with the consistency for which Besh restaurants are known, Borgne should be a success. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and you can call 613-3860 for further details.
Superior Seafood, a cousin to the Superior Grill mini-chain of Mexican restaurants, has opened at the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon avenues. That corner has been dormant since Hurricane Katrina forced the closure of the Copeland’s restaurant that had occupied it for years, and it’s nice to see some activity there. The restaurant’s menu is based in the tradition of French bistro cooking, and a good bit more sophisticated than one might expect from the “Superior” name. The restaurant is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, until 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and until midnight Friday and Saturday. Call 293-3474 to make a reservation.
Manning’s Restaurant (519 Fulton St.), a partnership between the Manning family and Harrah’s Casino, has opened. The restaurant joins spots including Gordon Biersch, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, 7 On Fulton and Grand Isle on the downtown pedestrian mall. Manning’s executive chef Anthony Spizale is from New Orleans, and the restaurant’s menu combines local flavors with sports bar standards such as burgers, potato skins, cheese fries and chili. Spizale was the executive chef at the Rib Room for years before leaving for a brief stint at the Upperline. He is a talented and creative chef, and hopefully Manning’s will take advantage of his abilities. There are signs that’s the case: The cheese fries are a version of the Québécois dish poutine, with the fries topped with pulled pork, pepper jelly gravy and cheese curds; the potato skins are made with sweet potatoes and stuffed with goat cheese, bacon marmalade and green onions. There is also a take on jambalaya that adds braised beef short ribs and a zinfandel reduction to the classic dish. Manning’s appears committed to using local ingredients and there’s a decent selection of regional beers and New Orleans-style cocktails. It will be interesting to see whether the sum of all these parts will add up to something more than the sports bar suggested by the décor and the 30 or so flat-screen televisions that line the walls.
Johnny V’s chef Ryan Hughes
The saga of Johnny V’s (6116 Magazine St.) attracted a great deal of attention in 2011. I wrote about the restaurant while it was still under construction in the January 2011 issue of this magazine, but its opening was delayed by a dispute over permitting and complaints from neighbors. The issues mainly involved the dearth of parking spaces in the area, even with an agreement apparently in place for the after-hours use of local clothier Perlis’ parking lot. The restaurant finally opened to the public on Jan. 25. That was good news for those of us who came to appreciate chef Ryan Hughes’ cooking during his six-year stay at Café Degas, and for those of us who’ve missed former Clancy’s maître d’ Nash Laurent’s affable presence in the front of a restaurant. Johnny V’s is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. As I write the hours aren’t set in stone, but Hughes told me he anticipates service running from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Call 899-4880 to learn more.