From new chefs to the latest culinary creations, dining destinations around the city offer new experiences for guests in the New Year.
In keeping with the spirit of a new year, local restaurants are highlighting new menus, concocting new dishes and bringing in new chefs to dazzle customers and keep them coming back for more. Carnival season is the definitive time to “eat, drink and be merry,” so we’ve laid out some suggestions for you to try as you expand your food and beverage horizons. From new restaurants to new dishes at old favorites, there are plenty of options for tempting your taste buds with a variety of unique flavors from around the city.
Arnaud’s (813 Rue Bienville, 523-5433, ArnaudsRestaurant.com) has been a New Orleans tradition since 1918. For generations, the restaurant has offered top-notch Creole cuisine in the heart of the French Quarter. This year, Arnaud’s invites you to liven up your Mardi Gras tradition with a visit to the bar or dining room, where they’re featuring a new Carnival cocktail, the Batida Carnival. This decadently sweet concoction combines Cachaça (a liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice), Crème de Mure (a blackberry liqueur), Orgeat syrup, lime juice and condensed milk.
If the famous Shrimp Arnaud or Oysters Arnaud appetizers aren’t new to you, owner Katy Casbarian recommends trying something you won’t find on many other local menus. “Our smoked pompano appetizer is really delicious, and not something others do,” she says. The fresh Gulf pompano is hickory smoked and accompanied by sour cream, capers and onions. For unique entrées, Casbarian recommends the Frog Legs Provençal or the Sweetbreads Sins.
Café b (2700 Metairie Road, Metairie, 934-4700, cafeb.com), a Ralph Brennan restaurant located in charming Old Metairie, invites guests in the New Year to “Eat better, drink better, and ‘b’ better.” Their b4 Sunset menu runs from 5 to 6:15 p.m. and offers diners a relaxing and delicious three-course meal for only $18.50. Choices include the Chilled Wedge Salad, Harris Ranch Hanger Steak and Lemon Ice Box Pie. Try a new beverage at café b with tableside wine tasting on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., and complimentary cocktail tastings on Wednesday nights. Make it for happy hour (3 to 6 p.m.) and enjoy the highlighted libations at the specialty price of $5.
Café b and the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group encourage all to “’b’ better” this year as they support the local community and various charities with continued corporate giving and support.
Perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to spend more time together as a family. Studies have shown there are benefits to dining together, and Byblos (five local locations, visit ByblosRestaurants.com for details) is making it easier than ever with new family-style appetizer samplers and combination plates. From creamy hummus and baba ghanuj to lamb, chicken and beef kabobs, Byblos’ fantastic Mediterranean fare adds color and variety to the local food scene.
The 3218 Magazine St. location now offers small and large appetizer samplers, a great way to expose you and your loved ones to a vast array of flavors. Another new appetizer is the Gyro Nachos, fried pita wedges covered in tzatziki, feta, tomatoes, onions and gyro meat. For a sure-to-please entrée option, owner Tarek Tay recommends family-style combination kabob plates which offer their succulent mixed grill meats and sides served in portions for two or four.
Dave Bridges, new head chef at Upperline Restaurant (1413 Upperline St., 891-9822, Upperline.com), enjoys infusing traditional Louisiana cuisine with flavors and cooking methods from all over the world to create dishes that are out of this world. “Dave’s goal and mine is to keep our menu a little in the past and a little in the future,” says owner JoAnn Clevenger. “We’re inspired by Creole traditions yet very interested in modern influences from around the world.” Bridges dovetails New Orleans foods with progressive ideas, as evidenced in his version of cassoulet, a traditional French dish of white beans served with sausage or pork. Bridges instead creates a duck confit to accompany the beans and serves the simple yet flavorful dish with Upperline’s own pecan brioche bread.
“There are a lot of great restaurants in this city that would be great in any city. I’m trying to make Upperline the kind of place where it’s great in its uniqueness to New Orleans, not forgetting the traditions of the city or its ingredients,” says Bridges. Bridges’ new menu items are consistently updated, but you can always find Upperline’s classic dishes on the menu as well.
Ever feel like you want one of everything on the menu? Restaurants such as Salú (3226 Magazine St., 371-5809, SaluRestaurant.com) offer you the ability to practically do just that by serving dishes tapas-style. Each small plate is packed with flavor, and guests choose from a variety of hot and cold dishes. Salú’s winter menu offers plates ranging from Abita-Braised Beef Short Ribs served with sundried tomato polenta and pea tendrils to Lobster Macaroni, a decadent combination of gruyere cheese sauce, panko and tempura green onions. Another favorite at Salú is the Pork Wellington, served with mushroom duxelle, spinach and a brandy-peppercorn cream.
The flavors don’t stop with the food, however. All of Salú’s drinks are made from house-made mixes, and Wine Spectator just awarded the restaurant the prestigious Award of Excellence. Salú satisfies late-night appetites by staying open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
An early Mardi Gras means a cold Mardi Gras, and Drew Dzejak, Executive Chef of The Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 523-6000, GrillRoomNewOrleans.com) suggests warming up with a savory soup or stew. “Slow braised meats are what I wait all summer for,” says Dzejak, who created The Grill Room’s Beef Short Rib Stew. By enhancing the ingredients of a traditional beef stew, Dzejak heightens the flavor with bone-in short ribs and fresh herbs.
Another winter favorite at The Grill Room is the Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast with Butternut Squash Purée, Braised Red Cabbage and Huckleberry Sauce. Dzejak crafted this dish with texture and flavor in mind, contrasting the crispy duck skin with the silkiness of the purée. The huckleberry and soft red wine sauce adds an element of sweetness, yet none of the ingredients overpowers the flavor of the duck.
For a casual soup, sandwich or snack experience in the French Quarter, Antoine’s Annex (513 Royal St., 525-8045, antoines.com), offers fresh daily options, delicious coffees and tasty treats. New pastry chef Jerry Cornwell’s menu includes daily soups, such as Roasted Tomato Bisque and French Onion, and sandwiches, such as Chicken Salad and Roasted Turkey. Pastries include a variety of rich croissants, mini quiches, cream puffs, éclairs and Viennese pastries with fresh fruit.
Antoine’s Annex is only a few steps into the French Quarter and presents a great spot for breakfast and lunch, or a quick yet satisfying snack. Antoine’s covers all the bases for fantastic meals between Antoine’s Annex and the famous traditional Creole cuisine of Antoine’s Restaurant, located just around the corner.
In June of this year, chef Susan Spicer of Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 525-4455, bayona.com) is offering a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience to food-lovers looking for adventure. Spicer is hosting a nine-day trip to Spain, revisiting her favorite destinations from Barcelona to San Sebastian. Get to know Chef Spicer one-on-one as you tour, taste, shop, learn and cook your way across this gorgeous country rich with history and flavor.
“One of the best and simplest tapas dishes that I learned on my first trip to Spain in (19)95 was Gambas al Ajillo, a shrimp dish with sherry and pimentón, the spicy, smoked paprika found in many Spanish dishes,” says Spicer, who exhibits her “buy local, cook global,” philosophy with her acclaimed dishes at Bayona. For more information on Spicer’s invitation to Spain, visit EpicureanWays.com.
For Latin flavor here at home, Santa Fe Tapas (1327 St. Charles Ave., 304-9915, SantaFeTapas.com) on St. Charles Avenue makes a great dining destination. Santa Fe Tapas constantly keeps things new with their fresh approach to cooking. A quick run-through of all things new include a special Mardi Gras food and drink menu (perfect for parade days on St. Charles Avenue), a new bar menu, extended tapas and new main courses including Rioja-braised Beef Short Ribs, Spice-roasted Duck Breast and fresh daily fish options. Santa Fe Tapas welcomes vegans and vegetarians with flavorful new entrees and tapas, and on Saturdays, they offer a Vegan and Non Vegan Jazz Brunch.
Also new to Santa Fe Tapas is Chef Chris Smedly, who now joins Executive Chef Mario Abdu in Santa Fe’s creative kitchen. They invite you every first Thursday of the month for a wine evening that includes six wines, each carefully paired with a “tapita.”
For GW Fins (808 Bienville St., 581-3467, GWFins.com), “new” means “fresh.” For the best possible flavors, chefs at GW Fins serve items at their seasonal peak. Because items frequently move off and on the menu, GW Fins prints a new one every day.
With quality oysters in abundance this year, Chef Tenney Flynn assures us that the Cold-Smoked Sizzling Oysters will be available throughout the month. The oysters are cold-smoked and dipped in a rich garlic butter sauce before the shells are heated to a very high temperature. The oysters then cook in their shells as they make their way to the table. Chef Flynn also recommends the Crab Potstickers, one of GW Fins’ newest and most popular appetizers, which is served with a creamy peashoot butter.
Hungry yet? Thanks to New Orleans’ diverse culinary scene, no matter your appetite or dining preferences, there’s a restaurant nearby that has you covered. Indulge in the season this Mardi Gras, and treat yourself to something new.