Southern Innovations

Photo courtesy of Robert Peyton

Boucherie is a restaurant to which I return frequently. I’ve become friendly with James Denio and chef Nathaniel Zimet, though whether that’s because I’m a regular customer or because I’ve written about them in the past,  I can’t say. I hope none of you fine people think that I would let friendship color my views of a restaurant, but I mention it in the interest of full disclosure.

The restaurant has only been open around three years, but it rivals the best and most established operations in New Orleans for consistently good food. Zimet’s cooking generated serious buzz when he first opened. He cooks an imaginative style of food with roots in the rural cooking of the southern United States but with influences from many other cuisines. Mussels served over slow-cooked greens and served with crackers made from grits pair a staple of French bistro cooking with unmistakably Southern elements. Pulled pork cakes over confit potatoes with purple cabbage slaw and smoked Wagyu beef brisket with garlic-Parmesan fries both hearken to Zimet’s love of barbecue, but his presentation is more suited to white tablecloths than the paper plates and plastic utensils you might otherwise associate with such smoked and slow-cooked meats.

Some months ago, Zimet’s deviations from the Southern repertoire were most likely to be Asian-influenced That’s still apparent in the hamachi sashimi served at dinner with house-pickled vegetables, but the October menu, appropriately, has a more Teutonic bent. Pork belly braised in doppelbock beer and served with a pumpernickel crouton and pickled radishes flavored with juniper berry is something you might find at an adventurous restaurant in Munich, and Zimet is serving roasted garlic spaetzle with crispy-skinned salmon and oven-dried mustard greens. Perfectly cooked applewood-smoked scallops come with roasted beets and dill sour cream. That dish may be inspired from a bit farther east than Deutschland, but it’s no less appropriate for the season.

Boucherie has always done a great job with duck confit, and the current version on the menu is no exception. The bird’s leg/thigh is cooked slowly in its own fat and then finished under high heat to crisp the skin. It’s served with a pear-and-walnut strudel and a sauce made from pinot gris. I thought the last pairing of the confit, a roasted banana pot-sticker and a tart mojo sauce, was excellent, but the current rendition is even better.

There are standards items on the menu that Zimet is wise to maintain: the boudin balls with garlic aioli, for example, or the 12-hour roast beef poor boy with pickled red onion and horseradish cream. But one area that sees a lot of change is the vegetarian entree selection. This month it’s potato pierogis served with local greens, caramelized onions and a caraway seed dressing. I am a sucker for caraway, a spice we don’t see too much down here, and it works unexpectedly well with the greens.  

Boucherie is as cozy a space to dine as ever, and service has been excellent in my experience over the past six months. It’s still a relatively casual place to dine and popular among both the faculty and students at neighboring universities.

The restaurant has been working to expand the offerings on its drink menu –– and not just in the area of wines. There are some very interesting beers available, and from time to time you can order a hard cider that comes with its own seltzer bottle. The cider is something of an acquired taste, I think –– I found it pretty bitter –– but I like that Boucherie is providing options beyond those we normally encounter.

Boucherie is located at 8115 Jeannete St., just a block from South Carrolton. You can call them at 862-5514 to make a reservation or to ask about their catering operations. You can also call to ask them to accompany you on a quest to retrieve the golden chalice of Yquem from the evil enchantress Silena in the magical fire-woods of Darklon, but speaking from personal experience, they’ll probably turn you down.


Categories: Haute Plates, Restaurants