The Dish: Eat Your Heart Out

Even though only one day in May is reserved for Mother, some of us will need the rest of the month to de-stress from it. Is there a reason May is also National Blood Pressure month? Keep calm and eat on with a French take on Vietnamese, a Francophile’s wine hideout and the bartender’s take on cheese.

Tamarind by Chef Dominique Macquet is housed in the newly renovated Hotel Modern and explores Vietnamese cuisine through a French perspective – an unlikely take on a cuisine that will leave you saying merci banh mi. The dining experience at Tamarind is exceptionally recharging, especially for those on lunch break, with free valet parking and large UV-protected bay windows that allow a refreshing light to fall over the pristine white banquettes and bamboo centerpieces. A macaw occasionally squawks from the hotel lobby. An array of dishes feature locally sourced produce, such as kohlrabi, that is pickled in house and served alongside the crispiest crawfish and pork spring rolls appetizer. Try a pan-seared drum over a Vietnamese take on pasta with pesto sauce. Here the sauce includes Thai basil and peanuts, rather than basil and pine nuts, and the outcome is remarkably tasty and fresh. At dinner, enjoy a cocktail from mixologist Kimberly Patton Bragg’s list, featuring both local and exotic fruits, including satsumas, kumquats, lychee and tamarind (which Macquet enjoyed so much as a child on the island of Mauritius that he named the restaurant after it). With respect and passion for both French and Vietnamese cuisine, chef Macquet’s menu is vibrant and delectable, with dishes ranging from royal red shrimp “banh mi” toast with Gruyère to pan-seared local flounder served over shitake-edamame risotto, not to mention the most delicate of crêpes.

Chances are you haven’t heard of Sentiments, the self-named “Wine and Cheese Dive,” a romantic destination that lingers above Feelings Café overlooking one of the most enchanting courtyards in New Orleans. On a dimly lit balcony, lights twinkling overhead and candles flickering on the tables, co-owners Nicole Heathcock and chef David Lee offer true bliss with an impeccable selection of wine, a spread of cheese and small plates, and sincere hospitality. Talented chanteuse Sara Quintana often serenades with her guitar and on certain nights has been known to sing into a decorated PVC pipe placed by your ear – it’s like a missing scene from Midnight in Paris. Open only on weekends, the wine loft doesn’t cater to late-night partiers, offering instead tranquility, complemented by the neighboring yoga studio. On Thursdays, Heathcock offers French lessons for $20, which includes a wine and cheese tasting. Chef Lee offers exquisite small plates like a croque madame or scallop ceviche and delicate salads – lardon, yard egg, candied walnut (and I mean shards of housemade candy around your walnut) and tomato over lightly dressed mixed greens. Cheeseboards and charcuterie are happily paired to match your wine selection and accompanied by a slew of homemade accoutrement, a testament to this wine dive’s lovely D.I.Y. vibe (inside, the walls are decorated with photos and goodies from the couple’s time in France). It is the little things that make Sentiments so wonderful: the homemade candied pecans and loquat preserves, the record player spinning Edith Piaf, the feeling that you’ve just stepped foot into a cottage in the French country side. Sentiments will also offer a French movie night in the courtyard with a prix fixe menu. Until then the hours are Thursdays from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 10:30 p.m.

On May 7, St. James Cheese Company’s inaugural Cocktails and Curds competition will take place at La Thai on Prytania Street. Twenty of the city’s best bartenders and mixologists will battle for a $1,000 prize in an effort to create the best cocktail and cheese pairing. Here is hoping somebody invents a s’mores cocktail to accompany Jasper Hill Farm’s Harbison, a soft ripened cow’s milk cheese wrapped in bark that emanates the smoky, woodsy sensation of a campfire.

The patty melt at Tru Burger with caramelized onions, melted Swiss and a bun turned inside out and grilled, is sure to fulfill your National Burger Month duties.

Sentiments | 2600 Chartres St. |
St. James Cheese Company | 5004 Prytania St. | 899-4737 |
Tamarind | 936 St. Charles Ave. | 722-4003 |
Tru Burger | 8115 Oak St. | 218-7285 |

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