Set in an 1882 cotton mill at the edge of the Warehouse District, chefs Samantha and Cody Carroll’s deeply personal restaurant, Sac-a-lait, showcases refined south Louisiana food with contemporary takes on Acadian and Cajun cuisines made with locally sourced ingredients. The husband and wife pair met while attending Louisiana Culinary Institute; their menu was inspired by the fishing, farming and hunting culture they grew with up with, Samantha in Gonzales and Cody on a farm in Batchelor.
The couple designed and built the expansive space with their families, often repurposing found materials. The 140-year-old pine was salvaged out of an old broom factory located across Annunciation Street and the wrap-around bar was crafted out of crushed oyster shells.
The menu is divided into “Fish,” “Hunt” and “Farm,” and portions are large enough to provide two with appetizer-sized tastings.
Raw oysters arrive with wild pepper mignonette, cocktail and horseradish sauces. The char-grilleds are bathed in jalapeño and bacon laced garlic butter and blanked under a crackle salty Pecorino Romano cheese, and the broth of coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger in which the oysters are steamed for Oysters et Frites is good enough to drink. It seems like just the thing to cure whatever may ail on a grim day.
Boudin Canard (duck confit boulettes with strawberry and Serrano jelly and pickled baby garlic), Alligator & Mirliton with honey powder, white remoulade and pickled mustard seeds,and Harvest Preserves (cured venison backstrap, cornmeal beignets, kumquat, almonds and figs) were standouts on the “Hunt” sections of the menu. Crawfish appear in “Farm” as a Crawfish & Mirliton pie with Tabasco honey. Refreshingly, the menu’s non-protein option, Hen of the Woods, is anything but an afterthought. It combines a variety of roasted wild mushrooms with pepper meringues and sauce Chasseur.
Always popular and never a disappointment, Toast recently added a simple new dish that’s destined to remain a favorite: A fluffy two-egg omelet with plenty of fine herbs and a melty center stuffed with sharp Gruyere cheese. It is perfection of a plate for a thrifty $8.
If the theme at Sac-a-lait is immediately discernible, it’s anything goes a few blocks away at Meril.
The vibe is casual, the dining room of light colored wood awash in natural light and open to an exposition-style kitchen and a large bar area. Chef Emeril Lagasse named the restaurant for his daughter and stocked the expansive menu with all of his favorite foods. Chef de Cuisine Will Avelar, a veteran in the Lagasse organization, brings his own style to the mix and successfully executes such disparate dishes as Spanish croquettes oozing Manchego; Boudin tamales with roasted tomatillos and red chile sauce; buttermilk biscuits with foie gras butter and blackberry preserves; and Brussels sprouts caramelized and served cold with roasted sweet potatoes, candied walnuts, grapes, blue cheese and a Steen’s cane syrup vinaigrette.
All of the pastas are handmade, but the saffron papardelle with braised lamb, oyster mushrooms and nutty Parmesan was a standout that could soothe on the coldest of winter nights.
A few blocks to the north at Maypop, in the trendy SoMa corridor, chef Michael Gulotta has made his trial run of Dim Sum Brunch a permanent weekend installation. Offered 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, the brunch explodes with bites as unique and inspired as you would expect them to be: bacon-scallion pancakes with oyster kimchi, salt and pepper shrimp with roasted chilies, head cheese and blue crab soup dumplings and crabmeat toast with asparagus and coconut Hollandaise.
Gulotta also offers his regular lunch menu during the dim sum brunch so I can still get my fixes of harissa-braised lamb with roti, fried egg noodles with shrimp; chaat salad with coconut cucumber ranch, green tomato relish and cashew bánh xèo crisp; and fried buster crabs with heirloom grits, blueberry xo, bacon and sweet corn salad.
611 O’Keefe Ave., 518.6345
424 Girod St., 526-3745
1051 Annunciation St., 324.3658
5433 Laurel St., 250-1267