What’s Cooking in New Orleans
Two inspired Louisiana chefs breathe life into the city’s traditional Creole cuisine at these inventive restaurants.
Like the restaurant Domenica (which is helmed by Israeli-born chef Alon Shaya), Borgne is also a John Besh project. Named for a brackish lake east of New Orleans, where Isleño immigrants from the Canary Islands settled in the early 20th century, the restaurant squats on the ground floor of a Hyatt. Flatscreen TVs cantilever above the tarmac-length bar. Hanging chalkboards inscribed with recent catches by record-breaking bass and drum fishermen divide the gymnasium space into dining rooms.
Chef Brian Landry, a New Orleans native, made his bones at Galatoire’s, the city’s bastion of Creole cooking. He does right by old-guard standards like mirliton-and-shrimp casserole served in a cast-iron skillet. Ditto oysters and spaghetti, nestled in a milky broth and laced with shaved bottarga. But he’s no everyday provincial. Landry also cooks Isleño dishes, like an appetizer of cured goat cheese stippled with mojo sauce and scattered with roasted hazelnuts. And his tossed salad, interspersed with heaps of basil and mint, was coined in homage to Father Vien Nguyen, the Catholic priest who led the post-Hurricane Katrina comeback of the local Vietnamese-American village of Versailles. At 601 Loyola Ave.; 504-613-3860; borgnerestaurant.com.
Picture a tree house cut from its perch and deposited in the Warehouse District in sight of the cruise-ship dock. The palette is green and brown. The vibe is otherworldly. Ambient music breezes through the speakers. An Econo Floss cotton-candy machine crouches behind the bar.
Chef Phillip Lopez and his partners do not kowtow to the New Orleans canon. Instead, they crust smoked oysters with cornmeal, add a dollop of Manchego foam and serve them atop andouille spoon bread. Meanwhile, hanger steak earns a kumquat bordelaise. Fried chicken wings are glazed in pepper jelly. And—in what might be a bona fide trend—Vietnamese cooks get their due by way of a lemongrass broth poured over a pearlescent slab of panéed grouper and a tangle of rice vermicelli. At 200 Julia St.; 504-252-9480; rootnola.com.