In an effort of full disclosure, I must admit that I am not a good Catholic. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school and even graduated from a Catholic university, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a terribly observant Catholic. And so when Lent rolls around, I usually attempt to come up with something – anything – to give up, only to find myself breaking that Lenten promise within a matter of days.
But one aspect of Lent I seem to have no problem sticking to? Meatless Fridays. And how is that, you may ask? Easy: because I can eat as much delicious New Orleans seafood as I want AND make my mother happy at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
And just because Lent is technically supposed to be about giving something up and repentance, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a touch of indulgence, right? So for all you practicing Catholics, non practicing Catholics and non Catholics who just happen to be jonesing for some seafood on a Friday evening in New Orleans: take note. Here are my top five picks for seafood in the city.
1. GW Fins – Fins is in their name and seafood is their game at GW Fins in the French Quarter. This upscale New Orleans seafood restaurant exceeds expectations with their largely locally sourced and supremely fresh seafood, all prepared in-house with vibrant sauces and garnishes. Their Asian inspired yellow fin tuna and wahoo, when in season, are stand outs on the menu, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their delicious dishes paired with carefully selected sides. If you need further convincing, GW Fins’ genious chef Tenney Flynn won New Orleans Magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2011 and he’s on the Louisiana Seafood Chefs Council, in case you were wondering the quality of their credentials.
2. Rio Mar Seafood Restaurant – For those looking to observe Lent in a more upscale environment, swing by Rio Mar, located in the Warehouse District. The menu created by award winning Chef Adolfo Garcia is heavily influenced by his Spanish and Latin American heritage while still showcasing the very best in local produce and Gulf seafood. Added bonus – the dim lighting and a sleek interior make this an ideal date spot. Rio Mar is located at 800 S. Peters St. and can be reached at 504.525.3474.
3. Pascal’s Manale – Barbecue Shrimp is arguably one of the greatest inventions in all of New Orleans cuisine, and it all came from the kitchen at Pascal’s Manale. For those not familiar with the iconic dish, it’s a far cry from what we typically think of when we think of barbecue. The shrimp are served head-on in a broth-like sauce of spicy buttery amazingness with tons of French bread for dipping – because dipping is more civilized than just drinking the sauce, which you’ll likely be tempted to do. Pascal Manale’s is located at 1838 Napoleon Ave. and can be reached at 504-895-4877.
4. High Hat Cafe – High Hat is among the outstanding restaurants to pop up along the stretch of Freret Street between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues. The menu is all about southern comfort – most notably their crispy thin fried catfish plates. Be sure to order a side of their sweet potato salad, and be on the lookout for their Satsuma Lemonade, which is downright addictive when they have it. High Hat is located at 4500 Freret St. and can be reached at 504.754.1336.
5. Big Fisherman Seafood – Want to enjoy seafood like a true local? They swing by Big Fisherman Seafood, pick up a few pounds of boiled crawfish (or shrimp), ask them to throw in a few potatoes, garlic and corn – and a crab or two for good measure – then head to The Fly up by Audubon Park to enjoy your picnic feast. You should also swing by Breaux Mart right across the street to pick up some beer and a whole lot of paper towels (you’ll need them). Also be sure to grab some newspaper to pour the crawfish out on – and remember, the more sturdy of a base you lay down, the easier your clean up will be. Big Fisherman is located at 3301 Magazine St. and can be reached at 504.897.9907.]]>
Rio Mar announces that Miles Prescott is their new Executive Chef. Back in July, Brett Anderson revealed that Chef Adolfo Garcia was peacing out of his flagship Latin/seafood restaurant in the Warehouse District by selling his shares to business partner Nick Bazan III. Around that same time Miles Prescott was announced as chef du Cuisine, a position he’d held several years back under Garcia, and has been holding down again since July. In fact, he’s basically been running the kitchen over there, so it’s no surprise he’s finally Executive Chef.
Prescott attended The New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and has worked in professional kitchens since 1993. He’s also worked under Susan Spicer and Chris DeBarr, and had a successful run in the kitchen at The Country Club in the Bywater a few years back.]]>
It’s long been the downtown destination for Latin-style seafood. But more recently, RioMar has also become an ongoing exploration of a nebulous question for the restaurant world — in our age of high-profile chefs, what happens to a restaurant when its name chef moves on?
Two entwined but distinct threads have always guided RioMar, a long-running restaurant in the Warehouse District. One is the food of the Spanish-speaking world, from the ham-obsessions of central Spain all the way to the hot peppers and tropical fish of Madrid’s onetime colonies. The other was the life journey of chef Adolfo Garcia, a New Orleans native from a Panamanian family who trained in Spain and had a story for every dish on his menu, whether that story sprang from a tapas bar in Seville or a strip mall taco joint in Kenner.
But Garcia left RioMar last year to focus on his many newer restaurant ventures. Since then, RioMar has become an ongoing exploration of a nebulous question for the restaurant world — in our age of high-profile chefs, what happens to a restaurant when its name chef moves on? That’s a question that would have very rarely come up just a generation or two ago, when individual chefs at most restaurants had far less acclaim and restaurant customers were less likely to track their career moves.
But that was then. And today, it matters that the torch at RioMar has been passed to one of Garcia’s protégés, the chef Miles Prescott. His answer to the succession issue has been to keep following RioMar’s pan-Hispanic culinary direction while adding his own accents.
The changes are hardly sweeping. Just like before, you still can get the signature four-ceviche sampler, or the short-grain rice cooked with squid and its black ink, or the falling-apart roasted pork with plantains and rice and beans or the Gulf fish escabeche, covered with an oily, pickled relish that presses the same kind of flavor buttons as an olive salad.
One of those four ceviches, though, is now made with coconut milk, which gives a still-tart but mellow, creamy flavor in a way that’s better tuned to cooler weather. One recent special was red snapper grilled skin-on and topped with sweet crab knuckles and a green, garlicky sauce hailing from Peru. At dessert, a golden Galician crepe was wrapped around basil and honey sabayon with apples cooked in sherry and cinnamon. Bacalao, the Spanish salt cod, remains a specialty here, whipped into a casserole or maybe sliced over greens with torn hunks of crusty bread. If salt cod seems archaic in our age of flash-freezing and overnight deliveries this properly-done version shows how ancient methods of food preservation can endure in a cuisine on their own delicious merits. Just think hams or pickles for two more familiar examples.
During the lunch shift, RioMar essentially functions as a Spanish tapas bar patronized by big office parties and conventioneers with a nose for sniffing out garlic. In the afternoons, when much of the rest of its block is closed behind heavy shutters, groups inside RioMar pass around terracotta bowls of grilled octopus and garlic shrimp or plates of Iberian ham, blood sausage and white anchovies.
I do miss some of the old chef’s dishes, and I miss Garcia’s ebullient presence in what had been his flagship. But with such a diverse range of Spanish and Latin American source material up for reinterpretation, I’m also looking forward to what happens here next.
800 S. Peters St., 525-3474