Restaurant in New Orleans
When the people behind one of my favorite restaurants, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, open another restaurant in that city, I make a reservation.
The two are extremely different: Commander’s is old school and formal, in an Uptown mansion; while SoBou is innovative and casual, attached to the modern W French Quarter hotel. What they do have in common is a perfect execution of their concepts and exceptional cuisine.
The Executive Chef of SoBou, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, spent five years at Commander’s. He grew up in Puerto Rico, and to the SoBou kitchen he brings his knowledge of ethnic ingredients, his experience cooking Creole food, and his outstanding preparation techniques, learned throughout his career, which began at the famous fish restaurant Le Bernadin in New York City.
It is an inspired menu. You might be taken aback at the combination of ingredients in certain dishes, but trust the kitchen. The servings are reasonably sized and it may be difficult to even identify some of the components, as they blend so seamlessly. For example, a dish I highly recommend is the butternut squash beignets. A beignet is deep-fried dough, with no hole like a donut, and squishier. The dish served here is savory yet sweet, the dough made with squash. In the center of these four balls is a small filling of “duck debris” (meat remnants left behind in a pan), and they are accompanied by “foie gras fondue” and “chicory coffee ganache,” sauces that add subtle layers of flavor.
Speaking of duck, for an entrée I had the sublime duck confit. Sourced from a Louisiana farm, it is cooked to tender perfection and complemented by the white bean cassoulet it sits upon. A bonus was my first ever strip of duck bacon, crisp and salty.
Since the chef was trained at one of the most well-known fish restaurants in the world, and since Louisiana is known for its seafood, we tried two fish dishes. Under the “Snacky Things” portion of the menu, the refreshing yellow fin tuna cones are bite-size cones topped with tuna tartare and pineapple ceviche, and flavored with toasted coconut and ice cream made with basil and avocado. A shrimp entrée delicately seasoned with satsumas and confit shallots featured five plump skewered grilled shrimp resting on crab-boiled lentils and accompanied by two sauces: chili roasted garlic and Meyer lemon aioli.
The South loves its bread puddings and SoBou offers two: white chocolate-soaked brioche topped with brandied cherries and house made Tahitian vanilla ice cream; and the one that I had, which might be seasonal, as it is made with Puerto Rico’s answer to eggnog, called coquito.
The restaurant describes its food as “Louisiana street food inspired small plates,” which, after reading the previous paragraphs, might have you scratching your head. But I do agree with its very clever epithet, “a spirited restaurant.” It is serious about its cocktails and it also has a great sense of place thanks to a well-conceived design that incorporates local elements in a modern way, such as a wall of alternating clear and frosted glass bottles alluding to the ties the city has to the apothecary trade (the Pharmacy Museum is down the street).
This is also the first place I’ve been to that has a table with its own self-serve beer tap and another with its own wine tap. Don’t get too excited – you have to swipe a credit card and the pours are measured. But still – how fun (and quick) is that? Wine and beer are not ignored here but SoBou is all about the cocktail. The folks serving drinks are called “bar chefs” and they make their own syrups.
I haven’t even mentioned yet that SoBou stands for South of Bourbon Street and that Esquire Magazine named it one of America’s best new restaurants of 2012. Enough reasons to book your reservation right now?
(Anastasia Mills Healy is a professional food, travel and lifestyle writer and editor. A former New Orleans resident, she now visits as frequently as possible).
|Reviewer's Rating||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Need to book||Advisable|
|Dietary Requirements Accommodated||Yes|
|Clientele||Locals and tourists|
|Restaurant good for||Couples, Romance, Large groups, Meeting up with friends|
|Cost per head||Medium|
|Dining Options||Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner|
There’s the Main Dining Room; semi-private Pool Room; the Saloon - a semi-private room for up to 10. As for the bar, there’s the Beer Garden (but it’s inside and doesn’t feature one long table) with self-service beer taps or self-serve wine machines at the tables; and bar chef table.
$40 (aperitif, entrée, dessert; no drinks).
Last updated on 12-01-2013