I drove up from lower Florida yesterday – that state is too long – headed to New Orleans, where I am spending two days on my way to Houston, so I asked my friend John T. Edge where he would eat now if he could have three meals in the Crescent City. Pêche, one of his picks, was my destination last night, so I made sure I drove rapidly enough to make it in time for dinner. It’s on Magazine Street, and as I approached the building I spied a parking spot directly in front of the restaurant’s main entrance. I took it, got out of the car, and marveled at my luck. As I shook off the road two young guys who were smoking on the sidewalk asked me if I was “from around here”. I told them no, that I had just arrived from Florida … they were bartenders, in town for Tales of the Cocktail, a five-day convention/festival. So, not only do I find a parking spot right outside the restaurant, but I arrive in New Orleans on the opening day of an event dedicated to mixology … That is the perfect way to arrive.
I took a seat at the raw bar and scanned the the crowd; the place was packed, loud, the the diners ran the gamut from old to young, hipster to grandparents. John’s recommendation, as I knew it would be, was sublime. I started with a small bowl of smoked tuna dip, which contained a hint of heat – perhaps jalapeño – and was a creamy delight on the Saltines that accompanied it.
The oysters looked good as they were shucked in front of me, so I chose six: Blue Points from Connecticut, Louisiana Area 3, and St. James (Virginia.) Cold, crisp, revivifying. Eating them drove the long drive right out of me.
Next came raw tuna with fennel, tomato water and corn (and a little basil thrown in). Again, amazing, fresh flavors. Tuna was a bit warm for my taste, but that was probably because I took my time with the dip and oysters before I proceeded to that plate.
I then took a pause and perused the menu, considering the Louisiana Shrimp Roll before deciding on the Grouper Collars. I am very fond of Hake Cheeks, which I ate often in San Sebastián, so I thought I would give the grouper a try. It was a good choice. Served with tomato and cucumber and parsley, fried to the perfect level of crispiness, full of tender, rich meat.
Bartenders surrounded me, I was finishing a glass of Albariño, and New Orleans was just outside. It was a perfect evening. Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski, and Ryan Prewitt have a new winner on their hands.