Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 21:44
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Near the foot of Louisiana Avenue--neither in the Garden District nor what most people think of as Uptown--Atchafalaya cooks so much better than it looks that most first-timers leave raving about the place. Despite the name, it's not really Cajun. The flavor is very much Louisiana, however. Most of the dishes sound familiar, but incorporate enough innovation and good ingredients to surprise one pleasantly. The service style, the wine list, and even the bar are unexpectedly sophisticated.
Let's start with the shrimp and grits. Who doesn't serve that these days? But I've never had better. Sauce, shrimp, and even the grits make a big statement. Same goes for fried green tomatoes with crab remoulade, stuffed quail, the not-so-basic filet mignon, the seafood entrees--pretty much the entire menu. Even the salads and desserts are more like those from a more auspicious and expensive restaurants.
The building has served as an Uptown neighborhood restaurant since the 1920s, most of that time as Petrossi's, a casual seafood house. It became a contemporary Creole bistro called Cafe Atchafalaya in the early 1990s, but had a string of owners, none of whom kept the style of his predecessor. A particularly good period was presided over by the late Iler Pope, who added Southern country cooking to the mix. The present Atchafalaya (the "Cafe" part has been dropped) is owned by Tony Tocco and Rachael Jaffe, both of whom have worked in other Uptown gourmet bistros. They took over in mid-2009.
The restaurant's long history has bequeathed rare premises. A lofty ceiling, tile floors, an antique bar, and a short flight up steps to the building next door (an add-on somewhere along the way) create most of the look. Hanging fabric on the ceiling and a see-through wall connecting the two main rooms add further distinctiveness.
»Mixed green salad, candied pecans, blue cheese
Pear and bleu cheese salad
Avocado tomato tostada
»Ceviche of the day
Baby arugula, squid ink, saffron cream
»Seared diver scallops, chipotle-green onion aioli
»Jumbo lump crab cake
»Roasted beet carpaccio, crabmeat, hearts of palm, green curry vinaigrette
»Crabmeat remoulade, fried green tomatoes
»Free-form crab ravioli
Fish of the day
»Lamb loin, mint and parsley vinaigrette
»Mango pork tenderloin, corn pudding, bacon
»Pan roasted chicken, shiitake mushroom cognac sauce
Pan seared duck breast, orange sauce
Pasta Atchafalaya, crawfish, duck, shrimp, tasso
»Shrimp and grits
FOR BEST RESULTS
Do not fail to take advantage of the drink-making abilities of the bartender, who is as original as the chef.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
If there's a problem here, it's that the management success seems to have taken it a bit by surprise.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +2
- Consistency +1
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Medium private room
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
New examples of the Uptown gourmet Creole bistro--invented thirty years ago by the likes of Clancy's, Gautreau's, and the Upperline--keep opening. They are the city's most popular kind of fine-dining restaurant, enough so that one wonders why so few of them are found in any other part of town. The current incarnation of Atchafalaya has been flying under the radar through most of its two and a half years, although it's popular enough to fill most tables most nights.!
|< Prev||Next >|