4 Fleur
Average check per person $45-$55
BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchLunch SundayLunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayDinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Kingfish

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
My first glimpse of the menu at Kingfish made me think that its owners–who operate eight restaurants in the French Quarter, all of them targeted for the visitor trade–had forced Chef Greg Sonnier to abandon his own style for a gimmicky cliche version of Louisiana food. That idea was rendered implausible when I discovered how difficult it was to get a reservation at Kingfish. Three times over a period of a month, we failed to get a table. After one of those, we were told that many weekend nights were sold out months in advance. Clearly there was something going on at this place. When we finally penetrated the fastness, we found out what: the best new restaurant of 2013, whose uniqueness was exceeded by the kitchen’s skills.

French Quarter: 337 Chartres St. 504-598-5005. Map.
Casual.
AE DC DS MC V
Website

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
From the outside, Kingfish looks like a dozen other busy bars full of young customers along Chartres Street. The narrow, long dining room–also busy, with a casual, no-tablecloth look–suggests the kind of place where you’d have a burger or pizza or maybe fried seafood platters. The menu tips you off to the contrary. The style of the servers–every one of whom has an interesting life story–also sets the place apart. And the photos and memorabilia of Huey P. Long, the Kingfish himself, applies a final stamp of localism.

WHAT’S GOOD
Going over the menu, you find that almost everything engenders recognition and a mouth-watering reaction. Yet some two-thirds of the dishes depart from the familiar to a degree great enough to have you talking with dining partners about particulars, not just the goodness in the eating. The freshness and quality of the groceries are obvious.

BACKSTORY
Greg and Mary Sonnier gathered a strong regular clientele and national recognition for their Esplanade restaurant Gabrielle in the decade before Katrina. Greg had come up through K-Paul’s and Brigtsen’s, and his command of real cooking (as opposed to buying expensive ingredients and throwing them on the grill) was strong. Damage to Gabrielle from Katrina made the Sonniers look uptown, where they bought a longtime reception hall. They were never able to open, however, due to objections from politically well-connected neighbors. Greg’s short interim as chef at the Windsor Court didn’t go well. The gig at Kingfish looked like a last chance, but now it’s clear that Greg never lost any of his moves.

DINING ROOM
The bar stretches way back from the corner of Conti and Chartres. It’s usually full, with a fine cocktail program as the draw. An excellent jazz pianist adds to the fun. The dining room is also narrow and long, and even though no tablecloths are in sight, the ambient sound doesn’t rise to disagreeable levels.

ONLINE MENU LOCATION

ESSENTIAL DISHES
Starters
»Smoked rabbit gumbo, sorrel sausage, dirty brown basmati rice
»Butternut squash lobster bisque
Hollygrove market salad
Hoppin’ John crawfish salad, fried green tomato and remoulade
»Golden beet salad, satori cheese, pea shoots, sherry vinaigrette
Crab chop, maque choux sauce
»Barbecue shrimp, sweet potato waffle pirogue
Cajun farmhouse sausage wonton, cheese grits
Jumbo pork, duck and chicken cracklings
Alligator wings comfit, smoked tomato gastrique
»Shrimp Prima, lump crab meat, prosciutto, candied pecan slaw
Bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeno, garlic cheese chorizo
Entrees
»»”Every man a king” fish (Himalayan salt brick-seared pompano, pecan butter, red onion marmalade)
Honey crab-boiled, boneless duck, ramen noodles, roasted peppers, mushrooms
»Rib-eye steak, horseradish creme fraiche, guava butter garlic fries
»Cajun injected chicken, herbs de Provence, bacon, cebollitas
»Seared sea scallops, stone-ground grits, bacon, ginger tomato compote, basil oil.
»Grilled boneless rabbit, spinach, Merlot reduction, blue cheese shoestring potatoes
»Seafood cassoulet (shrimp, fish, crawfish, alligator sausage, flageolet beans, cheese crust
Stuffed mirliton, cornbread dressing arugula, mushroom alfredo sauce
Cedar plank Gulf fish, strawberry salad, charred Meyer lemon vinaigrette
Cochon de lait pot pie, crab boil potatoes, peas and carrots

FOR BEST RESULTS
Let the server rattle on about his or her life. This is part of the entertainment. Any claims that a dish is Cajun can be taken seriously. Specials have been excellent.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The kitchen puts out the food before you’re really expecting it.

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 +1
  • Consistency +1
  • Service+1
  • Value +2
  • Attitude +1
  • Wine & Bar +3
  • Hipness +2
  • Local Color

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Live music some nights
  • Romantic
  • Open Sunday lunch and dinner
  • Open Monday lunch and dinner
  • Open after 10 p.m.
  • Reservations recommended

5 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Doug on March 19, 2014

    We dined there for the second time on the evening of the NBA All-star game. We arrived early as they were just opening for dinner. We ordered a glass of wine at the bar before being seated. My wife ordered savignon blanc and I ordered a cab. She got chardonnay and i got a lipstick covered glass. Neither was what we ordered.

    Service was incredibly slow despite the place being virtually empty that evening. I ordered the rib-eye steak medium rare and was served an overcooked filet. When I challenged the waiter on the cut, i was told that it was indeed a rib-eye. I’ve been eating steak for over 50 years; buying it for nearly 35 years and cooking /BBQing it for almost as long.

    I doubt that I would ever go back. Let the tourists have it.

    • Tom Fitzmorris Author on March 31, 2014

      Too bad you condemn on one visit what for me has been a very good restaurant five times. Slow nights, counter to widespread assumption, have less-good service than busy nights. Reason: the good waiters take off on slow nights. And I’ll bet I can serve you a filet and make you think it’s a ribeye, and vice-versa. This is a complaint restaurants get all the time. Most of the time the restaurant is indeed serving you what they say they are serving. Did you see the pre-cooked steak? I would never make a statement like this unless I did. (In fact, I’d ask to see the invoices.) And why would they serve you a more expensive piece of beef if they were trying to cheat you?

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Ross Pouley on May 6, 2014

    We have dined at Kingfish twice over the past 2 months. The first time, we made a reservation via an online service, arrived at the appointed time, and were escorted past numerous empty tables to the very back of the restaurant and seated beneath a window that looked into the Kitchen and was situated between the doorway accessing the Kitchen and the Server’s Pick-up station. The bright lights from the kitchen were blaring through the window and it was anything BUT a good table. My wife and I decided to let this go, ordered and had an absolutely delicious meal. At the completion of dinner, a person identified himself as one of the restaurant managers and asked us how things went for us. We told him our food had be great, but since he asked, we noted that the majority of the empty tables remained that way throughout our stay, and we were curious as to why we had been seated where we were. He said that it was customary to hold tables for walk-up customers (which seemed odd to us), but if we called ahead, we should be able to secure a good spot. A few weeks ago we called and booked our second reservation because our kids were coming to town and we really wanted them to have an opportunity to experience the food there. When the date of our dinner arrived, we showed up promptly at the reserved time and were, again, ushered past multiple empty tables to the EXACT same table we sat in before, only this time doubled up to accommodate all 5 of us. This time, my wife objected to the seating and we were moved slightly forward to another table not directly in the kitchen path and at least a few feet away from the Kitchen window. We proceeded to order several starters and entres. About the time the starters arrived, a kitchen worker entered the restaurant from the courtyard with a large, clear plastic tub of whole raw chickens, on a cart and wheeled it past us and into the kitchen. We tried to ignore it and focus on our starters which were, again, very good indeed. Between courses, our silver was placed on the used dishes from the starters and when the entres arrived they cleared some, but not all, of the dirty plates and didn’t replace the silver. The empty bread wrapper also remained on the table throughout our meal along with a dirty salad plate and misc. other leftovers from the first course. Several other tables, well situated in the front of place, remained empty throughout our meal.

    We may be too picky, but the second rate dining experience we have encountered is just too difficult to accommodate for the pleasure of eating the food. There are just way too many other good choices in New Orleans.

  3. Big Lou on August 18, 2014

    We dined at Kingfish Sunday, August 18, 2014. I had no idea Kingfish was THE KINGFISH. First thing I’d do is change the name. Then I’d change the name of the eponymous bridge. Then, I’d improve the service. Our wait staff was very attentive, but the bar and kitchen were constipated. Don’t waste your money on the mint julep. When the food finally came it was excellent. Too much salt, but then that’s common. The restaurant was virtually empty when we arrived at 6:30. We left after 9:00 and by then it had filled up a bit. Maybe the service problem was related to Sunday.

  4. Tom on May 17, 2015

    Tom,
    We went there last night and I think you’ll agree if you were to rate this place again it would not deserve a 4. The waiter told us that Greg is no longer the chef. There were not enough menus for everyone at the table. When we did get one for the entire table of 3, it was totally different than what you have listed. Appetizers were good. I got a sugar cane duck breast that I think they mistook salt for the sugar cane; and the duck breast appeared to be from a sparrow, it was so small. Other entries at the table were ok at best. Touristy! With 1400 restaurants to chose from in this city, this will not be one that I go back to or recommend. It certainly does not live up to the reputation of Sonnier, Prudhomme or Brigtsen. Good riddance. .

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