WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Operating in the decades-old tradition of the Uptown gourmet bistro, Apolline is in the stretch of Magazine Street past Napoleon Avenue, where gentrification is in its early stages. That didn’t stop its very similar predecessor from attracting a phenomenal crowd. That process had to begin all over again last year, and now it’s a place for those who like good, secret restaurants that nobody’s talking about much yet.
In its first year, Apolline shows a decided lean in the direction of the current American culinary repertoire, with incursions of Creole ingredients and pepper levels. An abbreviated menu (eight each of starters and entrees) creates an illusion of sparseness, but the contrasts among the dishes and the long list of unusually interesting sides makes a dinner here entirely fulfilling. Everything I had here was much better than I expected. (Exception: a gooey, underbaked serving of the usually good sweet cornbread.)
For a restaurant whose history only dates back to fall, 2010, Apolline has a long story. The old shotgun double was renovated into a restaurant operated by Dominique Macquet. His menu was quite appealing, and a complete break with his past island-influenced cooking. That partnership went south, and in 2011 he left, with plans to open a new Dominique’s down the street a few blocks. Matthew Farmer, late of Salu, took over as chef, initially leaving the spirit of the menu largely unchanged. As time goes on it has evolved. The place was renamed for a woman depicted in one of the several John Preble paintings in the dining room.
The first thing you notice is the clever, handsome reworking of a fine old Creole cottage, whose original fireplaces and their accompanying chimneys rise through the middle of the main dining room like columns, with candles mounted on their sides in remembrance of their past flames. To make the space work, tables were made too small, and intrude on one another’s space, New York style. Nevertheless, the low lighting and comfortable banquettes make for a romantic space.
Fried boudin, house made pickles, remoulade
Grilled sweetbreads, grits, chimichurri
»Pepper crusted beef carpaccio
Duck confit salad, dijon vinaigrette
»Crabmeat and goat cheese tart
»Strawberry, beets, pecans, and goat cheese spinach salad
»Smoked ham, andouille, and duck gumbo
»Seared diver scallops, shrimp, and corn maquechoux
Ponzu glazed salmon
»Sauteed black drum, crabmeat, mushrooms, aioli
Pork confit ravioli, shiitake mushrooms, tomato basil cream
Crispy confit duck leg, andouille-potato hash
»Trio of lamb (crisp belly, pistachio-crusted chop, dirty couscous)
»Kansas city strip steak
»Grilled market vegetables
»Goat cheese mousse, honey pate de fruit, lavender creme anglaise, and pistachio powder
Dulce de leche flan, banana ice cream, poppy seed tuile
Chocolate pecan pie, Guinness ice cream, ginger-caramel sauce
»Lemon tart, raspberry coulis, fresh berries, citrus candy
FOR BEST RESULTS
Check out the sides before you begin figuring the order. They may be the most distinctive food here. You don’t want to miss the dirty couscous, for example.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The menu could use one or two more items in every course, especially dessert.The tables are too small. You’ll never convince me that grits under fish is a good idea.
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
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Sidewalk tables
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The counter continues to click at regular and brief intervals as the tally of restaurants on Magazine Street passes 60. The variety of dining possibilities on the Street of Dreams is exceeded only by the sophistication and hipness of even its everyday-dining places. Apolline is one of the more ambitious new additions to that scene.
If you ever wondered what a difference an outgoing chef whose name is spread effusively in dining circles by a strong p.r. effort, observe Apolline. Even though the restaurant hasn’t tripped up on anything significant in its food or service, it has not recovered a critical mass of customers since the defection of Dominique and a brief closing right after. Right now, this does confer on Apolline an advantage not common along Magazine Street: it’s a quiet place to dine. Maybe a little too quiet.