Curio. French Quarter: 301 Royal St. 504-717-4198.
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
It’s getting to be that the Creole Cuisine Restaurant Group almost needs a monthly column of its own. The outfit started with a few daiquiri refreshers on or near Bourbon Street. It began to buy restaurants in the Quarter that they found interesting, most of them casual, inexpensive cafes. When they took over the venerable Broussard’s, CEO Marv Ammari began getting attention. It Creole Cuisine had a great 2017, bringing its collection of restaurants to over twenty, with more to come.
Frankly, I have been wary about the expansion of the group. I was especially alarmed when Tommy’s and Tomas Bistro were taken over by Creole Cuisine. Both are two favorite bistros among locals, both with four-star ratings. The group has already made deep changes, to those, but at the same time moving them into the next demographic category, with young clienteles and menus to match. Curio is the newest Creole Cuisine dining house. And the most surprising and delicious.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
A case could be made that the limits of Creole restaurant cooking are infinite. At the moment, this is easily seen at Curio. With French doors filling most of the exterior faces (they go around the corner), walker-by get a good look at what’s going on in there. It’s quite appealing. Tilt your head upward and you see generous galleries on the second floor, giving some of the best views of the French Quarter’s passing parade. The cooking, although decidedly New Orleans in style, is highly original and free of cliches. .
Before landing at Curio, chef Hayley Vanvleet had stints at Meauxbar and Peche. Both those restaurants showed a blend of imaginative, French-inflected flavor. They were very different from one another, but both had familiar aspects, too. On top of that, something about the menu reminds me of the kind of food we get at wine dinners. I wouldn’t have expected to run across chicken Clemenceau here. ) It’s hard to predict what the eating will be like tonight, but I’ve enjoyed nearly everything. The place hasn’t been open long enough to create a clear picture, but I’d predict that it will still be on my list of the four or five best restaurants of 2017 as the year ends.
The name means what it says. In the late 1800s–a prosperous epoch for New Orleans–the blocks of Royal Street from Iberville to Orleans had grown into a concentration of antiques, artworks and –here it comes–curios. Collectors and merchants of objets d’ors converged on the neighborhood with batches of items they’d found in their travels. A particularly dense cluster of shops selling such items (not paintings, and usually of small size) gravitated to the 300 block of Royal. That area to this day is riddled with antique stores, with their share of curios. It is also a strong restaurant district. Within a block of Curio are Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, Mr. B’s, GWFins, the Pelican Club, Restaurant R’Evolution, and other eateries of note.
Like many other buildings in the French Quarter of this age, the building is long and narrow. The windows, especially on the second floor, make the place seem airy. What spaces aren’t covered with windows and doors have loose, light wall paintings. It’s a great, casual look, but interesting enough to convince one that Curio is serious about food and wine.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Artisanal cheese, cured meat, roasted garlic, seasonal fruit
Candied Fried Pork Ribs
Brown sugar cayenne glaze
Steamed Whitewater Mussels
Coconut ginger broth, shaved fennel salad
Chilled Blue Crab Claws
Chili-basil vinaigrette, radish escabeche
Seared Sushi Grade Tuna
Local citrus, fennel, toasted pecans, honey-shallot vinaigrette
Grilled Bakkafrost Salmon
Faro heirloom tomato salad, lemon shallot vinaigrette
Coriander Blackened Redfish
Lump crab salad, honey creamed mustard greens
Seared Sea Scallops
Roman artichokes, Swiss chard, Kalamata olive butter, Grana Padano cheese
Cane Syrup Glazed Beef Short Rib
Creamy cheddar grits, marinated tomato, smoked fleur de sel
Springer Mountain Farms Chicken Clemenceau
Sweet pea puree, sauteed mushrooms, brabant potatoes
Kale salsa verde, charred onion, garlic frites
House-made Vaudouvan curry with roasted vegetables, garbanzo beans, and Louisiana popcorn rice
Pan Roasted Gulf Fish
Sauteed greens, garlic rice, lemon pecan brown butter sauce
Tres Leche Bread Pudding
Served with strawberry and candied pecans
Lemon Curd Sorbet
Coconut semifreddo, caramelized pineapple, and cayenne caramel
Coffee and Doughnuts
Café au lait crème brulee with mini beignets
FOR BEST RESULTS
An ill-conceived gumbo with blackeye peas) should be avoided. It doesn’t taste remotely like ant variety of gumbo.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The ground floor is a little tight in some spots.
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
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
CREOLE CUISINE ADDS NEWEST RESTAURANT TO ITS COLLECTION
Curio Opens on Royal Street
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA— Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts is proud to announce the opening of Curio, an eclectic bistro, at the corner of Royal and Bienville streets in the French Quarter. Executive Chef Hayley Vanvleet leads the kitchen while General Manager Landon Labor oversees the operations for this exciting, new restaurant situated among world-famous art galleries and antique shops on Royal Street. Chef Hayley has designed lunch and dinner menus to be offered seven days a week, as well as a Saturday and Sunday brunch menu.
“Curio is more than a bistro and bar, it is a collection of food, art, and history,” states Marv Ammari, Chief Executive Officer of Creole Cuisine. “In the late 1800’s, Royal Street was home to an infamous curio shop, where curiosities could be found from all over the world; the space was later operated as a popular meat market and deli. It couldn’t be more natural for us to bring back that excitement today with Curio, where we introduce guests to an eclectic menu with many modern twists.” The property that houses Curio underwent a significant renovation in preparation for the opening. In addition to the large dining area and bar on the first floor, the restaurant boasts second-floor dining as well as a wrap-around gallery offering covered outdoor dining. This one-of-a-kind experience provides unique views of the activity on Royal Street for its patrons. New Orleans artist Tony Mose has been commissioned to create a collection of paintings for the restaurant. Mose, owner of Esom Gallery on Magazine Street, is best known for works that create an emotional experience.
Chef Hayley’s opening lunch menu includes starters such as shrimp boulettes, sushi grade tuna & sea scallop carpaccio, grit tots with roasted red pepper coulis, and chilled blue crab claws. Lunch entrees feature crispy oyster chopped salad, sweet and spicy pickled shrimp salad, and grilled rib-eye. Brunch, served on Saturdays and Sundays, includes caramelized French toast, steak and eggs, Shakshuka and biscuits and gravy. Dinner features some additional dishes including Springer Mountain Farms chicken Clemenceau, coriander blackened redfish, cane syrup glazed beef short rib, and pan roasted Gulf fish. For a bit of whimsy, adult-style Sno-Wizard snoballs topped with housemade syrups are available.
Creole Cuisine Corporate Chef Steven Marsella stated, “Chef Hayley has the passion, enthusiasm and verve to craft a menu at Curio that is enticing to our guests. Her experience and background have her primed for this position.” Chef Hayley grew up in Illinois and went to culinary school in Minnesota before working in several Midwest and Seattle restaurants. Her first job in New Orleans was in the French Quarter at Meauxbar, then she moved to work under award-winning chefs Donald Link and Steven Stryjewski. Just prior to opening Curio, Vanvleet was sous chef at Kingfish Kitchen & Cocktails, another Creole Cuisine restaurant.
301 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
About Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts: Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts includes upscale restaurants (Broussard’s, Kingfish, Bombay Club, Boulevard American Bistro Tommy’s Cuisine, Tomas Bistro, NOSH and Curio), casual restaurants (The Bayou Burger & Sports Company, Big Easy Café and Daiquiri’s, Big Easy Daiquiri, Café Maspero, Chartres House, Creole House, Crescent City Pizza Works, Daiquiri Paradise, Pier 424 Seafood Market, The Original Pierre Maspero’s, Royal House and Oyster Bar), multiple Big Easy Café and Daiquiris, as well as special event venues, Bourbon Vieux and Marché. Creole Cuisine was recently named the “Top Workplace for Large Companies” in the New Orleans area by NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune. For more information, please visit CreoleCuisine.com. More to come. . .