Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Best New Restaurant Of The Year So Far? As long as they were here, I asked the plumbers to perform a couple more small repairs. The senior plumber changes out a big valve that has been leaking. This valve can shut off everything above ground–a handy ability to have when we get really cold weather. I like having these guys around, and I am now thinking about getting them and their associated electricians to fix a few small issues. It would be great to have the ceiling fan that hasn’t worked in twenty years to be in operation.
Mary Ann gladdens my heart when she says that she’d like to have dinner with me. Specifically, she wants us to try Curio, a restaurant I mentioned to her after its chef was on the show a couple of weeks ago. Curio is yet another restaurant from the Creole Culinary Restaurant Group, which in the past few years has escalated its list of properties into the more than twenty restaurants, in every category.
Before landing here, Curio chef Hayley Vanvleet had stints at Meauxbar and Peche, where she turned out terrific, imaginative, French-inflected food. In addition to that is a somewhat classical flavor. Even dishes that sound original have a familiar quality. She suggested that because of this, Curio is ready for review. This was convincing both to me and MA–even taking into account Mary Ann’s liking of restaurants that just opened. As in a month or so ago.
The restaurant is in a great location–Bienville at Royal, a block from Mr. B’s, and half a block from the Pelican Club. Good vicinity, that. The place had been an antique store in a row of other antique stores. The space is narrow, but with big windows that are left open if the weather is tolerable. The upstairs dining room gives onto a balcony that gives a great look at the corner. The environment thrilled MA, who is more influenced by surroundings than by food.
But Chef Hayley was turning out some great eats, too. A light pâté made with smoked trout pushed MA’s button, and she considered asking for an entree of that. But here came candied fried pork ribs. Candied? The notion was real and fun. Another rib dish went down the same road with a sweet sauce over beef short ribs.
While she worked on that, I enjoyed a tilt against dozen or so steamed mussels with coconut
MA is a salmon lover, especially when she can get wild-caught fish. Here I had a large bowl of steamed mussels in a brothy sauce with more red pepper than I expected, and a Thai-like coconut milk. But I like that.
MA’s entree was grilled salmon in a variety new to me: Bakkafrost, from the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands. MA loves salmon, and here was the way she liked it. A black eye-pea gumbo didn’t taste like gumbo to me, and that was the first strikeout of the night. The kitchen bounced back with chicken Clemenceau in an offbeat approach to that century-old Creole-French dish. That was the dish for me.
By the end of this overfeed, both of us were elated by what we found–even when a Curio dish is in direct competition with longtime favorite dishes in nearby favorite restaurants. I have been dubious about this Creole Culinary thing, but with this restaurant they show surprising ability. Let’s see what it does in the long run.
Curio. French Quarter: 301 Royal St. 504-717-4198.