DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, March 15, 2018. Mary Ann has plans for us to head to City Park, where there is a musical event in the Botanical Gardens. MA thought it involved a program of standards and classical, free for the visiting. But that wasn’t the story at all. So she changed our plans to Curio.

The block surrounded by Chartres, Conti, Royal and Bienville has not historically been a major vortex of fine dining, even though the next outer layer of restaurants is one of the best blockfulls of excellent restaurants in the city. (Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, GWFins, Mr. B’s, R’Evolution, Criollo, Kingfish, SoBou, Dickie Brennan’s Steak House, the Acme Oyster House, Felix’s, the Red Fish Grill, and the Bourbon House.)

Now we find ourselves heading to the French Quarter to see whether Curio–a restaurant clearly targeted at young diners and New Orleans visitors–will operate at the same levels established by the owners. They are the Creole Culinary Restaurant Group, which also owns Broussard’s, Tommy’s, the Royal House oyster bar, and twenty-one other restaurants, most of them new.

One of the reasons Mary Ann wanted to try it that first time was that the corner (Royal and Bienville) has a balcony that wraps around the corner. This is a nice view, but it’s one not availed by many others tonight. Perhaps it was a bit too cold and windy tonight for that to have any appeal. Or…

The downstairs is dominated by a large and busy bar along the long back wall, opposite a roy of tables, many of them equipped with open doors immediately adjacent. It was windy enough down there this evening, but I knew that MA would not give up her outdoor exposure completely.

As dictated by our Millennial friends, we begin with an array of appetizers. I have one or two dozen mussels. (Regular readers who note that I have eaten many orders of mussels lately would like to know why: it’s because mussels are in season now, and have been very good. ) Mary Ann has shrimp roulettes with a dip made with buttermilk and chives. She passes off what the menu calls “grits tots.” These look like small hush puppies, but are much better than that suggests. Indeed, these little balls of grits, held together in their interior with a some kind of cheese gravity. These were, I thought, the best dish of the meal. I would have eaten a half-dozen or more of them. Soft, with white interiors and an unexpected richness.

Next, we discuss whether the chicken Clemenceau that I ordered twice recently came from here or from Tableau. (Galatoire’s also serves that dish, but I know it wasn’t there.) We decide to leave it alone, although it was the most appealing item on the menu tonight.

MA goes after the grilled ribeye steak with garlic frites. I have a meatless India curry composed mostly of rice, garbanzo beans and other beans. Its flavor was spicy, but not in an Indian way. Tasted like Tabasco to me–although that’s not a put-down.

On the service side of things, it’s clear that Curio could use a little more cordiality, although I give them credit for knowing what they’re serving, and have opinions about it all.

The name, by the way, describes items which, in their finest manifestations, are collectibles that are more delightful than they are valuable. Curious.

Curio. French Quarter: 301 Royal St. 504-717-4198.