WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
This is the new restaurant that moved into the old church where the famous, popular and good Christian’s once was. Owners Tommy and Maria Delaune have the tremendous advantage of owning a seafood wholesale house. That’s like a steakhouse with its own cattle herd. But the restaurant didn’t hit its stride until Chef Greg Picolo (formerly of the Bistro at the Maison de Ville) moved in and got comfortable. He is a major creative force, with a strong appreciation of the special magic that imbues the place.
Greg’s menu is still evolving, but the destination is already clear. Redemption will wind up with the best of its original menu (the gumbo, stuffed shrimp, duck, and filet), a few Christian’s classics (smoked soft-shell crab and stuffed fish), and the latest experiments from the chef’s fertile mind. We’re waiting to see which version of sweetbreads shows up, and an expansion of the fish array.
The church building that housed Christian’s and now Redemption is nearly a century old. Its congregation left for bigger quarters in the 1970s. After a few years in Metairie, Christian’s Restaurant was looking for a new location and thought this highly visible location in Mid-City would be perfect. It was, attracting diners from all over the country for thirty years. The hurricane persuaded Christian’s owner Henry Bergeron to retire. He sold the church to Tommy Delaune, who at first wanted to make it a church again. That didn’t work out. In late 2010, it reverted to the present restaurant.
Imagine a medium-size church with high cathedral ceilings, big windows, and lots of open space. Move the pews to the perimeter for the banquette tables. Fill the center with conventional tables. Put a bar near the entrance. This is Redemption. The major enhancement over the Christian’s look is the new hardwood planked floor.
Napoleon of panéed eggplant with grilled vegetables and Fontina cheese
»Oysters en brochette
Crawfish remoulade in a crisp avocado cup
»Creole crab cake ravigote
Prawns del Lago (stuffed with crabmeat)
»Pannéed smoked soft shell crab
Seasonal green salad, tomato, Stilton, bacon
Caesar salad (option: fried oysters)
»Roasted beet salad, satsumas, arugula, spiced pecans, Manchego cheese
»Field greens with crab and shrimp ravigote
»Abita barbecue shrimp, stone-ground cheese grits
»Grilled jumbo pork chop, whiskey yams, orange-thyme jus
Pavé of grilled salmon, tarragon, crawfish, shiitake mushroom gnocchi
»Soft shell crab meuniere
»Sautéed fillet of flounder, shrimp and mirliton dressing
»Seafood-stuffed fish a la Christian’s
»Roasted breast of duck, andouille, red onion-yam hash, grilled kadota fig jus
Rack of lamb, Granny Smith apples, mint jus
»Grilled prime filet mignon, pommes frites, blue cheese jus
»Gulf fish piccata, three mushroom risotto
»Chocolate Torte, fresh berry mélange
Banana fritters, coconut gelato, chocolate drizzle
Cheesecake, pistachio cream cheese
»Mid-City crepes, honey-infused mascarpone
FOR BEST RESULTS
For God’s sake, beware of a nasty step between the entrance and the bar. Ask about the specials. If there’s a dish you liked at the Bistro, ask Greg for it. He might cook it for you.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
It took Christian’s original chef months to perfect the signature smoked soft-shell crab. Redemption’s attempts aren’t quite perfect yet, but it’s still worth getting. The wine list could stand to be expanded.
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
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Among restaurants that perished in Katrina, the most lamented was Christian’s. Locals and savvy visitors loved it. Not just because of the high irony of its being located in an antique church but also because of its unique take on Creole-French cooking. It was six years before new owners worked up the courage to open a new restaurant on that sacred site. They called it Redemption and warned all former customers that Christian’s could not and would not return from the dead, even though the church would be restored fully.
Problem: it was unclear just what Redemption would be. The menu was clearly Creole and relied mostly on local ingredients, but it was that of an entirely new restaurant. It all sounded good enough, but compared with what had come before. . well, nothing much happened. Then came Chef Greg Picolo. His restaurant–the Bistro at the Maison de Ville–had ceased to exist, and he was looking for a new home for his own Creole French cooking. It was a marriage made in. . . well, heaven, I guess.