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.
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.
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.
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.