During the past few years New Orleans restaurateurs and their customers showed an expanded interest in whole fish. For the first time in decades, it's drawing card for restaurants willing to undertake the purchase and preparation of whole fish, which are much more challenging than fillets. A lot of the increase can be blamed on the Restaurant Depot, a wholesale store that makes whole fish much more easily available for restaurants than it has been in a long time. The most celebrated vendor of whole and very basic fish is the new Peche, but they are hardly the only ones. Basin Seafood, which opened around the same time Peche did, is a comparably good.
Basin Seafood is your basic utilitarian seafood house in every regard except one. Although it plies the flow of Louisiana fish and shellfish to build its menu, this is not the place if you're hungry for a fried seafood platter. The techniques of cooking and the flavors that result from them are from a different cookbook, although not one that is likely to puzzle any eater for long. Sauces, even the ones that sound as if they make a strong statement, step aside to let the fish take over. [caption id="attachment_41930" align="alignnone" width="480"] Whole red snapper at Basin.[/caption]
Chef Edgar Caro, the Colombian native who made a big hit up Magazine Street with Baru Bistro, opened Basin in mid-2013, with a couple of partners with deep roots in the seafood world. They took over a historic space: the former Flagons, in the 1980s the city's first wine bar.
Basin took over the space from a worn-out old pizza joint, and didn't change it much. Except for the many people whose idea of a real New Orleans place is Jacque's-Imo's or Uglesich's, the premises are a bit cramped and battered. The open kitchen fills the room with good aromas from the stove. Tables are not entirely out of the kitchen traffic. The most popular seats are on the sidewalk outside, which blend with the outside tables of neighboring Amici and Salu. Or the ones on the small patio behind the restaurant.
The ultimate meal here is to split the whole fish two ways, after preceding it with at least two runs of appetizers. On Mondays, raw oysters go for fifty cents each through the early evening. The interesting assortment of craft beers are perfect for the food.