WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
A few years ago every major chef in town–in lockstep, they way they do everything–begin curing and smoking meats, making sausages, and creating new kinds of pates and such. Chef Isaac Toups’s French Louisiana ancestors from a century ago must have whispered to him in a dream, “Hey! That’s where you come from!” Not long after, the Meatery was born, incorporating into its repertoire both Cajun boucherie and the European charcuterie. Lots of meat, most of it with a hint of the hunt, is interspersed with a little seafood, and lots if items best picked at with the other people at the table. It’s trendy, but it will be a long time before New Orleans gets enough of this exciting, nearby cuisine.
The kitchen employs a lot of meats we don’t see often. Hints of the hunt are here (although no actual wild animals; that’s illegal). The chef likes variety meats. (I found tripe on the appetizer sampler one night.) This is the first place I’ve ever seen tri-tip used as the house steak cut. Interspersed among all that is more seafood than you’d expect. And many dishes designed to be passed around and shared. It’s all very trendy, but it will be a long time before New Orleans gets enough of this exciting, nearby cuisine.
Toups’s Meatery opened in early 2012 with an impressive staff. Chef Isaac Toups came from the town of Rayne in the Cajun Country, and worked with Emeril’s restaurants for about ten years. Most recently he was the chef at the now-extinct (wasn’t his fault) Cuvee. His wife Amanda, who runs the dining room and the wine cellar, managed the Wine Institute of New Orleans for a few years. Orchestrating the service is Larry Nguyen, well known from his years at Cafe Minh.
The Toupses took over the dreary old Mediterranean Restaurant, rejiggered its spaces and brightened the color scheme. A large new bar–built as much for dining as for drinking, runs alongside big windows. And there the renovation stops. This is clearly not a spiffy bistro making an architectural statement. The floor and odd corners are a little beat up, and if you visit the rest room you’ll see more of the nether parts of the place than you’d like.
»Meatery Board–house-made fresh and cured meats, condiments
Cheese Board–selection of three cheeses, condiments
Foie Gras, seasonal jam, French bread, spiced pecans
Fried shrimp salad, smoked jalapeño Caesar dressing
»Mixed green salad, herbed vinaigrette, tempura Gouda, pecans
Meatballs, ginger-lemongrass BBQ sauce, gruyere
»»Mussels, white wine chili broth, grilled bread
Pickle Plate, assortment of house made pickles
»Braised spare ribs, cafe brulot glaze, root vegetables
Roasted duck, balsamic duck jus, thyme roasted turnips
»Lamb neck, mint chow chow, black eyed pea salad
»Double cut pork chop, dirty rice, cane syrup gastrique
Confit chicken, white beans, mustard greens, gizzard gravy
»Gulf fish “Couvillion,” braised onions, roasted potatoes
Tri-tip steak, creamed potatoes, oyster mushrooms, sauce Bordelaise
Drunken shrimp, jasmine rice, beer broth
Sides and Extras
Rillons (fatty cubes of pork made like confit)
Hot cured pork shoulder
Tempura Brussels sprouts
Roux Petit Pois
Doberge cake, several flavors
FOR BEST RESULTS
Even the appetizers are big here. It’s a good place to dine with two to four others, and sharing plates.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
As is usually the case when a mania peaks, you find a few overboard items. The smoky wad of pork rillons in the Manhattan cocktail is much more difefrent than good.
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
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
I don’t think the culinary karmic balance has ever been as loaded down as it is now. On one hand, we have an unprecedented rise in demand for health-focused eating, with lots of low-fat, low-carb dishes. They’re made with better, more varied, sometimes locally-grown vegetables and grains. Wonderful! say the vegetarians, who are also increasing in numbers. But our other hand is picking up and eating from a new, diametrically opposed section of the menu. It offers meats with more fat, more salt, more smoke, and more crusty near-burned bits. And parts of the cow and the pig with the highest possible cholesterol numbers. Both current style of eating and cooking are equally hip. Toups’s Meatery, as the name implies, works the second style.