Thursday, June 2, 2011


Restaurants like Matt & Naddie's, Dante's Kitchen, and Dick & Jenny's have gained a strong reputation by filling a niche between the larger factions of gourmet bistros and neighborhood joints. The premise is simple - serve dishes just a few ticks lower in sophistication than the former but at prices a few steps above the latter. This winning formula has boded well for the aforementioned eateries, and the same can be said for Atchafalaya, whose menu execution falls squarely in between those two genres. Which is to say, right where it should be.

Atchafalaya has been quite the hot ticket lately, to the point where walk-ins are rarely accepted during dinner or the uberly popular weekend brunch service. (We actually walked out one recent Sunday after calling 10 minutes ahead and giving our name for an available table, then waiting for 30 minutes while others were seated before us.) Even if your table is reserved, be prepared to wait in the small bar area where a group of musicians (a pianist, maybe a trumpeter or a bassist) play slow soft tunes. A wooden, hollow jigsaw puzzle creates a faux wall which separates the bar from the main dining room, and I have yet to dine with a person who did not say, “I love that little fake wall thing.”

The list of small plates includes my favorite dish in the house: the veal cheek meat pies. A thin, crunchy exterior protects a succulently shredded, almost creamy, interior. I could eat a dozen of these and have no regrets about missing anything else on the menu. Fried green tomatoes ($12) are sauced with remoulade and topped with an avalanche of crabmeat. Nothing wrong with that. The standard cheese plate is porked up with the hogshead variety. Well played. Roasted beet carpaccio ($9) was a vegetarian delight on the first take, underwhelming on the second.

Pastas dishes consistently fell short of expectations. Free-form Crab Ravioli ($14) had thin sheets cooked far short of al dente and a beurre blanc that was a little weak/bland. Pasta Atchafalaya ($18) has perfectly cooked crawfish and shrimp tangled among fettucini, but the sauce was thin and watery.

For entrees the Boudin-stuffed Quail ($20) is difficult to pass up, with a crispy jock-strap of bacon surrounding a partially deboned quail filled with creamy boudin. The accompanying collards had an excellent vinegary flavor. Shrimp & Grits ($23) are served head-on in a spicy, buttery sauce. Stuffed Flounder ($23) was topped with a heavy shower of crispy breadcrumbs and a scatter of crawfish tails that acted as the “stuffing.” An interesting update to a dish which can be overwhelmed with heavily moistened bread crumbs, but the jury is still out on which version is preferred.  A daily special of pan seared snapper was slightly overcooked, but the crawfish dirty rice accompanying the latter was made with a short grain variety that created the right amount of stickiness that I just love.

For dessert, most tables gravitate toward the moist red velvet cake with a restrained application of cream cheese frosting (and for good reason). But don't overlook the peanut butter fudge brownie ice cream, whose flavor profile conjured images of a frozen jar of JIF which fell into a Duncan Hines mixing bowl. I loved every spoonful.

Owner Anthony Tocco (of the Circle Bar and Snake & Jake's fame) is running the show and is a friendly host. In fact, the staff on the whole is quite knowledgeable, from the bartender suggesting a newly received Italian selection as an alternative to our Godello, to the server pointing us to the freshest seafood available that night. The beverage program is very strong - the wine list has both depth and diversity in terms of price and grape varietals, and the self-service Bloody Mary bar makes waiting for a brunch table infinitely more tolerable.

Atchafalaya - Par/Birdie
901 Louisiava Avenue
(504) 891-9626
Dinner - 7 Nights
Lunch - Tues-Fri
Brunch - Sat & Sun

1 comment:

Double Chin said...

That boudin stuffed quail is tough to beat. Didn't Patois used to have a dish similar to that back when they first opened?