|The vine covered wall at Vizard's.|
"Vizard's would like to thank all its facebook fans and all its wonderful customers through the years! Unfortunately, we will not be reopening after Hurricane Isaac. You all have been extremely good to us and we appreciate your love and support! Chef Kevin has decided to do a casual style restaurant in the same location.... featuring Soups, Salads and Hot Plate Specials! Open Monday-Friday 11am-7pm. We look forward to hopefully seeing you soon!"
And so ends another chapter in the nomadic life of Chef Kevin Vizard, albeit a chapter which had a strong 4 year run but faded toward the end. When Chef Kevin moved from the Garden District Hotel to this former architect office on Magazine Street in early 2008, his fans followed along and tables were hard to come by. Perhaps the best meal which your faithful bloggers enjoyed at Vizard's was at the 2008 State Dinner, and I can still remember the taste of the veal tournedos and sweetbreads course that night. The innovative twists on classic bistro fare - cassoulet salad, veal hanger, the always reliable "Green, Egg, and Ham" salad, and the black and blue cake - offered both a sense of comfort and experimentation.
Somewhere along the way (perhaps in response to the small plates craze sweeping the nation), Vizard's revamped its menu so that there were no longer categories like appetizers, salads, and entrees. Instead each dish was a plate neither large nor small. I had no personal experience with that downsized/upsized menu, but reports from the street were less than favorable. Truth be told, it had been more than three years before I dined at Vizard's last November, and all systems seemed to be back to normal.
And that's to say that the food was excellent. We started with fresh demi-loaves of french bread smeared with rich full fat golden butter sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Then an old Vizard's standby, the Crabmeat Nelson: a thin cylinder of fried eggplant filled with sauteed crimini mushrooms and an overload of lump crabmeat and then finished with béarnaise. Seared duck breast, meaty scallops, and sockeye salmon gilded with a tart lemon beurre noisette. The dish of the night: "Pork and Beans," a delicious pun of medium rare slices of juicy tenderloin arranged across a foundation of firm blackeye peas enhanced with diced tasso and andouille, with a Tabasco butter finishing a smoky, rich, and spicy dish worthy of a ribbon at Hogs for the Cause. The closing sentence from my notes on that meal read: "I don’t know why I never think to come here, but after this meal it’s safe to say that I will be returning more often."
I lied. My next (and final) meal at Vizard's was at the end of July, and the undertones of that dining experience were prescient in hindsight. The menu was utterly uninspired and left much to be desired. Gone was the innovation, and left in it's place was a list of tired classics. Don't get me wrong, tuna and avocado is a classic combination which I thoroughly enjoy (and did so again on this night with the citrus soy vinaigrette) but it's also the lowest common denominator for any sushi joint in the city. My entree consisted of two overcooked fillets of grilled redfish, a pile of satisfyingly sour bacon braised greens, and a wedge of dry, coarse, crumbly cornbread. The wine list could have been duplicated via a trip to your neighborhood Rouse's, but that has always been a consistent weakness. Needless to say, we did not set an Outlook reminder to make our next dinner reservation.
Now it seems that the reservation books at Vizard's are permanently closed. But as has become Chef Kevin's custom, the end of one chapter is quickly followed by the beginning of a new one. And per Facebook, that new chapter starts today:
"On Monday September 10th Vizard's will become HEVIN as in 'A lil' taste of' and a play on his name. It will be a Casual Style Eatery serving Soups, Salads & Hot Homestyle Specials. OPEN Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. Chef has lots of great ideas and loves to do this style of food. It will also be home to his 'PO-NINI' which is not a panini and not a poboy. He will be streaming in all music that speaks of heaven as in 'stairway to' 'knock,knock,knockin on Heavens door' and any others you can think of... (just kidding) But next time someone asks 'where can we get a quick bite?' Your answer can be 'How bout HEVIN!' See ya'll soon!"