Via The Times Picayune, written by Brett Anderson:
Restaurants considered for the Best New Restaurant 2016 list had to have opened after Aug. 1, 2015. They also had to have been fully operational by Oct. 1, 2016, allowing for the grace period Brett Anderson gives restaurants before visiting them for review. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Kenton's is the oldest of this year's crop of best new restaurants. The reason it's here is because it felt old even when it was brand new. Back at the tail end of 2015, when Mani Dawes and Sean Josephs opened Kenton's with chef-partner Kyle Knall, the restaurant already bore features of a mature enterprise. Knall cooks modern American food that nods knowingly toward his native South. He's handy with wood smoke and deep frying without using either as a crutch. His expert, modulating touch strikes precisely the right notes for a restaurant that is respectful of tradition while not presuming its customers are only interested in oldies. Josephs and Dawes, who are married, earned their stripes as restaurateurs in New York City, where they still own properties. But Kenton's is far from the smug, subway-tiled speakeasy many locals fear from coastal transplants. It is, rather, a fine-dining restaurant refreshingly in tune to the folkways of its coordinates at the corner of Nashville Avenue and Magazine Street (near where Dawes grew up). The nerd-heaven bourbon selection and premium oyster bar are welcome additions to the Uptown neighborhood. The warmly professional service and serene, conservatively designed dining room signal an even keel. If Kenton's represents change, it's not of the type longtime locals need to fear.
Meril is the first New Orleans restaurant opened by Emeril Lagasse in nearly 20 years. That's plenty enough time for a restaurateur's muscles to go slack. Meril is proof that the 57-year-old icon has still got plenty of game. From wood-fire grills and wood-fire ovens to Asian barbecue and Jamaican jerk, from flatbreads, handmade pasta and roasted cauliflower to snack plates, small plates and medium plates, Meril's menu is essentially a collection of trends that have taken hold in this no-longer-that-young century. Lagasse is too smart an operator to try authoring another new culinary style at this stage in his career. Meril finds him playing to his strengths, unleashing chef de cuisine Wilfredo Avelar to juice proven strategies with big flavor and personality. This time it's done in an industrial-chic tavern set in a now so-hot neighborhood (Warehouse District) that Emeril all but invented.
Reasonable people can disagree as to whether N7 is a bar, restaurant or bold new form of interactive sculpture. Same could be said about whether canned fish, an N7 specialty, counts as cooking. My take is that the head-scratching incited by this wine-bar-bistro-urban-retreat is a feature, not a bug. The brainchild of filmmaker Aaron Walker and chef Yuki Yamaguchi is, above all else, a place to be: For drinks that may be unfamiliar to you (like natural wine, or Japanese shochu). For the discordant pleasure of lazing about a rural-feeling compound erected on the deeply urban property of a former tire shop. For the stimulating conversations that are sure to touch on what this all adds up to. Scoff at the scallops rillettes, spiced mackerel pate or smoked sardines, if you must. Canned (and jarred) seafood of this quality -- delicacies in Spain, France and Portugal, to name three of the countries they're imported from -- are to the daily catch what charcuterie is to conventionally prepared mammal meat. They're also not the only things served. From the small bar set with boiled eggs to the pork katsu in beet sauce I ate with frites, N7 is an idiosyncratic expression of Francophilia. New Orleans hasn't seen anything like it before. And I can't imagine finding it anyplace else.
Seaworthy's opening followed that of Josephine Estelle on one side and Balise on the other, completing a makeover of the block of Carondelet Street dominated by the New Orleans Ace Hotel. The restaurant is a collaboration between the Ace and the New York restaurant Grand Banks, whose well-regarded chef Kerry Heffernanis Seaworthy's executive chef; the drinks program is created by a veteran of the influential, now-closed Manhattan bar Milk & Honey. So no, it is not a place to abjure the outside influences taking root in New Orleans. What it is, however, is a first-rate oyster bar in what has become a national style. Its soul is a happening bar featuring an array of bivalves, organized by region and priced by the single oyster, along with smartly curated libations to match. Chef de cuisine Daniel Causgrove distills a variety of seafood cooking traditions on the larger menu, with a bias toward local ingredients and Southern flavors. His food is by turns folksy (lobster roll, marinated crab claws) and high-flown (butter-poached sheepshead, whole roasted speckled trout) and consistently very good. The small dining rooms in the handsomely restored building are studies in arrested decay, decorated mainly in melted candle wax, populated by people who 18 months ago couldn't have imagined being this enchanted by this part of town.
Turkey and the Wolf
There are two categories on Turkey and the Wolf's menu: "Sandwiches" and "Not Sandwiches." The headings speak to the modesty of an order-at-the-counter sandwich place built in the onetime home of Finger Lick'N Wings. While factually accurate, the categories also are coy about what chef Mason Hereford delivers. Each of his sandwiches seizes an opportunity to turn a familiar path -- the one-bite journey from crisp-to-soft-to-crisp -- into a brief but memorable voyage. It's not high-minded stuff. We're talking about baloney, smoked ham and chicken-fried steak here. The difference is that Hereford, a former Coquette chef de cuisine, and his staff create this unpretentious food as though they were working with Dover sole. The grab bag of snacks (get the deviled eggs, topped with fried chicken skin) and salads are similarly impressive, and all are complemented by co-owner Lauren Holton's intelligent selection of cocktails and other inebriates.