Via The Times Picayune, written by Todd A. Price
Seaworthy is a collaboration between the New Orleans' Ace Hotel and Grand Banks oyster bar, a floating restaurant in New York's Hudson River. Two of Grand Banks owners, Alex and Miles Pincus, were born and raised in New Orleans. At Seaworthy, they tapped Kerry Heffernan, the celebrated chef at Grand Banks, as the executive chef and the well-established New Orleans chef Dan Causgrove, who most recently led the Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel, as the chef de cuisine. In this periodic series, we take a look at new restaurants in the New Orleans area:
Seaworthy bills itself as an "oyster bar," an institution we know well in New Orleans. But Seaworthy is something different.
Instead of teams of shuckers methodically tearing through mounds of oysters, the seafood here is laid out on ice like the wares at Mignon Faget. The restaurant's menu features truffle topped brandade, a thick, warm and fabulously old-fashion mix of mashed potatoes and sturgeon that only amplified my longing for colder weather. But at Seaworhty, you'll eat neither a po-boy nor even a fried shrimp. If this is an oyster bar, we need to adjust our local definition.
Seaworthy, like a growing number of local restaurants, also complicates the definition of an oyster.
In New Orleans, "Gulf" used to be the only modifier we added to our oysters, other than a dab of cocktail sauce whipped up at the table. At Seaworthy, the Gulf oyster, like their counterparts from the East and West coasts, are subdivided by poetic brand names, like Murder Point or Massacre Island. These are cultivated oysters, raised above the ocean floor.
Eating Gulf oyster has always been a collective experience. As we devoured bivalves by the dozen, we would debate the current level of our regional oysters' deliciousness.
Cultivated oysters, however, are more intense, complex and consistent. A Murder Point, like a Canadian Malpeque or the West Coast's Kumamoto, will taste about the same with each encounter. The cultivated oysters create connoisseurs and command higher prices ($3 a piece at Seaworthy).
Seaworthy wants us to pay close attention to seafood.
The successful dishes, and on two early visits nearly everything I tasted would count as such, let the fresh sweetness of the seafood shine by adding subtle yet complex counterpoints.
Whole shrimp, which might look like the basic boiled and chilled variety, are cured and then poached. On the side for dipping is a "leche de pantera" sauce, a thick, emulsification made with drippings from the ceviche. The lobster roll is served on a toasted bun. Two parapets of crisp cucumber coins protect the sweet meat, which is mixed with an aioli spike with dulse, a type of kelp that adds savoriness. Lump crab meat, piled on toast, gets a whisper of heat from "Creole" aioli and, with eat bite, a wash of wetness from the ripe cherry tomatoes on top.
Seaworthy delights with details.
The few underwhelming dishes lacked that studied restraint and felt too familiar. The scallops in a shrimp butter sauce, for example, were fine, but the kind of entree you might find elsewhere. Dinner at Seaworthy works best when you steer clear of courses. Instead, order enough shared plates of seafood to turn your table into an improvised plateau de fruits de mer.
As tight as a captain's cabin, Seaworthy's downstairs bar merits a visit just to sip its low-alcohol sippers. The main dining rooms are upstairs at the end of a twisting staircase. A careful makeover accented the building's age and history. Befitting its New York parentage, Seaworthy embraces the romance of the open sea. The rooms could be sets for a screen adaptation of a Melville novel.
Only five weeks into its voyage, Seaworthy already runs like a restaurant with a seasoned crew. Here's hoping its passage in New Orleans will be long.