Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans Vietnamese’
Vietnamese cuisine is all the rage, isn’t it? Where else can you spend $25- $40 for a bowl of soup? Spoiler alert, if you want authentic Vietnamese in New Orleans, ask for directions out to the cluster of Vietnamese shops and restaurants in New Orleans east.
Vietnamese settled along the Gulf Coast and are busy in the shrimp industry, so there’s been a mini-explosion of Vietnamese “style” restaurants. I’ve had a couple of good experiences, at Mo Pho, which is Vietnamese/Creole fusion, interesting, tasty. And at Namese, in mid city. I’ve also driven down to the docks where the shrimp boats come in and purchased right off the boats. That’s fun and cheap!
Anyway, Magasin is on Magazine Street in New Orleans, a hub of shops and restaurants catering to the aspiring affluent. Just as sushi places come up with a unique “roll” of their own concoction, Vietnamese restaurants increasingly have added a special Bahn Mi (sub sandwich) and recipe Pho (soup) to their menus. These can be nit and miss.
At the Magasin Cafe, the special sandwich is called the “Deli Special.” Usually these sandwiches, undoubtedly developed during the French occupation have one or two kinds of meat, cucumber, pickled vegetables, cilantro, occasionally jalapenos, and occasionally some type of dressing.
I asked the waiter what was on the “Deli Special” and altho we were both speaking the same language, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of what he was trying to say. I think we settled it on being two kinds of pork, but then he said “chicken pork.” Chicken and pork, I asked? No, you know, “chickenpork.” Well, I do not know, or did not, I ordered it, and it’s not to my taste. Whatever “chickenpork” is, it is surely the Americanized version of Vietnamese pressed, chopped, and form lunch meat.
Ick. Companion diners loved their pho, but to my observation, the plates were not adorned with as many things to add to the broth as I have seen at other restaurants.
It was near 6 on a weekend. It was pretty busy. There are shops to poke in after and some pretty fair coffee, across the street and to the west.
When I lived in New Orleans, I was a member of a “boy’s lunch club,” where some of the guys and I went out and explored new places, or ordered food shipped in from somewhere in the country. It wasn’t meant to be a critical experience by any means, just guy bonding and good grub. With the exception of me, it was a fairly illustrious group, which included Lolis Elie, writer for the TV series Treme and author of several food books, David Waggoner, internationally acclaimed architect, and Randy Fertel, philanthropist, creator of the Ron Ridenhour prize for journalists, entrepreneur, former professor, and author of several books. Randy is known by many as the son of Ruth Fertel, the late founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, the history of which is detailed in his book, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak.
No matter what label anybody else puts on these guys, to me they are just my pals, and I was delighted to hook up with Randy on a recent visit to New Orleans and, following his suggestion, we headed out to MoPho, a spot that has combined Louisiana and Vietnamese cuisine in some very interesting preparations.
After a brief discussion, neither of us could figure out when and where “fusion” started, but agreed it must have been SoCal.
Wherever it started, Chef/owner Michael Gulotta, formerly of the restaurant “August,” has succeeded in creating something wonderful amidst stiff competition in both genres: New Orleans is chock a block full of great Vietnamese places (hidden from the tourists, for sure) as well as eateries featuring local favorites.
Gulotta has combined the two cuisines and come up with absolutely amazing dishes.
We started with the restaurant’s popular lemongrass / ginger chicken wings – I’m not a wing guy, at all, but these were great, and they weren’t those pitfiul little winglets, these were full wings, and obviously not purchased from anywhere Al Copeland, late purveyor of tiny chicken pieces, shopped. Massive, flavorful, crispy skin.
We mowed thru an outstanding cabbage salad, and diminutive crispy fried spring rolls. Randy went with one of the bowls, all the while raving about how outstanding the eatery’s rice is.
Gulotta has created an homage to the Bahn Mi, given it the local moniker of po boy, and come up with a solid home run. I went with the fried shrimp version that he has added local Chisesi ham to, and which comes dressed with MOPHO mayo, pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, jalapenos and chicken liver pâté. The sandwich bread is equal to any of the French loaves I’ve found on the street in Vietnam. I don’t know where Chef gets his cilantro, but it had the brightest, freshest taste, taking my taste buds back to street foods in Singapore or Bangkok.
The restaurant has special chef tasting menus on occasion with wine pairings, and every Saturday the restaurant roasts a whole hog over pecan on the outdoor pit…..they start serving pig meat at 11 AM.