Pages

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Redemption

Back when I was a teenager, Christian's in Mid-City was the restaurant we used to go to with my mom's side of the family whenever we visited from our home in Mississippi. I admit my brother and I didn't have too much appreciation for the place back then; going there meant having to politely tolerate way too much boring, adult conversation. Now looking back, I have nothing but fond memories -- in particular, of being there with my now-deceased great-aunts and -uncles -- so, it's been sad knowing that Christian's went out of business with Katrina.

Just this year, though, couple Tommy and Maria Delaune opened a new restaurant, Redemption, in the old Christian's location. Redemption's menu centers around what they call "revival cuisine." In the words of Tommy Delaune (taken from the restaurant's website): "People ask, ‘What is that?’ I say, ‘If you’ve been through a hurricane, if you have to leave your home, if you know what it means to miss New Orleans, if you know what it means to have to rebuild, there’s a gnawing in your stomach to get back to your way of life, to get back to the food that you love.'"

Craving the memories that we knew the place would conjure up for us, we headed there this past Sunday for the jazz brunch. I had called ahead to ask about vegan possibilities, and based on the phone conversation, I was optimistic that we would eat well. When we walked in, owners Tommy and Maria greeted us like long-lost friends! They seemed genuinely excited about Chef Van Pellegrin's deviation from the usual menu in creating a vegan meal for us. Tommy said he'd actually had a plate of the vegan food himself, and loved it. Johnny and I headed to our table where my parents and brother were waiting, and enjoyed a couple of hours of great company, delicious food, and enthusiastic service.

Here's what we had...

Appetizer: a twist on their "Butter Pecan Brussels Sprouts," Chef Van substituted olive oil for the butter, serving the pecans and Brussels sprouts over house-made chili pepper sweet potato chips with a crispy beet garnish (I believe it was beets, but I forgot to ask):
The flavors in this dish were outstanding! Johnny is not usually a fan of the Brussels sprout, but even he gave this an "awesome."

Main course: Corn maque choux with blackened butternut squash, served with plantains and baby yellow carrots:

This was very tasty, too, as well as artistic. The best part was the baby carrots. They were unlike any I've ever had -- a truly amazing seasoning job! On a less exciting note, the plantains were a little bland and dry.

Dessert: Chambord sorbet with mixed berries:

(Yes, that's a bite taken out of the right side of the sorbet. I'm still working on remembering to take pictures before digging in...) This was a fascinating dessert. "Sorbet" is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the chef warned us, because it differed completely in texture and flavor from anything else that goes by that name. It was kind of like a chilled chewy candy! I had to google this, but Chambord is a black raspberry liqueur. The chef explained that he froze the dessert on a sheet pan, scraping it up numerous times to have it crystallize slowly. The end result was a yummy, cold, soft, super-sweet, chewy, berry treat. It was a little too sweet to eat the whole thing, but I enjoyed what I did eat.

Here's how the lunch fares when held up to my six measures of a good vegan meal at a restaurant (see previous blog entry):
  1. Quantity: The appetizer and dessert were just right, but the entree was a little small for its contents (not quite filling enough).
  2. Variety: Vegetables, a few nuts, fruit; it definitely could have used more in the protein department.
  3. Originality: Yes! I've never had it in another restaurant. Chef Van told us that he'd never heard of blackened butternut squash, but figured it could be done! Yay, creativity!
  4. Equivalency: Also yes! First of all, we had a thoughtfully prepared dish for every course. Second, corn maque choux is definitely from Louisiana -- it's something that fit in at this New Orleans restaurant. We didn't feel like we were missing out on homegrown flavor!
  5. Consistency: It's a little early to comment on this, other than to say that there's nothing vegan on the menu -- yet. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if -- especially with a little encouragement from other vegan diners like yourselves -- Redemption were to be one of the NOLA restaurants to make room on the menu for something animal-free. I say this because the owner seemed very interested in doing the vegan thing right. When I asked if they had any vegan bread (the bread on the table looked amazing), he consulted with the chef, and then came back to tell us that while they didn't have any yet, he had told the chef to get working on a vegan bread recipe. He explained, "We're still learning." I think that's a great attitude to have when you're running a restaurant. Or in general!
  6. Culinary flair: Definitely! The meal had the essential ingredients of pride, joy, and love in every dish.
So if you want to impress a date, give Redemption a try. With a beautiful building, golden light streaming through the stained-glass windows, the heartfelt, creative, flavorful food, and attentive service that makes you feel right at home, you're sure to have a memorable NOLA dining experience.

Do call ahead and ask to speak to Tommy. He'll take great care of you!

P.S. In other good news, I have tracked down the chef who made that amazing meal for us at Acme Oyster. We're going to her for lunch tomorrow, so there will be a post on that over the weekend.

Redemption ~ 3835 Iberville Street ~ NOLA 70119 ~ 504.309.3570

2 comments:

  1. Please come check out New Orleans newest Vegan Restaurant!
    TheWanderingBuddha.com
    We just opened so we are only serving Sunday and Tuesday Nights.
    We have vegan, gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, treenut-free options!
    And keep this a secret, but it's actually ALL vegan. No animal products in our kitchen!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks like your secret is out! :-) Your food looks delicious! I look forward to trying it. I had Korean black beans one time, and they really made an impression -- I ate them like candy! I'm adding you to my list of places to check out. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete