French/Vietnamese cuisine, “pre-cocktail” drinks headed to Lee Circle

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The Hotel Modern may be new, but when it comes to food and drink options the boutique hotel on Lee Circle turned to some familiar names from the local scene.

This Saturday, Dec. 17, is the opening date for the restaurant Tamarind by Dominique (936 St. Charles Ave., 962-0909) from chef Dominique Maquet and the bar Belloq (936 St. Charles Ave., phone n.a.), from the crew that runs the craft cocktail hotspot Cure.

Both are now putting finishing touches on their respective spaces in the ground floor of the 135-room hotel, which had formerly been the Hotel Le Cirque.

For Tamarind, Maquet has collaborated with Quan Tran, a chef he worked with for 12 years at his first restaurant Dominique’s at the Maison Dupuy Hotel. Vietnamese flavors will play big on Tamarind’s menu, but don’t expect casual pho shop fare.

“We’re taking what’s local and using it in a Vietnamese style with French technique,” Maquet says. “If we do a spring roll, it will be touched by both the French and the Vietnamese before it goes on the plate.”

In practice, Maquet says, this approach will mean dishes like grilled shrimp with tamarind remoulade and fried green kohlrabi, duck confit with apple cider vinegar and hoisin, and flounder with Vietnamese coriander and citrus vinaigrette. Tamarind will open for dinner initially and eventually add lunch, when some dishes could include a banh mi with lamb belly confit.

Maquet has been busy lately. In addition to Tamarind, he’s also developing the second incarnation of Dominique’s on Magazine (4215 Magazine St., phone n.a.) with partner Mike Schexnayder, the owner of downtown’s Le Foret.

Maquet originally opened Dominique’s on Magazine in 2010 a few blocks up the street. Over the summer, restaurant writer John Mariani named it among the nation’s best new restaurants in Esquire and wrote a glowing profile of the place for Saveur. But after a split with his business partner in that restaurant, Maquet left this fall, taking his business name with him. That restaurant was recently re-opened as Apolline, while Maquet says his new Dominique’s on Magazine will open in May.

Among the former Dominique’s on Magazine employees joining Maquet in his new ventures are craft cocktail maven Kimberly Patton Bragg and sommelier Lisa Deragon. Patton Bragg’s cocktails at Tamarind will make use of tropical fruits and herbs in synch with the menu.

Belloq, the “Prequel” to Cure

That won’t be the only cocktail action in the Hotel Modern though. Pass from the hotel’s lobby through a partially sheltered courtyard and you’ll find Bellocq, where Cure partners Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Estopinal and Matthew Kohnke have created a new lounge.

If the precisely-crafted drinks at Cure channel the golden age of cocktails, the drinks at Bellocq are their prequel. The specialty here will be drinks that pre-date the modern cocktail, especially cobblers. In this case, cobbler is not the crumbly-topped fruit dessert but rather an archival mixed drink, popular in the 19th century, made from various combinations of wine, liquor or liqueurs with fruit, herbs and other additions.

“Without being Medieval Times about it, we’re trying to return some of the old drinking categories and styles,” says Estopinal.

The bar will stock many types of port, sherry and Madeira. Of course you can order modern cocktails and more conventional drinks at Bellocq, though the beer selection too has a twist. Bellocq will specialize in hard-to-find, large format beers and serve them by the pour, in the manner of wines by the glass. The point is to give people a way to sample different beers normally available only by plunking down for a large bottle.

“People will either think we’re crazy and we’ll switch to serving small bottles, or they’ll like having access to that variety,” Estopinal says.

There will also be a bar menu created by Maquet and prepared in Tamarind’s kitchen.

Bellocq is named after the early New Orleans photographer E.J. Bellocq of Storyville fame, and the décor of the bar, done in deep reds and blacks, with wrought iron touches, lots of ottomans and a zinc bar, is designed to evoke a fin de siècle mood.

Tamarind by Dominique
936 St. Charles Ave., 962-0909

Bellocq
936 St. Charles Ave., phone n.a.

The Hotel Modern
936 St. Charles Ave., 962-0900

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