by Ian McNulty
We've been hearing about Restaurant R'evolution for nearly two years now, after Louisiana chef and all-around culinary entrepreneur John Folse and the high-profile chef Rick Tramonto, formerly of Tru in Chicago, first announced they would collaborate on a major new restaurant in New Orleans. Next week, we'll finally get to see how all those plans add up. Restaurant R'evolution is slated to open for dinner on Monday, June 4 inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
Updates released along the way have left little doubt that the chefs' plans would be ambitious. While many restaurant trends are heading more casual these days, Restaurant R'evolution is dialing in a luxurious, grand restaurant experience.
They call it a "r'evolution"� but in this way it also seems like a bit of an experiment. It's been quite some time since a new restaurant with such an ornate setting and such a vast, intricate - and pricey _ menu has come along in New Orleans (Victor's, the former restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, comes to mind). So even though Restaurant R'evolution has yet to serve its first meal, the place does invite the question of how it will fit in the city's dining scene.
At 200 seats and 6,000 square feet, Restaurant R'evolution features dining rooms decked with antiques, freshly-painted murals of historic and rural scenes and contemporary design throughout. There's a huge, open expo kitchen, tables set with Limoges china, a cheese cart and tableside preparations.
Even the approach to staffing is big and formal. Folse and Tramonto are each executive chefs, while Chris Lusk, previously of Café Adelaide, is chef du cuisine. There's a dedicated pastry chef - Erin Swanson, a protégé of Gale Gand, the renowned Chicago pastry chef (and Tramonto's ex-wife) - and there's a director of wine and spirits, Molly Wismeier, a transplant from Chicago who is now in charge of a 10,000-bottle cellar. The general manager is Muhammad Salahuddin, another veteran of Chicago restaurants.
The Restaurant R'evolution menu is described as a "contemporary translation of Cajun and Creole cuisine."� It does literally start with gumbo (two types, actually), and includes such Louisiana essentials as raw oysters and shrimp remoulade. From there, though, things get pretty exotic.
There are charcuterie boards and potted meats (head cheese, paté), but then dishes like espresso-crusted venison carpaccio with dark chocolate and walnuts, roasted bone marrow or "Tramonto's Caviar Staircase,"� an elaborate caviar presentation, and a holdover from Tramonto's Tru menu, ranging from $65 to $200 depending on which caviars you choose.
The menu (see PDF below) has a seafood section (crawfish-stuffed flounder Napoleon, seared scallops with foie gras) and a pasta section (sheep ricotta gnocchi with lobster, linguini with Manila clams). There are meat dishes like a "triptych"� of pork, stewed tripe and paneed veal chop; another section reserved for game (barbequed rabbit loin, molasses-lacquered duck); and yet another department just for steaks and chops. Apart from pastas, most entrees cost more than $30, and some are considerably more.
For dessert? Maybe rhubarb consommé with angel food cake, coffee-infused beignets or a chocolate soufflé. A separate bar menu has charcuterie, pastas, sandwiches (sliders, crabmeat grilled cheese, a burger), oysters, crudo and lots of small plates, plus specialty cocktails and more than 30 wines served by the glass.
Folse, a River Parishes native, runs a constellation of culinary businesses, from his Bittersweet Dairy to his Lafitte's Landing restaurant in Donaldsonville. Tramonto, originally from New York, started his â€œprogressive Frenchâ€� restaurant Tru in 1999, which soon won many national accolades and awards. Tru is part of the huge Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Tramonto split with his partners and left Tru in 2010, shortly before announcing his plans with Folse.
Restaurant R'evolution will serve dinner daily for now, with lunch and brunch service planned to follow later this summer.