by Ian McNulty
The restaurant is inside the American Can Apartments, a former factory in Mid-City near Bayou St. John. Serendipity represents a big change in style and ambition for the restaurant space here, formerly a location of the small, local Olive Branch Café chain, and it’s a quantum leap in size for DeBarr and his crew compared to tiny dining room and kitchen at Green Goddess.
The chef says his approach here is “more spare” than what he was doing at the Green Goddess, and there's an emphasis on international street foods. Still, fans of his cooking will surely still recognize his eclectic style, his passion for exotic ingredients and even a few of the dishes.
For instance, the menu includes “shrimp ‘wearing a grass skirt,’” which the chef describes as a “Tiki re-interpretation of New Orleans style barbecue shrimp,” with shrimp wrapped in phyllo strands and roasted; Malaysian red curry goat empanadas; and grilled Ruston peaches topped with blue cheese and Nueske's bacon on a sauce of Spanish quince paste. Most dishes are between $8 and $12, and there’s a five-course tasting menu ($39) with more of DeBarr’s characteristically complex and creatively wrought dishes. These include his chilled watermelon and ginger soup with crushed avocado and jumbo lump crabmeat; ravioli fashioned from golden beets instead of pasta; and his “grilled ‘spooky’ wild mushrooms,” prepared with huitlacoche, a rare (but assuredly edible) Mexican corn fungus.
Look for other dishes like “Lafcadio's Creole curried lamb baklava,” a rendition of a Caribbean meat pie layered with curried walnuts and topped with saffron honey; cochon de lait wrapped in banana leaf; Greek fish "tacos” served on turnip and potato latkes; and desserts like the “magic carpet foie gras fantasia,” a Moroccan-spiced pastry ring filled with foie gras mousse, and also a homage to the Hubig’s Pie, which will change frequently.
DeBarr has cooked in restaurants for more than 25 years, and his career included a formative tenure at Commander's Palace under the late Jamie Shannon. He gained his own following as chef at the Delachaise and in 2009 he and chef Paul Artigues opened Green Goddess in the French Quarter. Artigues continues to helm that restaurant.
Serendipity serves dinner nightly.
3700 Orleans Ave. 407-0818