by Ian McNulty
Food booths from some of the city’s best-known restaurants are filling up Jackson Square this weekend for the French Quarter Festival, but just off the square there’s plenty of new restaurant action taking shape. Tableau, Dickie Brennan’s high-profile restaurant developed in conjunction with Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre, is moving toward completion, and just across the street a pair of globetrotting restaurateurs are building out a new steakhouse.
They expect to open Doris Metropolitan in May at 620 Chartres St., but don’t go looking for your standard filet mignon and creamed spinach. Instead, the concept promises a Mediterranean approach, an in-house retail butcher shop and even its own “meat sommelier.”
This will be the second Doris Metropolitan location from Itai Ben Eli and Doris Rebi Chia, a pair of Israeli restaurateurs who operate their other Doris Metropolitan in Costa Rica. Though they’re tweaking the concept for New Orleans, the upcoming restaurant’s menu will be a similar mix of dry-aged steaks with lamb, veal and plenty of flavors from around the Mediterranean.
“We like to bring the classics and do it with influences from our own culture,” says Ben Eli. “So lots of eggplant, lamb, maybe there’s tahini in the steak tartare.”
Roasted bone marrow, veal carpaccio, beef tongue in beetroot caramel and lamb burgers are all examples from the first Doris Metropolitan menu they may work into the French Quarter expansion.
This new restaurant will have an open kitchen, walls lined with wine racks and a small walk-up butcher shop selling steaks and other meats to cook at home. A large dry-aging room for the steaks will have windows facing the street, giving passersby a look at the goods, while in the dining room a specially-trained staff member will guide patrons through their choices.
“Different people will want different steaks, so we’ll have a meat sommelier to offer a cut that really suits them,” Ben Eli says.
Ben Eli and Rebi Chia once operated a restaurant group with four steakhouses and their own meat packing facility in Israel. After selling this company, they opened the first Doris Metropolitan in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose in 2010. In September, that restaurant was included in a New York Times travel feature on the improving culinary scene in that country.
The partners were scouting other Central American cities for a second location, and were looking in Miami too. But then Rebi Chai happened to be in New Orleans for vacation last year and was impressed by the vibrant restaurant scene. He called in his partner to join him here and the trip changed from vacation to real estate hunt.
“It’s the food culture here that appealed to us,” says Ben Eli. “There’s nothing better than serving good food to people who love good food, they know what it is and appreciate it.”
They found their spot just off Jackson Square, in the building that for many years had housed the Alpine until that decidedly tourist-oriented restaurant closed in 2012.
The build-out now underway will include a bar, a pair of dining rooms and a private dining room, and the restaurant will offer outdoor dining in a large courtyard. From balconies surrounding the courtyard, the restaurant will grow many of its own vegetables in a collection of tubs and planters.
“We like to do as much of our own food as possible, even the bread, we make it from our own sourdough starter,” says Ben Eli.
Doris Metropolitan will initially serve dinner nightly, with lunch to follow.
620 Chartres St., phone n.a.