by Ian McNulty
Pêche Seafood Grill, the latest from the Link Restaurant Group, is scheduled to open Monday in the Warehouse District with an approach to Gulf seafood that chef Donald Link acknowledges is a bit of an experiment.
The concept here is to bring outdoor, open-fire cooking traditions to an indoor restaurant where fish will essentially get the same nose-to-tail, whole-animal treatment that Link has employed to such acclaim at his nearby restaurant Cochon.
Ryan Prewitt, a chef who rose through the ranks at Link’s first restaurant Herbsaint, will lead the kitchen at Pêche. He and Stephen Stryjewski, Link’s partner and co-chef at Cochon, are both partners along with Link in this newest restaurant.
Link says the seafood-as-barbecue concept sprung in part from travels he and his two co-chefs made around South America, where the open-fire asado tradition remains strong. But he also points to his work with the Fatback Collective, a group of pork-minded chefs and barbecue pit masters from around the South.
“It’s all related,” he says. “Open fire cooking, hanging out with the pit masters, cooking outside. Cooking on open fire changes the way you think about food.”
Link’s cousin Dwayne Link fabricated the restaurant’s unique indoor grill, which sits at eye level in Pêche’s open kitchen on a hutch of brick topped with a potent-looking ventilation system. Logs are smoldered on one side of this rig, producing coals that are raked under the grills, which are positioned at different heights for different types of seafood and preparations.
“We’ll have whole fish coming in instead of fillets and steaks so we can do more with them,” Link says. “Some of it goes to crudo, some of it goes on the grill, we can make fish chips from the skin.”
Portions and coursing veer a bit from convention as well. While a raw bar handles crudo, oysters and seafood salads, a good part of the menu is dedicated to small plates and snacks to pass around the table, with most in the $7 to $12 range. Shrimp toast, stuffed crab claws, smoked tuna dip, grilled mussels, beer-battered fish sticks and a Szechuan-inspired dish of ground shrimp and noodles are some examples. Whole fish and smaller cuts from the grill will change frequently. Here’s the full menu.
The menu seems to include a few whoppers — namely a $60 rib eye and the $36 chicken — but Link explains that these are large servings intended to be split around the table.
The building for Pêche dates to 1884 and it was originally used as a livery and later a funeral home, according to research from the Preservation Resource Center. Today, the restaurant design mixes the building’s massive exposed timbers and a finish of bare cypress with the bustle of an open kitchen and raw bar and a few elegant touches, especially antique chandeliers.
Pêche will serve lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, beginning on April 22. Reservations are accepted.
Pêche Seafood Grill
800 Magazine St., (504) 522-1744