by Ian McNulty
SoBou, the latest venture from the folks behind Commander’s Palace, is expected to open this next Monday, July 9, inside the W New Orleans French Quarter hotel, taking over the spot that for about 20 years had been Bacco.
The name, a reference to its general locale “south of Bourbon Street,” does not slide off the tongue too easily. But it’s been clear since promotions for this new bar and restaurant started making the rounds last spring that SoBou will have plenty on hand to loosen your lips all the same. It’s being pitched as a “spirited restaurant,” after all, one that puts beverages at the forefront of the concept with automated wine-dispensing machines, a custom cocktail list designed by a pair of “bar chefs” and a beer garden with tables sporting self-serve taps.
The menu has just come out, however, and a look at its offering suggests food may invite just as much attention as drinks. The executive chef is Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who has worked at other restaurants under the Commander’s Palace umbrella, and Commander’s executive chef, Tory McPhail, is SoBou’s consulting chef.
Bar snacks here range from cracklin’s ($1) to yellowfin tuna cones ($8), which are thin waffle cones filled with tuna tartare and a basil and avocado ice cream. A three-melon gazpacho ($7), a cochon de lait gumbo ($7) and molasses-lacquered pork belly with dirty rice calas ($9) are among other starter options.
Sure, you can get a N.Y. strip ($29) or seared redfish (market). But with their lavish use of foie gras and the menu writer’s descriptive whimsy, some of SoBou’s more eyebrow-raising dishes could have come from the freewheeling “chef’s playground” section of the Commander’s Palace menu.
Ponder, for instance, the foie gras burger ($24), described as:
pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras, sunny side up duck egg, duck bacon and foie gras mayo on a caramelized onion brioche bun served with pork cracklin’ and a mini Abita root beer and foie gras ice cream float.
That’s enough to make the plain old SoBou burger ($8) seem downright conventional, despite its bruléed onions, pickled okra mayo, and cayenne ketchup. Fingerling potatoes are “painted” with pimento cheese for a veal hanger steak ($18) and smoked sea salt guava jelly escorts a pesto-crusted chicken ($16) with boudin cake.
For dessert, the Louisiana peach tartine ($8) sounds just as complex, with “candied ginger biscotti, smoky peaches, and pecan bacon butter spread with gorgonzola dolce ganache.”
Back to the drinks, SoBou will pour close to 30 wines by the glass (including some by the ounce, through those wine dispensers) and serve Abita and NOLA Brewing beers on tap. The cocktail list is the work of “consulting bar chef” Lu Brow, from the Commander’s team’s other venture, Café Adelaide & Swizzle Stick Bar, and “in-house bar chef” Abigail Gullo, a recent transplant from the New York craft cocktail scene.
One of Gullo’s drink recipes for this yet-to-open establishment (a gin-and-sparkling wine cocktail called the Faubourg Tall Boy) is even included in Esquire magazine’s recent list of “Every Summer Cocktail You Need.” A tip of the hat to Commander's Palace marketing muscle for that one.
Starting July 9, SoBou will be open daily, and true to form for its hotel restaurant duties it will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
310 Chartres St., 552-4095