At Redemption (3835 Iberville St., 504-309-3570; www.redemption-nola.com), the Delaune family and executive chef and partner Greg Picolo prepare what they call "New Orleans revival cuisine."
"[Revival cuisine means taking] classic, iconic dishes ... and making them current," says Picolo, a New Orleans native and self-proclaimed food history geek. "I love taking formulas that I made when I was much younger and recreating that food memory. New Orleans people are very much about our traditions and our memory that way."
Redemption occupies a space constructed in 1914 as a Lutheran church. It housed Christian's Restaurant for 30 years prior to Hurricane Katrina, and Picolo recently uncovered a cornerstone marking the 1958 date when the place of worship was sanctified as a Church of God.
The venue's age and history influence Picolo's menu, which features innovative, playful takes on Louisiana staples.
"Some of the things I reference in my food are equally that old," Picolo says. "I lighten them up. I only use flour in one thing, and that's gumbo. Everything else is done with reductions and has a much lighter feel, but still feels very much like Creole cuisine."
The infused foie gras is a popular dish, as is the cold-smoked, corn-crusted soft-shell crab topped with jumbo lump crab cake and served with grilled asparagus and angel hair pasta with bacon carbonara.
"Christian's was famous for cold-smoked soft-shell crab," Picolo says. "This dish is our tribute to that history."
Stuffed shrimp is requested so often that Picolo says he'll never be able to take it off the menu. Unlike some renditions of stuffed shrimp, his has no breading. "The fluffy, light texture comes from a simple vegetable and crab souffle," he says. The stuffed shrimp are featured on the dinner menu served with an avocado and smoked gouda hominy cake and sauteed spinach.
Last year, Redemption underwent a renovation that added an oyster bar. "We haven't done anything to the gem of the architecture of the building," Picolo says. "The bones of the building are the same, with original stained glass windows and towering wood-tress ceilings."
Redemption also hosts private events ranging from corporate dinners to weddings. With the exception of the floor, which was replaced after flooding from Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, little has changed structurally. As is often the case with churches, the acoustics at Redemption are phenomenal.
"The restaurant does not get overly noisy like some places in town," Picolo says. "But what makes it really fun is the unmiked piano player at Sunday brunch."