With good food at every turn in the Big Easy, what does a restaurant have to do to make an impression?
Tough question, isn’t it?
I grew up in NOLA and regularly make it back to visit, to take photographs, and to eat — it’s one of my favorite things to do in this wonderful city. In my mind, there are three things a restaurant must do to make my list:
- Be innovative
- Be fun
- Be consistently outstanding
SoBou knocks the ball out of the park along all of these lines.
I first visited SoBou on a road trip through New Orleans in May 2017. It had good reviews, the menu caught my eye, AND it was one of the Brennan’s family restaurants I’d never tried.
My meal was an early supper, and I had a great table with a view out onto Chartres Street. I chose Geaux Fish, fun faux-Cajun wordplay on the children’s card game. Great name for a dish that changes based on fresh fish and the inventiveness of the chef. The night I had it, the fish was black drum served with crawfish tails, spinach, and gnocchi that had been cooked in the crawfish liquid. Very enjoyable!
When you dine at SoBou, what will the dish be like? I don’t know — Geaux Fish! 🙂
I’d say that SoBou doesn’t take itself too seriously. Except of course, they do, in terms of the quality of their food and the experience. What I mean by this, is this is no “stuck up” restaurant. It truly has a free spirit.
It’s wonderful that there are many restaurants in NOLA that adhere to the classics in a tried and true way. We need that. Otherwise, you risk losing the traditional recipes/traditional methods. But cuisine in New Orleans is also a living, breathing thing and should be allowed to grow and change — otherwise it’s as stuck as a dead body in a mausoleum.
At SoBou, expect riffs on old favorites. Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s menu is playful, tongue in cheek. No boundaries — or at least not many of them.
In October, on a driving trip to Florida, I stayed a couple of nights at the Monteleone, and made a point of dining with SoBou again.
Since there were two of us, I had the opportunity to try a wider variety of dishes. I love being able to taste many things without committing to a huge portion; small plates are big favorites.
I tried two of their current cocktails, one of which was the Pisco Punch (pisco, pineapple, tea, angostura, lime, fino sherry, violet). Pisco is brandy from Chile or Argentina. This was a delightful, light cocktail, with the tea and sherry preventing the pineapple and lime from being too acidic. The hint of violet was very subtle.
During dessert, lead bartender Laura Bellucci brought a seasonal version of milk punch for me to try; lovely take on this cocktail — sweet, but not overly so, certainly inventive version of a traditional favorite.
Smoky Oysters en Escabeche: Cold smoked oysters on the half shell presented atop bed of seaweed, and garnished with a frozen rosé (called “F’rosé” at SoBou), with a scallions. I loved this dish. Such a different take on raw oysters – a delicate smokiness complemented by the delicate ice chips of rosé.
Red Beans & Rice Smoky red bean purée. Dirty rice wontons Truly inventive fusion between the beloved New Orleans red beans and Mexican refried. Crispy, delicious wonton filled with dirty rice — perfect with a dollop of creamy red beans.
Chicken on the Bone Four drumettes of fried chicken confit. Creole seasonal salad, guava jelly. I’m a big fan of duck confit, and this version with chicken did not disappoint!
Cherries Jubilee & White Chocolate Bread Pudding with house made vanilla bean ice cream. Anyone who has been to Commander’s Palace is familiar with their fantastic bread pudding soufflé . Since SoBou is a member of the Commander’s Palace/Brennan’s family — it has its own version of this dessert. Light, airy — a nice tartness from the cherries to offset the white chocolate. This is possibly the best dessert I’ve ever eaten. Be aware: if you want this lovely, it takes 25 minutes to make — so tell your waitperson that you want it when you order dinner.
Jazz Brunch and Bella Blue
My third meal at SoBou was a spur of the moment decision. I’d arrived in New Orleans in the late morning, and my group of friends wouldn’t make it in until 7:00 or so in the evening.
I looked at my watch. Hum . . . what to do?
No reservations, but I set off to see if I could squeeze in to the Jazz brunch at SoBou.
One seat left at the bar! So lucky! While the bar menu is much smaller than the regular brunch menu, there was plenty to like.
The Jazz Brunch at SoBou is so much fun! Burlesque entertainment was a big part of the French Quarter scene from the 1940’s until the burlesque clubs were shut down in the 1960’s. Happily, it’s enjoying a renaissance in the Big Easy. Bella Blue‘s fan dancing is beautiful; a tasteful nod to erotic burlesque entertainment that is tame enough to keep most people comfortable 🙂 .
I chose the Legs and Eggs: poached eggs, apple cider braised pork osso bucco, with bourbon & bacon braised collard greens. The meaty, smoky pork combine well with perfectly poached eggs. There is a little heat from the Tabasco in the hollandaise, but it’s not overdone. I particularly liked their take on collard greens.
There is only one thing wrong with this dish — it’s SO filling! I loved it, but it’s impossible to eat anything following it. My recommendation: share it!
I leave you with a taste of a little jazz and fan dancing . . . signing off from a lovely Sunday afternoon in NOLA.
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