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Award-winning chef and owner of Brigtsen's Restaurant (723 Dante St., 861-7610; www.brigtsens.com), New Orleans native Frank Brigtsen says it's the people that make Brigtsen's stand apart.

  Brigtsen describes the family-owned and operated restaurant as a product of his growing up in the city: "It reflects that New Orleans sensibility, and whenever possible, we use local ingredients. If it's your first time, I suggest the butternut shrimp bisque. If you try it, you will understand Brigtsen's."

  The restaurant's menu combines traditional and inventive elements. Alongside items like gumbo and shrimp remoulade, you'll find the Shell Beach Diet, a nothing-fried seafood platter. On one recent visit, it included grilled drum with crawfish and pistachio lime sauce, crawfish corn bread with jalapeno smoked corn butter, paneed sea scallop with asparagus coulis, jalapeno shrimp coleslaw and two different baked oyster preparations.

  You can expect even more seasonal dishes from Brigtsen's in the upcoming months.

  "Seasonality in cooking is key here," he says, adding the coming months are the "most exciting food part of the year in New Orleans: crawfish, strawberries and oysters are at their peak." Brigtsen's serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday. You also can visit the restaurant's Web site at www.brigtsens.com, where you can download the chef's recipes for butternut shrimp bisque, trout meuniere with shrimp and pecans and pecan pie.

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