This week is a big one for religious observances, and a number of notable New Orleans restaurants are offering special meals.
Holy Thursday, April 5 this year, is the only day of the year when chef Leah Chase serves her gumbo z'herbes at Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0600), and it has become the restaurant's busiest day of the year as diners book large tables well in advance to partake with family and friends. Chase suspends her regular menu on Holy Thursday to focus solely on serving gumbo z'herbes and fried chicken, plus some side items.
"I cooked 75 (gallons) last year and I knew this year that wouldn't work so I'm doing 100 gallons," Chase says.
Gumbo z'herbes is made with a profusion of greens and, according to Creole superstition, it's unlucky to use an even number of them. Chase uses nine, and her recipe also calls for quite a lot of meat, including ham, two types of sausage and brisket.
"We serve it the day before Good Friday because that's our last big meat day before Easter Sunday, so you have this big hearty meal before you start fasting," she says.
Dooky Chase has three seatings for Holy Thursday, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and seatings are filling up fast.
The following day, April 6, marks both Good Friday and the start of Passover, and that's the day when Domenica (123 Baronne St., 648-6020; www.domenicarestaurant.com) begins a special four-course Passover menu. Alon Shaya, the Israeli-born chef at Domenica, introduced the idea of running special Jewish holiday-themed menus at the regional Italian restaurant in 2010.
"I have a lot of fun with the menu because I feel I don't have to do the same old things I ate growing up," Shaya says.
The menu includes matzo bread served with traditional charoset and matzo ball soup prepared with duck instead of chicken. There's bronzini with a profusion of traditional bitter herbs, and lamb shank coated with pomegranate and Moroccan spices. Dessert is hazelnut cake. Domenica is not a Kosher restaurant, but Shaya says his Passover menu is "Kosher-style," with no pork, shellfish or dairy.
This Passover menu is available at lunch and dinner from April 6 to April 14, and it is $55 per person, plus tax and tip.
New this year, chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-2123; www.cochonrestaurant.com) is serving a traditional Polish Easter feast in line with his family roots. He's hosting it at Calcasieu (www.calcasieurooms.com), the private dining facility upstairs from Cochon, starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 4.
The feast includes eggs — both shelled and elaborately decorated — whole roasted leg of lamb, ham, kielbasa, pierogi, beets with horseradish, crawfish stuffing, pastries and more, plus an assortment of vodkas. The price is $75, and a portion of the proceeds goes to Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit promoting sustainable food. Call Cochon for reservations.