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Review: Bourree 

Nathanial Zimet celebrates two New Orleans classics: daiquiris and wings

click to enlarge Bourree focuses on chicken wings and daiquiris.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Bourree focuses on chicken wings and daiquiris.

It's a straightforward, no-frills deal at Bourree, the meat market-cum-daiquiri joint from Boucherie chef Nathanial Zimet and partner James Denio. The restaurant opened in stages last summer and has settled on a short menu of frozen daiquiris, hot boudin links to go and a smaller crop of fiery and imaginative hot wings. The result is a simple but winning operation.

  In its early stages, the daiquiri-and-wings shop occupied the diminutive Jeanette Street cottage that once housed Boucherie. Since moving into its present location around the corner at the former Cafe Nino spot, the menu has grown a little, but the concept is still Spartan at its core. Lacquered tabletops featuring maps of Louisiana waterways have replaced the red-checkered tabletops, but the front counter overlooking an open hood and dusty brick-colored tiles are still there, and the storefront feels worlds away from the sophisticated polish of Boucherie.

  The hallmarks of any roadside Cajun grocery are here: spicy boiled peanuts, cracklings, golden-fried meat pies and thick links of spicy andouille speckled with fat. A glass case shows off a daily supply of smoked meats, hogshead cheese, bacon and terrines.

  Smoked chickens are vacuum- packed and sold whole, or fried crispy and featured in grab-and-go half-pints of chicken salad, a perfect picnic fodder. The creamy mix is interspersed with crispy bits of skin, slivers of bell pepper and green onions — a cohesive, irresistible bundle.

  Pork boudin is the color of dark toffee and leaves a crimson oil slick in its wake. The casings are taut and the filling is dense, not the type you would squeeze out with your fingers. The deeply porky sausages feature a dark and gamey dirty rice mixture with prominent spice that tickles the back of your throat. A chicken version is comparatively lighter but carries a heavy dose of smoke.

  Smoked chicken wings anchor the menu of hot items and run the gamut from familiar — spicy Buffalo with ranch — to more unusual takes, such as a kimchi and lemon grass version, which arrives with a pool of dark glaze heavy with sesame and chilies but lacking some of the fermented flavors you might expect. A mayonnaise faintly flavored with miso adds a cooling element that balances the livelier characteristics of the wings.

  A scorching orange sauce bright with citrus flavors coats the Buffalo wings, which are balanced by a dunk in roasted poblano ranch sauce, a creamy medley that's made even more indulgent with thick chunks of blue cheese.

  The mango barbecue version carries a sweetness disclaimer but nonetheless was cloyingly so and needs something to balance the fruit-forward recipe.

  There are a couple of local craft beers on draft and a short selection of wines by the glass, but the daiquiris are the real draw. Served in tall styrofoam cups, they are much better than some of the locally available neon-colored saccharine bombs and don't leave you with an apocalyptic sugar crash 15 minutes later.

  Seasonal picks have included a fruity Ponchatoula strawberry version, but the mainstay is a refreshing cucumber-forward gin and tonic drink with strong grassy notes. The Rubin "Hurricane" Carter — named after the middleweight boxer whose murder convictions were famously overturned — is made with rum, passion fruit, citrus and Earl Grey tea simple syrup, and it punches way above its weight class.

  Bourree eschewed overexpansion and has stuck with a barebones approach that works fine: short, simple and entirely unpretentious.

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