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Review: n:eaux 

This new Bywater restaurant is so hip you’ve never heard of it — and probably can’t get in

click to enlarge The unmarked entrance to n:eaux, located in the old Levy Pants factory, which does not make its address or phone number public.

The unmarked entrance to n:eaux, located in the old Levy Pants factory, which does not make its address or phone number public.

The first thing to "kneaux" about n:eaux is that you don't make a reservation with it; it makes a reservation with you. Prospective diners fill out a short web form (which asks for links to their Twitter, Tumblr and other social media accounts). If their application to dine is accepted, a time and date will be texted back, along with a link to a smartphone app containing that evening's menu. (More on that later.)

  Upon receipt of your acceptance, you'll head to an unmarked building in a sparsely populated part of Bywater. Coming from downtown, drive down Dauphine Street past Poland Avenue; it will be on your right, in a warehouse that once housed the Levy Pants factory.

  Every evening starts in the bar at n:eaux, a pitch-black room where conversation is discouraged. This is in order to better appreciate n:eaux's unique drinks program, which features specialties such as the "English Turn-Up-For-What" (described as "Mississippi River-forward"), and the "Ramazerac French 75," a hybrid cocktail which combines whiskey, gin, Champagne, Morgan City Farms lemon juice and the white of an egg from a Marigny free-range chicken. Each of the drinks, called "taptails," is served from a tap into a red Solo cup with poetry written on the side and comes with your choice of a selection from the artisanal ice menu, which ranges from $1 to $5 per cube; on a recent visit, the "Galatoire's-style hand-chipped" was the most popular of the ice selections.

  Things are a bit brighter in the restaurant itself, where you will be separated from your dinner companions and seated with strangers at various points along n:eaux's single communal table. In order to encourage conversation and "community building," there aren't enough utensils for all, so you'll have to barter with your seatmates for the use of one of the forks, knives and spoons. When your meal is ready, the app comes into play again; your phone will vibrate and you'll walk into the kitchen and "forage" for your own food. If another diner happens to be picking up an order that looks good, you're encouraged to barter for bites or even to swap dishes.

  The fare, as presented on your app/menu, isn't divided into categories like entrees and mains or large and small plates, but rather "excitements," "amusements" and "distractions." Among the "distractions" was a tofurky belly sandwich made with tofu instead of pork belly, finished in a pineapple Big Shot-PBR reduction and served banh mi style with a crust of Roman candy and Zapp's chips.

  Another popular sandwich was the "deconstructed shrimp po-boy," which featured a single breaded shrimp on a plate with a smear of Creole tomato jam and Bogalusa Farms iceberg lettuce foam. Those who want their po-boys dressed can choose from one of several house-made mayonnaises, which are called "mayaux." Perhaps the restaurant's most popular dish is the "flight of six kales," which features the popular green prepared five different ways and served on an edible plank also made of kale.

  At the end of your meal, there's no need to wait for a check; when you're finished, you leave and the app automatically deducts the cost of your meal from your Bitcoin account, adds a 35 percent tip, sends images of your meal to your Instagram account and gives the restaurant a five-star Yelp review.

  While n:eaux has been serving food for a while now to those in the know, its grand opening is this week: April 1.

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