Owners Tom and Maria Delaune describe Redemption's (3835 Iberville St., 504-309-3570; www.redemption-nola.com) fare as "New Orleans revival cuisine," but executive chef and partner Greg Picolo says the food's essence is better conveyed by a phrase he coined years ago: "upscale ya Mama 'n' em."
"I got tired of saying 'contemporary Creole' and this and that," Picolo says. "The dirty rice I'm doing is with duck liver and foie gras. We all grew up in New Orleans with dirty rice, but the difference is this inclusion of a $50-a-pound, high-end ingredient, not just because I wanted to put a high-end ingredient in it, but because the flavor becomes distinctly different and very synonymous with my style."
During his 20 years at the now-defunct The Bistro at Maison de Ville, Picolo familiarized diners with his culinary trademarks. To Picolo's delight, several former patrons followed him to Redemption: "They know ... how I think of food, how I layer flavor, how I put it together," he says. "People I brought to this restaurant, that's how they know me."
Redemption has its own colorful history. The former Lutheran church housed a restaurant named Christian's prior to Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures. The Delaunes opened Redemption in February 2011, and while Christian's mourners won't find dish replicas at Redemption, there are nods to these items on the menu.
"As a tribute to Mr. Ansel [Christian Ansel, original owner of Christian's], I brought back the cold-smoked soft-shell crab, smoked with different woods, serving it with the green onion mayonnaise he had on a fish dish," Picolo says. "I've taken two dishes that were synonymous with the past restaurant and brought it forward as an homage, but by no means am I trying to recreate Christian's." Picolo is honored to have been able to debut the crab dish with Ansel.
Construction is almost complete on Redemption's patio, and a new wine tasting series to complement its corkage-fee free Thursdays is coming soon. There also are unlimited mimosa and Bloody Mary refills at Sunday brunch and 25-cent martinis at lunch.
"Our mission statement is about being more than just a restaurant," Picolo says. "We're about being a part of Mid-City and a part of this community. It's a really beautiful new dining experience for Mid-City, and we're very excited about it."