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SoBou Opens 

  SoBou (310 Chartres St., 552-4095; www.sobounola.com), the latest venture from the group behind Commander's Palace, opens this week inside the W New Orleans French Quarter hotel, taking over the spot that had been Bacco for 20 years. The name is a reference to its general locale "south of Bourbon Street."

   SoBou is being pitched as a "spirited restaurant," one that puts beverages at the forefront of the concept with automated wine-dispensing machines, a custom cocktail list and a beer garden with tables sporting self-serve taps.

  The menu, however, suggests food may deserve as much attention as drinks. The executive chef is Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who has worked at other restaurants under the Commander's Palace umbrella, and Commander's executive chef, Tory McPhail, is SoBou's consulting chef.

  Bar snacks range from cracklings to yellowfin tuna cones, which are thin waffle cones filled with tuna tartare and basil and avocado ice cream. Other starter options include cochon de lait gumbo and molasses-lacquered pork belly with dirty rice calas.

  Diners can get a New York strip or seared redfish here, but with its lavish use of foie gras and the menu's descriptive whimsy, some of SoBou's more eyebrow-raising dishes could have come from McPhail's freewheeling "chef's playground" section of the Commander's Palace menu. The foie gras burger is described as "pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras, sunny side-up duck egg, duck bacon and foie gras mayo on a caramelized onion brioche bun served with pork crackling and a mini Abita root beer and foie gras ice cream float." For dessert, the Louisiana peach tartine sounds nearly as complex, with "candied ginger biscotti, smoky peaches, and pecan-bacon butter spread with Gorgonzola dolce ganache."

  SoBou pours nearly 30 wines by the glass (including some by the ounce, through the wine dispensers). The cocktail list is the work of consulting bartender Lu Brow, from the related Cafe Adelaide & Swizzle Stick Bar, and in-house bartender Abigail Gullo, a recent transplant from New York.

  SoBou serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

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