The menu at restaurateur Dickie Brennan's new Tableau (616 S. Peter St., 504-934-3463; www.tableaufrenchquarter.com) reads like a modern renovation of the cuisine served at nearby French Creole institutions: Green onion aioli and fried capers join the crabmeat ravigote, panko encases paneed veal, and Abita Turbodog beer is worked into the onion soup. The approach feels apt, since the restaurant adjoins a French Quarter institution of another sort that has undergone its own modern renovation.
Tableau opened in the same building that is home to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre (www.lepetittheatre.com), which is recognized as the oldest community theater in America, with roots stretching back to 1916. In December 2010, financial problems caused the theater to cancel its season and lay off staff.
Debate over how to revive the theater divided the local arts community, but by the end of 2011 the theater's board signed a deal to sell part of the property to the local restaurant management group Dickie Brennan & Co. Proceeds from the sale would pay off debt and fund a renovation of the theater.
Tableau occupies the space that had housed a black box-style theater and storage space, and Le Petit maintains its main theater space. The theater announced it will open its first post-renovation show in July, and its regular season is set to begin in September. Le Petit and Tableau share the building's lobby and center courtyard, and Brennan has said he hopes the restaurant can help boost ticket sales at the theater.
Whether a visit here includes a play or not, Tableau has planted an ambitious restaurant on the edge of Jackson Square. From the first floor bar and dining room areas, a grand staircase sweeps up to a warren of private dining rooms with access to balconies overlooking the square and the courtyard.
The chef is Ben Thibodeaux, a Lafayette native who was most recently chef de cuisine at Brennan's nearby restaurant the Palace Cafe. Shrimp remoulade, fried eggplant sticks and elaborate poached egg dishes (eggs Hussarde, eggs Sardou) all evoke old-school Creole tradition. But more contemporary touches are always close at hand, like crab claws in truffle vinaigrette, roasted bone marrow with rib-eye and oysters en brochette using rosemary sprigs as the skewers and roasted garlic beurre blanc as the sauce.
Tableau serves lunch and dinner daily.