Cafe Carmo (527 Julia St., 504-875-4132; www.cafecarmo.com) got its start as a tiny lunch spot in the Warehouse District serving a refreshingly different (and often meatless) tropical cuisine, which is by turns Brazilian, Southeast Asian and altogether novel. More recently, the restaurant expanded, added dinner and cocktails and has been developing increasingly ambitious and offbeat dishes — which is worth keeping in mind if traditional holiday foods leave you craving something different.
In Carmo's small, open kitchen the husband-and-wife team of Christine and Dana Honn make dishes such as cold-smoked yellowfin tuna cured with rum and covered with chili oil, pea sprouts and quail eggs. An order of acaraje brings a plate of black-eyed pea fritters stuffed with shrimp and a spicy cashew peanut sauce called vatapa.
Honn says they will add more raw food to their menu at both lunch and dinner, including a dish called tostadas crudos, which are raw corn tortillas with sprouted lentils, salsa fresca and crema made from coconut milk.
Carmo is not a vegetarian restaurant per se, but vegan substitutions are available and often specifically engineered for many of the dishes. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, Carmo hosts a special sugarcane harvest-themed dinner called TropiCana. Cane-smoked marlin, quail adobo and cane syrup cake are among the five courses for the meal, which includes drink pairings and costs $52. Alternate vegan and gluten-free options are available during TropiCana as well.
The dining feels healthy here, but that doesn't preclude a menu of unique cocktails, which often draws on the cafe's collection of tropical juices. The Cajulia, for instance, combines cashew fruit juice, lemon and vodka. Carmo serves lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.