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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

First look at Meril, opening Saturday in the Warehouse District

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 3:52 PM

click to enlarge Korean short ribs are grilled robata-style over charcoal and served with kimchi cucumbers at Meril, Emeril Lagasse's new restaurant opening Saturday, Sept. 24, in the Warehouse District. - HELEN FREUND
  • Korean short ribs are grilled robata-style over charcoal and served with kimchi cucumbers at Meril, Emeril Lagasse's new restaurant opening Saturday, Sept. 24, in the Warehouse District.

Meril (424 Girod St., 504-526-3745), Emeril Lagasse’s first new restaurant to open in New Orleans since 1998, opens its doors Saturday, Sept. 24. It’s named after his daughter and joins his flagship Emeril's New Orleans, NOLA and Emeril’s Delmonico.  

Chef de cuisine Will Avelar is a New Orleans native who began working for Lagasse in 2005 and moved on to lead the kitchen at Delmonico. He will oversee day-to-day operations at the new spot and created the menu along with Chris Wilson, the culinary director for Lagasse's empire.

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The menu, at what Wilson is calling a “chef-driven neighborhood restaurant,” is a multifaceted collection of dishes pulled from myriad international cuisines, inspired in large part by Lagasse’s travels. There are Mexican-inspired pork rib tamales and street corn slathered in chili, lime and mayonnaise, and Asian-inspired spring rolls and steamed mussels in coconut milk.  A charcoal grill pumps out Japanese robata-inspired grilled meats, including Korean short ribs served with kimchi cucumbers. 

There's strong Italian influence in the wood oven-fired flatbreads and pastas, all of which feature noodles from Dan Esses’ local company, including fettucini nero, folded around crab, toasted almonds, Calabrian chiles and arugula. Among the many local touches are a glass display case featuring St. James Cheese Company cheeses and Bellegarde baguettes.

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For dessert, a Pacojet churns out no less than eight flavors of homemade ice cream daily, and simple classics, including lemon icebox cakes and pecan pies, are overseen by the restaurant’s pastry chef Bergen Carman, another Delmonico alum.

The restaurant is Lagasse’s most casual approach to dining yet: Everything on the menu is less than $20, with a large portion of snacks and salads falling under $10.

The yawning Warehouse District space includes a 20-seat horseshoe-shaped bar and a second expansive dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing Girod Street. The dining room features two giant murals — one of a Gulf fish and the other of a crab — painted by local artist Landon Lott on exposed brick walls. The large, open kitchen offers guests a glimpse of the action from anywhere in the dining room.

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Bartender Miki Nikolic is overseeing the cocktail program, which he says is based largely on local and seasonal ingredients featured in the kitchen, including herbs such as basil, lavender, mint and oregano.

Fruit and vegetables also will find their way to the cocktail glass, Nikolic says. A drink made with white rum and yellow Chartreuse includes carrot juice and lemon grass, while a gin elixir combines cucumber water, lime juice and jalapeno simple syrup.

A selection of local beers on draft, plus a list of more than 80 domestic and international wines round out the bar selections. Cocktails fall in the $8 to $12 range, draft beers are $6 and wines by the glass are offered in 5-ounce and 8-ounce pours. 

Meril opens for lunch Saturday and will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. till close. For more information, visit the restaurant’s website here.
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