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Review: Susan Spicer and Brett Duffee keep it casual at Rosedale 

Comfort food shines in a relaxed neighborhood setting

click to enlarge Chef Brett Duffee serves comfort food at Rosedale.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Chef Brett Duffee serves comfort food at Rosedale.

Rosedale is the kind of restaurant every neighborhood wants. Chef Susan Spicer's latest endeavor sits in a quiet pocket of the Navarre neighborhood on a sleepy residential street overlooking the train tracks between Mid-City and Lakeview. It's an unlikely spot for a chef of Spicer's caliber and pedigree, and one that takes a sharp detour from her more refined, globally inspired menus at Bayona and Mondo, offering instead a refreshing take on comfort food.

  The term "comfort food" often gets pigeonholed as a heavy cuisine, with dishes cloaked in gravy or laden with cheese. The kitchen at Rosedale, led by longtime Bayona chef de cuisine Brett Duffee, takes a more liberal interpretation of the concept, borrowing from a number of culinary influences.

  Take the lemon and herb-grilled chicken thighs, a Mediterranean-leaning dish in which crispy-skinned, tender chicken arrives sidling a mound of roasted red potatoes emblazoned with smoky char marks. Creamy dill and garlic-tinged tzatziki provides a cooling, tangy element, while green olives add bite and brine. Italian-style garlic bread gets a nice spin on Leidenheimer loaves, where a blanket of pecorino tops the toasts, pungent with fresh dill and roasted garlic. Chunky guacamole is showered with crumbled Cotija cheese and a healthy does of lime juice, and it's served with lightly charred, oil-slicked green onions snaked around the bowl.

  There are dishes that delight in simplicity without loss of attention to flavor and texture. Cubes of squash and sauteed mushrooms give earthy heft to a salad of mixed lettuces and kale topped with fried shallots and thick shavings of pecorino. A sharp yet feather-light vinaigrette pulls the elements together while providing just a whisper of acid for balance. An excellent pork chop comes enveloped in a golden coat of breadcrumbs, nestled next to a bed of chili pepper-studded field peas and a cap of sweet and hot apple mustard. It's a simple, straightforward dish that speaks the language of comfort perhaps more clearly than anything here.

  There's a soft Creole undercurrent across the menu. It's in shrimp Creole topping fried eggplant slices, the rosemary barbecue shrimp and buttery oyster, spinach and bacon gratin, a dressing-like dish that would suit any New Orleans holiday table. A no-nonsense plate of smoky and sweet braised beef short ribs has a generous portion of fluffy broccoli and rice gratin, a cheddar cheese-laced indulgence that would suit a family potluck dinner.

  For dessert, pecan pie packed a nice buttery, brown sugar flavor, but the crust was thin and difficult to cut. Better bets are miniature ice cream sandwiches, which included a delicate ginger snap paired with coconut sorbet and a fudgy, brownie-like cookie with mint chocolate chip ice cream. They are individually wrapped in wax paper, which might say after-school snack, but the flavor is grownup cool.

  The kitchen's humble approach is mirrored in the restaurant's casual surroundings. Artwork covers the walls, mismatched salt and pepper shakers adorn tables and the service is friendly and attentive. No one is trying to reinvent the wheel, and diners aren't confronted with hard-to-pronounce dishes or encyclopedic wine lists.

  The city's restaurant scene is bursting with entrepreneurial drive and experimental chefs pushing the envelope. That makes it an exciting time to dine out in New Orleans, but it's also nice to find a place that offers simple comforts and feels a little bit like home.

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