This was a good week for Root, the "precociously modern restaurant in the Warehouse District" by New Orleans' hottest chef Phillip Lopez. Two major reviews for the restaurant came out this week, with the bigger of the two coming from Brett Anderson in the Times-Pic, who gave the restaurant four beans..
Anderson uses that phrase?"precociously modern"?a second time to describe Lopez himself, writing that "I'd come to recognize that exposing myself to a crosswind of exhilaration and mystification was both the price and reward for fully surrendering myself to the ambition of Phillip Lopez." If this sounds a little bit like a wistful missive of love, well maybe that's what it takes to get four beans.
Anderson praises several dishes, including the bresaola (prepared "in a way that caused Lopez's 'bresaola' to somehow taste more like bresaola than traditional bresaola), the shrimp bisque ("It has been a long time since I tasted a seafood soup as fully alive") and other whimsical preparations that are "a performance as much as a dish." Anderson follows cookbook author Nathan Myrhvold's slightly ridiculous lead in terming Lopez's molecular gastronomy "modernist cuisine," but overall Anderson's review of Root is as much of interest to fans of good food writing and criticism as for people interested in a restaurant that "is indisputably (and admirably) unlike any restaurant New Orleans has ever seen."
But the Root love-fest doesn't end there. Earlier in the week, in this week's edition of the Gambit, Ian McNulty provided his take on the restaurant, calling it a place "where highly conceptual dishes relying on specialized kitchen technology (dehydrators, sous vide cookers) share the card with others based on deep-running traditions from around the globe." While it is perhaps not uncommon for people to dismiss such progressive cooking techniques as snobbery or unnecessary meddling, McNulty argues that Lopez' "edgy approach is undercut by a playfulness that makes it more food geeky than food snobby." To wit:
The same kitchen that spins foie gras into cotton candy produces a long roster of charcuterie and pickles, including everything from leeks to strawberries. Then there's a thick, perfectly cooked chunk of lemonfish with udon noodles fashioned in part from bonito flakes. The Chinese-style steamed buns wrapped around duck and herbs are made black with otherwise undetectable squid ink, and the manchego foam over fried oysters is almost too ephemeral to handle but draws you in nose first to try.McNulty's one gripe is slightly at odds with one of Anderson's points of highest praise: the service. He writes. "Waiters sometimes seem a little breathless as they explain the menu, but you can hardly blame them. There's a lot here, and everything has some twist or detail worth explaining." It's worth revisiting Anderson here, though: "the front of the house staff [GM Maximilian Ortiz] put together is arguably the most valuable asset at this point in the development of a restaurant that is by design a work-in-progress." McNulty concludes by writing up the "infectious" energy that makes Root feel "very much of the moment."
· New Orleans Restaurant Root Earns Four Beans for Doing Daring Well [TP]
· Review: Root [Gambit]
· All Root Coverage on Eater NOLA [-ENOLA-]