Scott Gold dines at another pop up this week, visiting Martinique Bistro on their off night to find Cristiano's Italian cuisine. Martinique's co-owner Cristiano Raffignone recently began the Monday night pop up version of "his Northern Italian-inspired eatery in Houma," and according to Gold, it's awesome. Chef Lindsey Mason's menu is described as being a bit "lighter" than one might expect, even though it's laced with some true-to-Louisiana decadence, like "an elegant, delightfully unexpected plate of venison tartare, served with hand-cut, twice-cooked pommes frites drizzled with truffle oil."
Handmade pastas, from gnocchi to peppardelle, seem like the star of the show here, and even though the dishes venture into "familiar territory," the pastas are all prepared superbly. Not surprisingly, the chef has the big reveal at the end of the meal, and it ain't gelato, y'all:
We're testing the waters with the Monday menu right now, but we'd love to be here every night in New Orleans, cooking this type of cuisine. We don't know quite how far a full restaurant is, but it's certainly in the plans.
Until then, you can try Cristiano every Monday at Martinique Bistro (5908 Magazine) from 6 to 9p.m. [The Advocate]
Ian McNulty finds lots of promising change at the ever-resilient Sara's Bistro in the Riverbend this week, after a bit of chef shuffling. The quiet restaurant actually got its start during the 90s, when owner Mac Rahman (who owned/operated Old Calcutta at the same location in the 80s before Sara's) teamed up with chef Ganesh Ayyengar during the fusion-craze to offer an Indian-inspired menu that started to look more confusion-crazed by the 2000s. A few months ago, a consulting chef came in, promising to revamp the kitchen and cocktails, but bailed before finishing.
Now, Sara's seems to have stabilized with the help of new chef Cristina Trinh, who seems to be guiding them into a creative new direction. While diners can still find the signature samosas on the menu, McNulty emphasizes the new options:
One telltale dish is silken tofu in a spicy, Thai-style coconut milk curry. Another is like a two-part ode to Peking duck, featuring a confit leg and chopped, roasted meat wrapped in pancakes. Grand Marnier spiked the whipped cream over donut bread pudding one night, and on another evening, the soup was a smooth, mellow blend of sweet crabmeat and hobak, a Korean pumpkin.
The dining area is still a downer, with "aged fixtures and furniture" that could use an update, and staff that seems fresh off the boat to waiterland. But, McNulty notes, Sara's effort to upgrade is obviously in full effect. Most of the produce/meats are now locally sourced and their "new lunch program is fast, inexpensive and highly satisfying." [Gambit]
Martinique Bistro [Facebook]