This week Brett Anderson hands out FOUR BEANS to Square Root the 'inscrutable' Oz of Magazine Street where 'hyperactively talented' gastro-wizard Phillip Lopez astonishes with his 16-seat tasting menu restaurant. The beanie baby puts on his limited edition holiday bow tie and gets down with some Christmas-ornament-sized 'magical muffuletta' with meringue buns to start, before the liquid-nitrogen comes out to play. Anderson notes, "I ate nearly 40 dishes over the span of three meals at Square Root. A list of the ones I would count as splendid could be... as long as this review." Add in an expert beverage program and pastry chef (Blake Abene), and there's no doubt why it's an exquisite affair, albeit one in which Snoop Dogg or Mötley Crüe might be blasting from the speakers and there's no white tablecloths.
The experience is far more unique than any other in town thanks to chef Lopez himself, who turns spoken word artist as each plate is served: "Lopez serves each dish just after he expedites its creation, making him not only head chef but the lead waiter as well. He is expert at concealing the pressure and toil that accompany those dual roles." Lopez also expertly weaves narratives of New Orleans and Mexico into his descriptions adding "relevance to dishes that could otherwise suffocate."
Overall, Anderson deems Square Root an excellent restaurant, noting "the bits of technical wizardry that take food into the realm of pure chemistry and ideally carry even familiar dishes to previously unexplored frontiers of vividness." Translation: them vapors was good. [NOLA.com]
This week Sarah Baird reviews casual newcomer The Half Shell, now open in the bustling restaurant hub along Esplanade (across from Fortier Park): "Half Shell is an oyster bar and excels at serving plump, briny bivalves that remind us just how decadent the fruits of the sea can taste without much embellishment" despite a "lack of architectural appeal." Also of note: "Crystal-spiced onion rings are a hidden gem on the menu." [Gambit]