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Justin Devillier Talks Balise & A Look Inside

Justin Devillier, well known for his work at the Uptown restaurant La Petite Grocery, just opened a new restaurant in the Warehouse District called Balise, a seductively elegant two-story bar and parlour open for lunch, dinner, and drinks. The restaurant places an emphasis on cold small plates, prepared in an open garde manger kitchen, as well as other small and larger plates of creative food, and superb cocktails from New York City's Maison Premiere alum Jesse Carr.

Balise opened on February 4, just in time for the first weekend of Mardi Gras parades, which didn't phase Devillier and his staff at all. Here now, the JBFA semifinalist and chef talks top menu items and more. Plus, scroll through the gallery for a look inside the revamped townhouse dating back to 1832 (formerly Ditcharo's).

Chef Justin Devillier [Photo: Brasted]

What was it like, opening a restaurant during Carnival?

It was good, actually. I mean, we did a lot of training, about a week and a half to two weeks for all the staff, and did some soft openings, so we were really ready when it was time to open for real.

How was your Mardi Gras?

Great - having two restaurants, both just one block off the parade route did very, very well.

How is the bar/parlour concept going over with your customers?

Well, downstairs really has the ambiance of a bar, especially between 5-7pm, when the it's filled up with people just getting off of work. Upstairs in the parlour area, that's more for seated dinner, and it really gets going between 7-9. Having the two different kinds of clientele is really working out well for us.

What are some of the most popular dishes that have stood out so far?

For the garde manger, the venison tartare has been really popular, and it isn't going anywhere, for a while, anyway. The general plan for that menu is to switch it up and make changes frequently, but with that dish, we've really nailed it. For the hot dishes, people are liking the shrimp fritter dish, which is basically half shrimp mousseline and half finely chopped shrimp, seasoned up and fried. Also, there's a Brussels sprout and chicken wing dish that is going over really well.

How about the cocktails?

I'd say that the Jack Barnes [Laird's Bonded, Varnelli Punch, lime, grenadine, Angostura] has done really well, but I've tasted everything on that menu over the past two weeks and they're all fantastic. Jesse Carr's been doing the cocktail creation.

Would you say there's a difference between the challenges you face as a downtown restaurant as opposed to an uptown location?

Nothing too crazy. I mean, you can never anticipate everything that's going to go wrong, no matter where you open up. I'd say there's not much of a difference except maybe figuring out the logistics of deliveries downtown and making sure you communicate with your neighbors, that you're respecting the community around you.

How are you dividing your time between the two restaurants these days?

Right now, I'm at Balise most of the time, and that'll be the case for the near future. I can't wait till I'm able to go back and forth between the two. But La Petite's doing great, Joe [Joseph Tiedmann, LPG sous chef] is doing an awesome job up there.


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