When Blake Aguillard opened MoPho with Michael Gulotta, he said he’d never open another restaurant unless it was his own. He did open one when he opened Ikigai in San Francisco with a former colleague from Saison (also in San Francisco).
Now, with partners Trey Smith, chef de cuisine at MoPho, and Drew Delaughter, former GM at MoPho, he’s finally opening a Paris-style wine bar and bistro serving “modern French cuisine” in the Bywater that he can call his own — Saint Germain (3054 St. Claude Ave).
“We have the perfect crew because we have me and Trey, the chefs, and Drew, who is GM and sommelier. We are all friends,” Aguillard told Eater.
The team plans to use the space as a bar seven days a week. But three days a week they’ll add a bistro to it with Aguillard and Smith cooking all the food themselves, and even hand-delivering much of it to diners. It’ll be highly exclusive in that the dining room portion of the space is small, seating fitting only 12-16 people at a time only three days a week.
On bar-only days, expect wine (with a good selection of natural wines), specialty cocktails, beer, and a rotating menu of small plates, including freshly baked bread and pâté.
The spot, which they hope to be “not too nice and not too dicey” with a French farmhouse vibe (complete with a backyard garden for the chefs and maybe even chickens producing eggs for pasta), should feel like “you’re at your friend’s house or friend’s bar in Paris. The owner is always there — and friends with everyone there,” Aguillard said. To get that intimate feel, the only employees will be the three partners.
The spot is the shotgun style house with two front doors next to Red’s Chinese that was formerly Sugar Park pizza. Farouki Farouki, the team behind multiple finalists for Eater NOLA’s 2017 Design Award (including the winner, Maypop), will be designing the space. They’ll use one door as the entrance to the bar and the other as the entrance to the dining area “so that it seems like two separate entities in the same building.” Even so, both areas will be visible to the other so that bar patrons catch a glimpse of what’s going on in the dining area on bistro days.
The 1700-square foot space seats about 75 people total, with about a dozen seats in the dining room and many more out back.
But the shade-covered backyard is the heart of the seating space, with Japanese plum trees, jasmine, and high walls giving it a “Provence feel.”
“It gets hot in New Orleans so it’s not just about having a backyard. It’s about having a comfortable backyard,” Aguillard says.
Aguillard and Smith have known each other for about 10 years, beginning when they both worked under Michael Gulotta at Restaurant August. They each staged separately at Steilwig in Germany, where both John Besh and Michael Gulotta have worked as well. After returning from Germany, the pair helped Gulotta open MoPho. A couple years later, Aguillard left to work in San Francisco.
When Aguillard moved back to New Orleans, he and Smith reminisced about Germany and the Black Forest and the things they loved doing there, like traveling to Paris to dine and drink at bistros and natural wine bars. “We thought the most European-inspired city [in the U.S.] needed something like that.”
They plan to swing open at the end of this summer.
UPDATE (April 19, 2018; 6:20p.m.): An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that Aguillard helped opened Saison in San Francisco. The story has been updated with the correct information.