Somehow it completely makes sense that I would cancel my dinner reservations at Pêche hours before it was declared the best new restaurant in the US. It’s just how I like to live. At least I did manage to score a walk-in table at lunch just before my afternoon flight back home.
As good and quintessentially New Orleans as they are, you will not find any charbroiled oysters encrusted in cheese at Pêche, just fresh local specimens on the half shell with classic mignonette. Which isn’t to say that snacks like the smoked tuna dip served with Saltines are aggressively highbrow.
A plate of Royal Red shrimp showed up instead of the redfish with salsa verde I’d actually ordered, which has to be one of the few times that my fast-speaking mumble combined with Williamsburg-y service has paid off–because I ended up with both. The grilled Alabama gulf shrimp, buttery and naturally sweet, drew comparisons to Etxebarri’s shrimp in the Basque Country, which is kind of crazy, but not.
The shrimp didn’t overshadow the originally intended dish, a grilled redfish covered nearly head-to-fin in a deep green forest of mint, parsley and garlic. The whole fish on offer differs by the day, and probably makes the most sense for parties of three or more so you can also try some sides (which I forgot to order even though it didn’t really matter).
The thing about New Orleans is that even though seafood is abundant and plenty of restaurants specialize in it, rich, breaded and fried styles rule most menus. Pêche’s reliance on its prominently featured wood-fired grill and focus on simply prepared, regional catches, can feel like a refreshing change. That said, make sure to get your fill of oyster po’ boys, shrimp etoufee, barbecue shrimp, and remoulade-dressed, pecan-crusted and crab-stuffed seafood too.
Pêche * 800 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA