Nestled within the mansion houses of New Orleans’ charming Garden District is Atchafalaya, a neighbourhood bistro that focuses its time and energy on conjuring up Southern style dishes, cooked with flare and presented in a contemporary atmosphere. Upon entry to Atchafalaya we were welcomed by a friendly host and seated in the quaint dinning room with a handful of tables for the busy lunch service. The decor is minimalist and the waitresses attentive. On our trip we opted for the three course set-lunch menu, which is extremely good value for your buck, especially for travelling foodies like ourselves. Three courses will set you back $20, with the option of $5 wine by the glass. A rather delicious Pinot Grigio was an excellent lunch time tipple on this Spring day. If set-lunch isn’t your thing then à la carte entrée dishes hover around the $14 range.
The description of the soup du jour left us far too curious to choose an alternative start to the meal, Strawberry Gazpacho with White Crab Meat. As with all gazpachos this soup was served chilled. Light and refreshing, a perfect dish to offset New Orleans rising midday temperatures. The generous lumps of white crab were fresh and the strawberry accompanied the delicate meat without overpowering. The soup had a final aromatic note from the basil oil dressing. Tasty.
From starter to main and I opted for Shrimp and Grits, a dish that graces many restaurant menus in New Orleans but Atchafalaya’s rendition of this staple Southern dish is outstanding. Head-on gulf shrimp sit atop a fried corn grits cake with crisp exterior and creamy, rich oozing centre. The delicately spiced butter sauce is reminiscent to that used in the famous New Orleans dish of barbecue shrimp, and additional smoky character is given with the use of bacon and wood smoked cherry tomatoes. To coin a chef phrase, this dish ate incredibly well.
Equally stunning was Lucy’s Free Form Crab Ravioli. A sheet of pasta cooked to a perfect al dente and generously filled with crab meat, wilted rocket, shiitake mushrooms and mascarpone cheese. The ravioli comes generously topped with a rich and silky roasted tomato buerre blanc sauce, which will have you reaching for the basket or warm miniature corn breads to wipe the plate clean. Other dishes on the lunch menu included Fried Green Tomatoes topped with Louisiana Crab and Remoulade Sauce, Confit Duck Po-Boy dressed with Blackberries, Mango and Bacon Vinaigrette (po-boy being a New Orleans submarine style sandwich), as well as another Southern staple Seafood Gumbo.
Although desert didn’t quite hit the same high points of our starter and mains, both the Red Velvet Cake and Tiramisu provided ample sweet treat to end this fantastic lunch.
Atchafalaya is a gem of a neighbourhood restaurant and one that we will most definitely be visiting again during our time in The Big Easy, if not to sample the Fried Green Tomatoes and Seafood Gumbo then for the weekend brunch which features live jazz band and Bloody Mary drinks bar.
Atchafalaya – 901 Louisiana Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana.