If you’re a fan of La Petite Grocery – the original swanky restaurant from husband-and-wife team Justin Devillier and Mia Freiberger-Devillier – then a visit to the couple’s second restaurant Balise is in order.
Named for La Balize – the first French fort and settlement near the mouth of the Mississippi River – Balise is on Carondolet (pronounced with a hard T at the end, if you want to sound like a local) in New Orlean's CBD, set in a historic Creole townhouse at the corner of Girod.
While Balise isn’t as fancy as its uptown sib, the vibe is gracious and warm. And the robust food pairs equally well with beer as with wine.
Balise is at the corner of rustic and elegance in the CBD — Photo courtesy of Balise Restaurant
The front dining room and bar is a study in marble and dark wood, with a smaller back dining room lined with black leather banquettes. Upstairs, there’s a larger (and louder) dining room, as well as a long wraparound balcony that makes an ideal option for date night.
Devillier's food is quite simply gorgeous. The self-taught chef – a finalist for the James Beard award for "Best Chef in the South" for the past three years – was in the national spotlight when he competed on Bravo's Top Chef: New Orleans. No doubt, he’s got the chops.
The composed plates are lovely to eyeball, better yet when you dig into the likes of smoky blistered shishito peppers informed with bacon and cream cheese, silky venison tartare served with garlicky mayonnaise and baked rigatoni bathed in a rich ragout of short ribs laced with fontina cheese.
A fine craft cocktail menu, created by Jess Carr, keeps company with local and imported beers and an enticing New and Old World wine list.
If you aren’t ravenous, you might be happy with drinks and snacks: pickled quail eggs, raw oysters and cherry tomatoes with ricotta are a few seasonal nibbles worth investigating.
The menu’s garde manger, or "cold plates" section, dishes vegetables like beets tossed with baby lettuce, Spanish goat cheese and pistachios. Brussels sprouts are served with a Vietnamese accent, fried with the addition of fish sauce and chilies.
For dessert, try the sticky toffee pudding with salted pecans, made even more alluring with a side of smoked vanilla ice cream.
The CBD can be a bit of a sterile place, what with all the office buildings and generic lofts. Balise is a bridge between the uptown eateries and the casual bars in the area, a bridge you want to cross.