It makes perfect sense for chef Seth Temple to cook in the space that was once the stage for Le Chat Noir, the former cabaret theater at 715 St. Charles Avenue. Temple’s savvy food is in the spotlight, star of the show who lifted the curtains in early December.
Temple is an alchemist as much as he is a chef, coaxing great flavors from farm-fresh ingredients. What he does with the hakurei turnips is brilliantly simple – a stir-fry of the crunchy little vegetable, the greens attached, in a miso umami sauce sprinkled with candied Meyerquats and bronze fennel leaves. Spin the turnips like linguine, making sure you get the hybrid citrus in every bite, and the depth of clean flavor is worth a standing ovation.
About 70% of Temple’s menu is local produce, and at least half of the dishes are vegan or vegetarian. A wood-burning oven is the focal point of the open kitchen.
The native of Lake Charles attended the John Folse Culinary Institute where he obtained a scholarship for the elite Institut Paul Bocuse in France. Back in New Orleans, he worked locally in kitchens such as Kenton’s and Couvant before cooking at Michelin-starred restaurant Lyle’s in London.
“Working at Lyle’s has really changed my perception of ingredients and the way I like to eat,” says Temple.
Temple is a fan of Dan Barber’s emphasis on vegetables at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Hudson Valley, New York, a style his own kitchen is reminiscent of. As the global supply chain continues to moan under the weight of the pandemic, regional and local sourcing makes more sense than ever.
The chef has ties to local suppliers such as Maggie’s Farm Mushrooms in the parish of West Feliciana. He works closely with JV Foods, a Kenner-based food distribution company that sources from producers like Two Dog Farms in Flora, Mississippi, and Matt Ranatza Farms and Saxon Becnel & Sons citrus, both in Belle Chase. The oysters presented at the raw sea bass are harvested primarily from the waters of the Gulf of Louisiana and Alabama, with suppliers like Bright Side Oysters of Grand Isle raising the bivalves in a sustainable manner.
The chef and his team regularly break down whole animals, including heirloom pork that arrives two to three times a month from a fifth-generation farmer in Baton Rouge. Large platters on the menu include a wagyu steak with crispy fingerling potatoes and brown butter, and roast pork served with celeriac, fennel and apple butter. Crab fat agnolotti consist of tender pasta stuffed with scallops and crab mousseline and garnished with oysters poached in a Herbsaint cream sauce. Despite the Michelin pedigree, Temple favors accessibility.
The sommelier is Kevin Wardell, who moved to New Orleans a few months ago from Healdsburg, Calif., With his wife and son. The couple ran a popular wine bar called Bergamot Alley before they launched the online business.
Wardell has stocked the affordable wine list from charming small producers and lesser-known varietals. Wardell is well acquainted with Old World and Italian wines. The selection of wines by the glass travels the world, including a mineral white from Santorini, Greece, and a fruity Cabernet Franc from the Bourgueil region in the Loire Valley. The restaurant’s cocktail program includes classics like a Sazerac and a Ford gin-based cocktail, as well as originals like the tequila-based Siesta, a bitter appetizer, grapefruit and lime.
Like so many restaurants open this year, Le Chat Noir has seen a few stops and starts. “Hurricane Ida was the most recent delay,” said partner James Reuter, a 33-year-old restaurateur who owns the Bearcat cafes in Uptown and the CBD. “We opened at the worst time for restaurants, December, but we didn’t want to wait any longer.
Gene Todaro, owner of the building, is also a partner. Todaro ran his restaurant, Marcello’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, in the space before moving it to Covington.
Reuter and Temple hosted a series of dinners from Bearcat in the CBD, polishing the menu during the renovation of Le Chat Noir space. Behind the large windows facing St. Charles Avenue, there is a front bar and oyster bar and a handful of high tables. The floor of the bar is the original black and white tiling.
The restaurant is currently open for dinner and plans are underway to serve lunch and add a happy hour. Temple food, while rooted in local produce, does not try to reinvent traditional New Orleans dishes.
“New Orleans people love their fried and smothered dishes,” he says. “We’re just taking a different approach. “
715 avenue Saint-Charles, (504) 381-0045
Dinner from Tuesday to Saturday
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