Where Y'Eat: Winter Colors On The Plate At Maurepas Foods

Jan 9, 2014

After two years, the cooking at Maurepas Foods remains as eclectic and unorthodox as ever, and with the Louisiana winter settling in its minutely seasonal menu is at its most lush.

The booming Bywater restaurant scene can sometimes resemble a repository of food cravings from other places. Thin-crusted New York pizza is the organizing principle behind both Sugar Park and Pizza Delicious, barbecue wrought in the styles of Texas and the Carolinas is the calling card of the Joint, and even the little sandwich café Jims has cheesesteaks, Cubans and grinders instead of po-boys and muffulettas.

Among this company, Maurepas Foods certainly can look more like a restaurant aligned with national dining trends than your old reliable New Orleans neighborhood eatery, from the concept-driven craft cocktails at the bar to the pickle plates on the menu. But check out what’s really cooking here and it’s hard to imagine how Maurepas Foods could be any more attuned to the underpinnings of New Orleans and Louisiana flavor. The difference is how far chef Michael Doyle and his crew draw them outside the familiar template of gumbo and meunière.

The oysters at Maurepas Foods are char-grilled, but unlike the cheese- and garlic-paved editions you’ve had elsewhere, these are basically poached in their shells with a liquid of lime, pork fat and basil, and scattered with a tiny dice of chopped turnips. Andouille and shrimp team up in an Asian-style hot pot that visually resembles gumbo but zings with Korean-style kimchi.

Maurepas Foods opened early in 2012. By going casual, dropping prices a notch and extending hours to midnight, its format presaged an approach that would quickly become much more common for chef-driven restaurants around New Orleans.

As Maurepas Foods approaches its second anniversary, Doyle’s cooking remains as eclectic and unorthodox as ever, and with the Louisiana winter settling in his minutely seasonal menu is at its most lush.

If you’ve been to a farmers market lately you’ve seen the profusion of produce available as local growers started pulling crops with the first early frosts. The same dynamic plays across the Maurepas Foods menu, from kohlrabi topped with jerky-like bits of pork, tart tangerine and griddle-crisped oatmeal dumplings, to the winter lettuces and grapefruit butter escorting a sliced skirt steak. In fact, you can assemble enough different greens over a few dishes here to make your own camo pattern.

Dishes like the beer-battered cauliflower feel like straightforward show-and-tell exhibits of market finds, though others are deceptively complex, like grilled drum with an intricate fish sauce or chunks of lamb shank strewn over dark greens and ignited by a concentrated burst of preserved strawberry and chiles.

The approach carries from the kitchen to the bar at Maurepas Foods, and it certainly extends to the ever-changing desserts. One described simply as “chocolate and satsuma” brought a dollop of mocha ice cream and an airy brioche, drawn together by flame-hued streaks of satsuma marmalade. It tasted as bright as it looked.

Those are the winter colors we look forward to in south Louisiana, and they’re what we can taste at Maurepas Foods, a creatively updated image for what the New Orleans neighborhood restaurant can be.

Maurepas Foods

3200 Burgundy St., (504) 267-0072; maurepasfoods.com