Chef Michael Gulotta and his partners, best known for their modern Vietnamese restaurant MoPho, have a new project in the works for the CBD.

Their next restaurant, called Maypop, is slated to open by the end of the year in the Paramount apartment building at 611 O’Keefe Ave. It will take over the ground-floor space at O'Keefe Avenue and Lafayette Street that was previously home to the short-lived restaurant Ursa Major.

While the MoPho menu is anchored by pho and spring rolls, it has always served more composed and original specials, melding Southeast Asian staples with modern American culinary style. Maypop will forego the pho and, instead, follow the path set by MoPho’s specials.

"MoPho distilled," is one way Gulotta described the new concept, noting that the overall approach will be a notch more refined than the anytime-casual MoPho.

“We love that MoPho has become this neighborhood joint in Mid-City, but we also want to bring what we do downtown and expand it with other dishes,” he said.

For instance, house-made noodles will be a key element on the Maypop menu, which is still under development.

Gulotta and crew have expanded their range in the noodle department since opening Tana, their Italian kitchen inside the Mid-City lounge Treo (3835 Tulane Ave., 504-304-4878). They make many styles of noodles here, using different grains for different textures and flavors. In this way, the Maypop menu will fold in elements of both Tana and MoPho.

The Paramount building, part of the larger South Market District development, is now home to a row of casual eateries, including the Company Burger, Part & Parcel deli, Blaze Pizza, the Vietnamese cafe Magasin Kitchen and the bakery/cafe Willa Jean.

These have drawn the downtown lunch crowd, and Maypop, which is on the opposite side of the building, will angle for this business, too. However, Gulotta said developing the restaurant as a destination for after-hours drinks and dinner will be key.

Maypop’s predecessor here, Ursa Major, was intended to be a dinnertime draw but lasted only a few months before closing last fall. It had an intricate zodiac theme worked across its menu and interior design, from light fixtures to booths modeled after stat chart patterns. Maypop is starting fresh, removing most design aspects of the earlier restaurant, though keeping the bar largely intact. 

Gulotta was chef de cuisine at Restaurant August, John Besh’s lux flagship, before leaving to open MoPho with his brother, Jeff Gulotta, and their business partner, Jeffrey Bybee. They added Rum & the Lash, the bar food operation inside Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, and early this year, they opened Tana.

Food & Wine magazine earlier this year named Gulotta to its list of Best New Chefs for 2016, an honor he shares with 10 other chefs around the country.

Uptown sushi bar Kyoto closes

After more than 20 years of serving sushi, the Uptown Japanese restaurant Kyoto closed over the weekend.

The news comes after the death of longtime owner Sara Molony in February, at age 56. It marks the end of a New Orleans restaurant that earned a loyal following for its take on Japanese flavors and for the personality that Molony imbued in the place and shared with her regulars and staff.

“Sara was the heart of Kyoto,” said Duncan Molony, her brother. “She had a way of adding her own touch to everything there.”

Her family did not feel they could continue to operate the restaurant as she had, he said.

Local real estate investors Keith Adler and Scott Harris recently purchased the building. Adler said they intend to lease the restaurant space to new operators, though no deal has been finalized.

Sara Molony started Kyoto with partners in 1995 at 4920 Prytania St. In later years, she ran the restaurant on her own. The Elmwood restaurant Kyoto 2 (5608 Citrus Blvd., 504-818-0228) was originally opened as a spinoff, with Molony as a partner, but the two restaurants are no longer related.

The original Kyoto was part of an early wave of Japanese restaurants in New Orleans and one that developed its own style, from the specialty rolls to sauces. Molony herself was a frequent presence behind her sushi bar and taught many aspiring sushi chefs the ropes, especially encouraging other women to pursue the craft.

“She loved what she did; she loved her people. She called her employees her kids, and it was really like that,” Duncan Molony said. “Kyoto wasn’t just her livelihood, it was her life.”

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.