Ian McNulty: Sweets just the start at pastry chef’s Salon _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - The new Sucre on Conti Street. Salon by Sucre will debut upstairs.

Between the picturesque pedestrian mall of Exchange Place and the classical contours of the state Supreme Court building, the block where a new Sucre (622 Conti St., 504-267-7098; shopsucre.com) location opened last week has an especially Old World feel. This boutique dessert shop and coffee bar fits in well with its own dose of European style.

However, the distinct but integrally related concept Salon by Sucre, which chef Tariq Hanna and business partner Joel Dondis plan to open by this weekend, is a little harder to classify. Located above Sucre, it’s part tea room, part bar and part restaurant, intended to bring a contemporary pastry chef’s outlook on precision and playfulness beyond the realm of desserts.

In Hanna’s kitchen here, the idea of bacon-wrapped scallops is rendered with bone marrow and bacon jam. Sea urchin and saffron cream are folded between lobster and pappardelle. And “funky beets” get a flurry of shaved chocolate. Pop the top from what looks like a sardine can, and you find chocolate cremeux capped under a lustrous olive oil gelee.

Then there are sugar-glazed fried pretzels among the bar snacks and “sliderettes,” 1-ounce microburgers you could balance on your thumb.

“So many great desserts start out with chefs saying ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if …,’ ” said Hanna. “This is us doing that with the savory side, too.”

This may bring to mind misadventures that begin with “Hey, watch this,” but the prospects here seem more promising.

The design is sleek, modern and beautiful. The second-floor space stretches back from a gallery with views down Conti Street, past a marble bar and through rooms arrayed with coves of banquettes and tables set up for lunch and afternoon tea (noon to 4 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. ‘til).

The spirit guiding the menu continues across the drinks. General Manager Braithe Tidwell, previously sommelier at New York’s acclaimed Union Square Café, is building a specialty in Champagne and Bordeaux. But also, alongside the more traditional tea offerings, Salon by Sucre will serve tea-based cocktails, many with candied flourishes and edible garnishes.

“We’re above a candy shop, so I didn’t want to lose that sense of fun,” Tidwell said.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.