The neighborhoods downriver from the French Quarter have rapidly developed as a hotspot for new casual restaurants, and the most recent additions are making it look like a hub for Asian flavors in particular.
Last Thursday, Seoul Shack (435 Esplanade Ave., 504-417-6206; seoulshack.com) officially opened inside the longtime nightspot the Dragon’s Den. The very next day, and just seven blocks away, the Chinese restaurant Bao & Noodle (2700 Chartres St., 504-272-0004; baoandnoodle.com) made its debut.
Bao & Noodle took over what was formerly the Sound Café coffee shop. It’s very casual, with counter service and self-serve soft drinks. Forget Chinese-American standards. The menu here is more like that of a dim sum parlor or traditional Chinatown restaurant, with dishes like Szechuan dandan noodles, whole steamed fish and, of course, bao: savory cakes with fillings like Chinese BBQ pork (the char siu bao). The restaurant serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Seoul Shack, meanwhile, comes to us from the partners at the Three Muses, the small plates restaurant and music spot right around the corner on Frenchmen Street. Chef Dan Esses has always had a few Korean dishes on the Three Muses menu, and that’s no coincidence. His business partner, the jazz vocalist Miss Sophie Lee, is Korean, and for their new venture Esses built a menu around her family’s recipes. The format is very casual, with the Seoul Shack serving from a walk-up kitchen window, tavern-style.
Look for a variety of Korean eggrolls, kimchi pork soup, scallion pancakes, Korean barbecue beef rice bowls and sweet potato noodles (chap chae). Seoul Shack is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
These two newcomers join Yuki Izakaya (525 Frenchmen St., 504-943-1122), a late-night spot for Japanese bar food and small plates, as well as the more familiar sushi bar standards at Wasabi (900 Frenchmen St., 504-943-9433) a few blocks away and the Thai curries and noodles (and chiles) of SukhoThai (1913 Royal St., 504-948-9309) within the same cluster of blocks.
There’s more on the way too. Another contemporary Chinese restaurant, Red’s Chinese, is slated to open within the next few weeks nearby in the Bywater at 3048 St. Claude Ave.