Since Borgne (601 Loyola Ave., (504) 613-3860; borgnerestaurant.com) first opened in 2012, I’ve found myself recommending it widely and frequently: for its contemporary way with Louisiana flavor, for its tapas happy hour, for a quick stop at the bar en route to events at the Dome.
But those recommendations always came with an asterisk: while Borgne evokes Louisiana on the plate, the dining room felt like it could be anywhere. Consider that asterisk now obsolete.
Borgne, a restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency from chefs John Besh and Brian Landry, closed last week for a round of renovations and reopened Saturday night. The changes aren’t drastic — a darker color scheme, banquettes built from reclaimed lumber — but together they set a tone better aligned with Landry’s approach here, and they also go beyond the cosmetic.
The ceiling is now sheathed in sound-dampening acoustic panels, aimed at a common complaint about noise levels. And most promising of all, Borgne’s bar — a smooth slab as long as a boat pier — now ends with a raw bar.
Borgne has always sold a lot of oysters, but there’s nothing like a raw bar to draw attention to the seafood on offer, and Landry is using this one to showcase a wider variety of seafood available from Gulf waters.
One example: the premium oysters now trickling into the market from new oyster farms along the Gulf. Cultivated using a more labor-intensive process than traditional methods, they’re usually more expensive than the familiar local standard but are also much saltier and give a different read on what a Gulf oyster can be.
“The idea is to have Gulf oysters like everyone does, but also some of the premium oysters, too,” Landry said. “I think it’s cool that our oyster industry is developing to where we can offer regular oysters and premium oysters next to each other.”
Finfish share the spotlight, with Gulf swordfish ceviche one new example, alongside some good old-fashioned boiled Louisiana shrimp.
“The restaurant feels finished to me now,” said Landry. “It feels like we’re putting our flag in the ground now and saying why we’re here. We’re inspired by the Louisiana fishing camp, a nice fishing camp, sure, but a place where you’ll get things you already love and you’ll get introduced to some new things, too.”
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.