Balise (640 Carondelet St., 504-459-4449; balisenola.com), a new restaurant from chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, officially opens Wednesday (Feb. 4) after a few nights of trial runs. It marks a big move for a young chef who lately has earned a place squarely in the city’s culinary spotlight. It begins a new chapter for a historic building and it adds to what is shaping up as a robustly diverse downtown restaurant hub.
Devillier, 33, worked his way up in the New Orleans restaurant business since moving here from his native southern California in 2003, and he and his wife, Mia Freiberger-Devillier, are now owners of La Petite Grocery. Devillier has been a finalist for a James Beard Award in the category of Best Chef: South in each of the past three years, and he was a contender on the Bravo network’s “Top Chef” in 2013.
After that, the husband-and-wife team started looking for a second restaurant opportunity, one that could be more casual than La Petite Grocery. The address they found helped direct the way the project would develop.
Dubbed a “bar and parlor,” Balise unfolds over two stories in a townhouse that dates to 1832 and was most recently home to the bar Ditcharo’s. Downstairs has a tavern atmosphere, with a prep station for salads, raw oysters and other cold dishes built into the long bar. Upstairs is a little more formal, while contemporary art is set against the old bones of the building. Gas lanterns flicker outside, and a gallery has tables for outdoor dining.
The restaurant takes its name from La Balise (sometimes spelled La Balize), a colonial-era settlement near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Devillier describes his menu as Louisiana-focused, though many of the dishes fall outside the traditional range, like lobster cocktail and bay scallops.
This, he explained, reflects the historic access to foods from afar that New Orleans enjoyed as a port city and the impact they had on early Creole cuisine.
Balise sits along what is becoming a busy corridor downtown, as large new developments take shape nearby and as events grow bigger and more numerous at Lafayette Square and Champions Square. This weekend, however, the new restaurant will get its baptism by Carnival, as parades roll just a block away along St. Charles Avenue. Balise will be open, though it may be stocking just a little more beer than usual.
Balise serves dinner daily and lunch Monday through Friday and will add weekend brunch later in the spring. Reservations are accepted.
A new turn for Ivy
Small and elegant, Ivy (5015 Magazine St., 504-899-1330; ivynola.com) has always felt a bit like a private club, and that could be a more literal part of its future.
The Uptown spot has closed for normal business, though its proprietor says the space may re-emerge as a venue for private parties and events.
Ivy was opened late in 2013 by Rebecca and Patrick Singley, owners of Gautreau’s Restaurant and Marti’s Restaurant, and Sue Zemanick, their executive chef at Gautreau’s and a winner of last year’s James Beard Award for Best Chef: South. Filling a niche somewhere between high-end restaurant and upscale lounge, Ivy had a menu of small plates and an extensive wine list.
But Patrick Singley said business has not been consistent enough, so they are now working on a different business model. In the meantime, he said, he’s trying to find spots for Ivy’s staff at his other restaurants.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.