Blue Crab Cocktail
640 Carondelet St., (504) 459-4449; balisenola.com
When discussing his very new CBD restaurant Balise, chef Justin Devillier seems most excited about the garde manger. This is both a section of the menu for chilled dishes, from salads to raw oysters, and also a section of the bar where it is all prepared out in the open. The blue crab cocktail is a good representation of the style — small, highly composed, straightforward but with a distinctive twist. The sweet crabmeat is lushly enrobed in the bright tang of Green Goddess dressing, which spreads to wafer-thin radish and carrot and ribbons of kale. Fried grains of popcorn rice add a beguiling crunch without a hint of grease.
Tacos El Gordo
2560 Williams Blvd., Kenner, (504) 468-8226
This small family-run taqueria recently opened in what had been a 1950’s-style (though not 1950’s-vintage) diner. There’s still stainless steel paneling and even a drive-through window, now used for takeout tacos. The vampiro ($3.50) stands out on the homespun menu as a rare local appearance of this traditional street food. It resembles a tostada in size and shape, though its corn tortilla is griddled until charred on the bottom and curving into an irregular cup shape. It’s loaded with mild melting white cheese, guacamole as smooth as sauce and whatever meat you pick (I like the chopped, crisp carne asada). While it looks like a knife-and-fork undertaking, you’re better off picking it up to eat with your hands.
Roasted Pork Sandwich
1114 S. Carrollton Ave.
The roasted pork sandwich with broccoli rabe ($11) is a good introduction to this deli, which opened late last year with a focus on Italian food as prepared around the Northeast. That starts with the bread, a hoagie roll that’s much denser than the local po-boy standard. Thinly sliced pork is generously piled into this warm, toasted cradle, with the rabe adding a trickle of bitter, dark green crunch, balanced by caciocavallo, a creamy, earthy cheese rendered into a thick sauce.
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