Volcan de Platano
2012 Manhattan Blvd.; (504) 276-1011
This quintessential hole-in-the-wall eatery specializes in Dominican food, a subset of island cooking not exactly overrepresented here. The bilingual menu descriptions are pretty scant, but don’t let that stop you from ordering the plantain volcano ($16.95). The name becomes self-evident once it arrives. Sweet ripe plantains are molded into a shape reminiscent either of a volcano or a filming location from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Playing the role of lava is a shrimp-studded tomato sauce which tastes a little tangy and a lot like shrimp Creole, showing some common ground with Louisiana cooking.
620 Chartres St.; (504) 267-3500
Since it opened late last year near Jackson Square, the talk around this contemporary and ambitious restaurant has centered mainly on steaks, which are prominently displayed in a glass-enclosed dry aging room and well deserving of the spotlight. But one thing that distinguishes Doris Metropolitan from other steakhouses is the way Mediterranean flavors work through other aspects of the menu. The calamari salad ($14), for instance, is built over a bed of smoked, creamy-smooth eggplant purée and an undercurrent of salty, pitch-black squid ink. Hunks of potato are dusted with saffron and whole chickpeas bear the same grill char as the rings and tentacles of squid. Generously strewn with fresh herbs and tiny bits of roe, it’s a beautifully composed, multilayered appetizer that is substantial enough to be a light entrée on a hot night. That’s assuming, of course, that you can indeed look past the steaks.
Kale Slaw Wrap
Vintage Garden Kitchen
201 St. Charles Ave., phone n.a.
A project of Arc of Greater New Orleans, which helps people with mental disabilities, the nonprofit Vintage Garden Kitchen operates this walk-up lunch counter in the busy food court of the CBD’s Place St. Charles building. Clients of the agency help grow some of the café’s ingredients, including the fixing for a kale slaw that brings such fresh crunchy and green heft to this simple, satisfying wrap ($8.50). It makes a quick, light lunch with a significant side helping of support for a community group.