When she took the helm of the kitchen at Ste. Marie back in 2013, chef Kristen Essig made her presence felt immediately on the menu, greatly improving this one-time brasserie in the CBD.
When the restaurateurs behind Ste. Marie closed shop and transplanted the operation, staff and all, to the French Quarter to take over Meauxbar, Essig was there to thread the needle of bringing a new culinary style to what had long been a locals’ favorite bistro. That was a tall order, but the new Meauxbar quickly gained a following on its own merits, rather than on memories of the old place.
So, when Essig resigned from her position as chef at both Meauxbar and its newly-opened sister restaurant Cavan, there was perhaps more than the usual interest in where she would land next. She left the door open for just about anything when she announced her departure in March.
Today, we have news that she’s become a partner and chef at Coquette, the high-aiming contemporary bistro at Magazine and Washington streets. This is welcome news, if not entirely a surprise.
Chef Michael Stoltzfus opened Coquette with partners in 2008. He and Essig are a couple, and last year they together started Little Bird, a pop-up that runs the tavern kitchen inside the Lower Garden District bar Barrel Proof (which, not coincidentally, is part of the same company behind Meauxbar and Cavan and also Sylvain).
We track chefs as they change restaurants because their influence on the overall dining experience can be profound, often reaching beyond then menu (that’s one reason why after restaurants see a change at top chef critics typically give them a shake down period before taking a fresh look for reviews, dining guides and such). Essig has been one of the most rewarding chefs to follow lately.
At Coquette, her official debut comes with a renewed summer dining series. Beginning next week, the restaurant brings back its “No Menu Tuesday” concept, which it introduced last year during the seasonal restaurant lull. It’s a pre fixe tasting menu (five courses for $45), and the chefs come up with different themes each week. The hook is that the menu specifics are secret until the dinner begins.
Themes planned so far this summer are:
June 28: Breakfast for dinner
July 5: Louisiana tomatoes
July 12: Provence
July 19: Cocktails for dinner
July 26: Barbecue
Coquette will serve more No Menu Tuesday dinners through the end of September.
2800 Magazine St., 504-265-0421
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.