The new owner and the new chef at Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine want it to be more than a restaurant.
"What we want to start in Baton Rouge is a place you can go for memorable moments in your life," said chef David Dickensauge. "You don't come here just to have a steak or lobster or some oysters. You come here to share a moment that can never be taken away. And that's the type of restaurant that we want to have."
In August, the restaurant at 7731 Jefferson Highway was purchased by City Group Hospitality, which operates City Pork Brasserie & Bar, Rouj Creole, City Pork LSU and City Slice Pints + Pizza. It reopened with a slightly new name and a seafood concept in November.
"People are looking for something different, especially right now when they can't travel 60 minutes to New Orleans to explore their palate," said J. Stephen Hightower, managing partner of City Group. "That was a really big thing for us. So, we said, OK, if you're going to take on this big project in the middle of a pandemic, you've got to make it something interesting at all times. And we've continued to evolve our menu in the first two months that we've been open."
But why take a chance during a pandemic with an uncertain economy and ever-changing regulations?
"We all had to change our business model to get through it and still continue to operate," Hightower said. "But I was also 25 years in this business, and I couldn't just change my career."
And he liked the idea that Beausoleil is right down the street from City Pork, and both restaurants have high profiles.
"Beausoleil was very similar to what we do with our restaurants," he said. "And with an opportunity to not only gain a restaurant, name and reputation for outstanding food, I would be careless not to say that, yeah, we wanted to create something a little different than City Pork within the seafood realm. There was already a following, and we knew those customers."
Hightower spent three months remodeling the eatery, which included adding a cold bar that serves raw seafood, brightening the walls and filling them with local artwork and adding an outdoor seating area.
He changed the name from Beausoleil Restaurant & Bar to Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine to highlight its seafood offerings from the Gulf Coast and along the Eastern Seaboard.
The menu is a tip of the hat to the restaurant's historical namesake, Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil, who resisted the British while leading the Acadian people from Nova Scotia along the east coast to Acadiana in the 1700s.
Hightower brought in Dickensauge, a 28-year veteran of the restaurant industry with a collection of major awards.
"One of the things that Stephen wanted, that I don't feel any other person was going to allow me to do, was give me free rein to do what I do," Dickensauge said. "I'm able to invoke and change and grow; that's the difference in our restaurant."
Plans are to change the menu four times a year to coincide with seasonal ingredients. Right now, a customer favorite is seared scallops cooked with wild mushrooms, lobster risotto and romesco sauce.
Other favorites includes a salad featuring roasted golden and red beets combined with blue cheese croquette, pistachio crackers, candied apples, honey and avocado; a lobster roll served on a brioche split-top bun flown in from Boston; and the Lobster Saint-Domingue, a dish that combines butter-poached lobster, herb and goat cheese spread, confit tomato petals with apple and pear relish, served with saffron crackers.
The cold bar serves three types of oysters, an oyster shooter and whiskey-cured beef carpaccio, wagyu beef and tuna tataki, which mixes ahi tuna with ginger, ponzu sauce, fried nori and kimchi. Octopus will be on the menu in the spring.
Some customer favorites — the chicken and dumplings, crispy Brussels spouts and truffle-fried oysters — are still on the menu, but the new dishes are becoming as popular in the remodeled atmosphere.
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Dickensauge said Beausoleil isn't trying to be the best restaurant in Baton Rouge or the South.
"We're trying to be the best restaurant that we can be inside of this box," he said. "And all that's going to do is make every other restaurant around us do the same. In a chef-driven restaurant, you're able to keep a pulse on what's going on. I want more than anything to build a true culture in our restaurant."
"The biggest thing at the end of it is if it's a City Hospitality Group restaurant, we want people to know they can walk into any of them and trust that they're going to get great food, inventive food, service and hospitality that really strives to be great every day," he said.