In the two years since she left Gautreau’s, Sue Zemanick (@chefsuez) has been popping up around town with Indonesian-inspired menus while planning her next move.
The James Beard Award-winning chef plans to open her own restaurant in the Mid-City space that formerly was home to Rue 127. Zemanick will cook an Indonesian dinner at the Auction House Market Nov. 13. The four-course dinner is inspired by rijsttafel, the Indonesian-inspired meal popular at restaurants in the Netherlands. Zemanick spoke with Gambit about Indonesian food and her restaurant.
Gambit: What’s the inspiration behind the Indonesian pop-ups?
Zemanick: I spent a lot of time in Amsterdam — I have a lot of friends that live there and turned me on to the rijsttafel, which translated means “rice table.” Because there is a high population of Indonesian people in Amsterdam, I ate that when I was over there visiting. There are so many different cultures and people in Indonesia, it’s similar to New Orleans in that it’s a melting pot of different cuisines coming together. I love that the inspiration for the dishes is basically ingredient-driven and I love the flavors of kaffir lime, tamarind, ginger and galangal. There are a lot of vegetarian options too. I’m not a vegetarian, but I really enjoy eating vegetables.
Spoiler: He's the gator
G: What are the main components of the rijsttafel?
Z: The traditional way that the (rijsttafel) is done is that you have six to 18 dishes served on the table in soup-cup sizes and you have your plate of rice and you take a scoop of each dish. As you’re working through those 18 dishes, they progressively get hotter. They’re vegetarian, seafood, meat — all different varieties of things, so it’s actually like a big feast.
BB’s Breakfast Tacos delivers to local cafes and coffeeshops
G: What can you tell us about the new restaurant?
Z: We are in the middle of construction and I’m hoping to open in early December. It started as a turnkey and ended up being a complete renovation. There were a couple of things that made the space really small, and we’re trying to maximize every inch to create space for more tables, and also I want to accommodate larger parties. We took down some walls and a chimney, reconfigured the bathrooms and kitchen and were able to go from 36 seats to about 50. We’re going to expand the patio out front and try to create some more seating there.
I love Mid-City and I think it’s time for Mid-City to have more restaurants. There are so many great new additions to the neighborhood over the past couple of years that I’m really excited to be a part of this area.
I plan on being able to do whatever I want and not be locked down to a certain type of cuisine. I won’t go full-blown Indonesian, but you’ll see inspiration from all different places. The menu is going to be heavy in seafood and vegetables. I will obviously have some meat dishes but I’m just trying to incorporate some extra vegetable entrees and appetizers. I think that everyone is leaning more toward a healthier lifestyle, and I want to expose people to things that maybe they haven’t seen before.
We’ll have a really interesting wine list. It won’t be really large, just because of the limited ability to store wine. I have a great team put together and I’m excited to get back in the kitchen.