If there’s a dish Brad McDonald is determined to keep on the menu at Couvant, it’s the skate.
The Mississippi-born chef has worked at renowned restaurants around the world, including Shotgun in London, Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York and Copenhagen’s temple to new Nordic cuisine, Noma. But skate wing a la grenobloise — a dish he and his mother used to order at the since-shuttered Brasserie Le Coze in Atlanta — makes the most lasting impression at Couvant.
As difficult as it is to source the flaky white fish in Southeast Louisiana, diners will find it on the menu most days. On the occasions when it is not, crispy-skinned flounder is served in the same classic French preparation — with brown butter, capers, parsley, lemon and croutons. The dish has become the restaurant’s calling card and is a good indication of what diners should expect at Couvant.
The restaurant opened in April inside The Eliza Jane hotel, a boutique property under the Hyatt brand.
Francophiles will find plenty to love here. There’s a classic steak tartare topped with an egg yolk and served with crispy gaufrettes. Plump escargot are marinated for 24 hours, braised and then baked in a ceramic vessel in a pool of butter, garlic and parsley — pungent yet delicious. Decadent salad lyonnaise is a vehicle for crunchy bacon lardons and a perfectly poached egg.
For starters, there are tiny snacks like the pissaladiere, petite slices of Bellegarde bakery sourdough toast topped with a sweet and salty mix of caramelized onions, anchovies, parsley and lemon zest. At lunch, a dish of English peas is flavored with tarragon and mint and topped with lardons and a duck egg. At dinner, the dish is available as a side item but without the egg. There are a number of potato preparations, of which the undercooked gratin dauphinois was my least favorite.
Some dinner specials step outside French borders. For one night’s special, Italian white truffles found their way into a pale risotto, rich with Parmesan and fall flavors. While classic French cooking is the restaurant’s backbone, McDonald says he doesn’t plan on keeping the menu static. In October, a lamb tagine with couscous was added to the menu, a nod to North African influences on modern Parisian cooking.
For dessert, a short and sweet list continues the Francophile theme. Paris-Brest is an extravagant finale, featuring puffy choux pastry filled with hazelnut praline cream and topped with salty-sweet hazelnut ice cream.
Couvant delivers polished examples of classic French techniques in a modern setting. In a city with such a rich French heritage, it’s a restaurant that feels right at home while offering diners something different.