Saying “down the bayou” in some parts of Louisiana is a bit like saying “back-a-town” in New Orleans. It's not really meant as instructional directions but rather gives a frame of reference.
The expression inspired the name of the new Oak Street restaurant DTB (8201 Oak St., 504-518-6889), and it also gives some context to what the chefs here are cooking up.
The menu is unmistakably about Louisiana, and Cajun flavors in particular. But while much of the terminology is familiar, the DTB kitchen does not follow a predictable path of Cajun classics and bayou tradition.
Sauce piquant here isn’t a stew but a sauce for fried squash blossoms stuffed with a soft, creamy blend of ricotta and alligator chorizo (the crumbly, Mexican kind). Crab fat and trout roe imbue the spaghetti, crème fraîche made from popcorn dots the crab boil chips (think steak fries), and hushpuppies are made from cornbread with goat cheese and ham hock marmalade.
“We wanted it to be rooted in Cajun cuisine but with a more modern approach,” said Carl Schaubhut, the chef who developed DTB with business partner Jacob Naquin. “With as many restaurants as we have in this city now, I think you have to bring something different.”
To get there, he and chef de cuisine Jacob Hammel broke down familiar dishes to their core elements and rebuilt them with a modern perspective and a broader arsenal of supporting ingredients. The result sees pickled shrimp paired with white bean hummus and pork rinds and barbecue black drum with chermoula, a garlicky, herbaceous Moroccan sauce that works like a smooth pesto.
DTB officially opens Wednesday (March 29) after about a week of low-key test runs. It’s in a corner slot of what was once a Woolworths, and the broad windows here frame views of Oak Street’s gradually reviving bustle. The restaurant is just the latest new addition to this historic commercial corridor. Simone's Market, which debuted earlier this year, is right next-door.
Schaubhut is a longtime local chef with family ties literally down the bayou, in his case, Bayou Des Allemands, just outside the city.
“In my mind, down the bayou means coastal Cajun, deep south Louisiana,” he said. “It’s a term of endearment for that stretch from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Schaubhut was a sous chef at Commander’s Palace before leading its sister restaurant Café Adelaide as executive chef.
In 2015, he and chef Jean Pierre Guidry opened their Covington eatery, Bacobar, where they serve a mix of Asian, Latin and Louisiana flavors (for instance: crawfish rangoon gratin, gumbo ramen, shrimp remoulade on fried plantains).
DTB is a new venture, though Schaubhut said he’s had a coastal Louisiana restaurant concept in mind for years. When Hammel joined the DTB team, Schaubhut was sufficiently impressed by his ideas to “crumple up the draft menu I had and start it over again together.”
Some dishes became vegetarian as they evolved, like the rillettes, a riff on charcuterie made with cauliflower and whipped brie instead of pork. One Cajun staple even became an unlikely vegan crossover — boudin balls made from mushrooms and eggplant and a smoked tofu mayo.
The DTB drinks list was created by Lu Brow, a veteran of the modern New Orleans cocktail scene who worked with Schaubhut during their days at Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide. A bit of brown butter goes into the bourbon for her old fashioned. A cocktail called Louisiana starts with Sazerac rye and adds bitters, amaro, a drizzle of pecan oil and the essence of sassafras bark. Robustly aromatic pepper mash from Crystal Hot Sauce goes into the bloody Mary. All of the dozen beers on draft beers are Louisiana-made.
DTB was designed to feel open, with a mix of high-back booths and small tables leading to a pair of long communal tables for drinks and snacks up front by the Oak Street windows. The kitchen is in plain view of the dining room, and it’s attached to the bar. Schaubhut equates the layout to his family’s house parties back in the day.
“At home, everyone would end up in the kitchen eventually, cooking, plating food, mixing cocktails,” he said.
If the Louisiana flavors at DTB flow into uncharted waters, at least that part of their path feels familiar.
8201 Oak St., (504) 518-6889
Dinner Monday-Saturday, from 5:30 p.m.; bar open from 3 p.m.
Parsing the difference between Creole and Cajun cuisine can entail a journey across Louisian…
The stirrings of home and feelings of homecoming are strong this time of year. No type of re…