A pair of familiar New Orleans restaurant spaces have been remade by creative new chefs.

An older restaurant closes, and a new restaurant takes its place. Such is the natural order of things, and given how much change the New Orleans restaurant scene has experienced lately we’ve had ample opportunity to see the dynamic in action. But two new additions present more nuanced cases.

One is called Carrollton Market in the Riverbend, and the other is Meauxbar, on North Rampart Street on the edge of the French Quarter. Each one opened in the spring after taking over addresses that had previously been home to upscale restaurants. No big surprise there. These days any suitable restaurant space that becomes available is snapped up pretty quickly.

But in each of these cases, Carrollton Market and Meauxbar took over spaces that had been popular restaurants for the previous decade. Both seemed to close in mid-stride, seemingly at their prime, and each was also reopened within months by their new operators. It wasn’t like people had a chance to get used to them being gone.

The upshot is a pair of very new upscale restaurants working their own individual styles in settings that may still seem highly familiar.

In the case of Meauxbar, even the name is the same, and there’s an added twist that this restaurant is something of a transplant. That’s because the entire crew at Meauxbar, from the owner to most of the waitstaff, previously ran the CBD restaurant Ste. Marie.
The chef, Kristen Essig, pretty much picked up right where she had left things at Ste. Marie, with a menu that’s seasonal, modern and impressive. A decadent sweetbreads dish practically glazed in Madeira demi glace, the subtle aroma of smoked goat cheese running through a crab and peach salad and a sandwich that seems to have enclosed an entire French onion soup in bricohe — it all speaks to her original approach to the bistro style.

Across town, Carrollton Market certainly looks a lot like its predecessor, a place called One Restaurant & Lounge, from the exterior in a typical-looking Uptown cottage to the very atypical dining room feature of a completely open kitchen lined by a dining bar. Take a seat here today and you can watch chef Jason Goodenough and his crew prepare his highly appealing read on Southern flavors, recast with a creative eye and precise hand.

Oysters are fried, returned to their shell and swaddled with lemony béarnaise sauce, tuna is just barely singed with hot oil and paired with fresh citrus and herbs and tender red snapper sits under a golden crust and over an aromatic curry broth.

It’s understandable if you pass by one of these places and don’t notice any change has occurred at all. But these are restaurants to pay attention to, whether you’re looking for the old Ste. Marie in the new Meauxbar at the old Meauxbar address, or looking for dinner with a familiar kitchen view at the new Carrollton Market. It all may sound a bit jumbled, but don’t worry. The chefs at these two places are each working in highly distinctive style of their own. And in this town that’s what really puts a place on the map.

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by Ian McNulty

WWNO.org (UNO radio)