A trip to New Orleans is always difficult for a food lover. Difficult in a good way, because there are so many talented chefs in the Big Easy, offering wonderful options ranging from Creole dishes to traditional Southern favorites to nouvelle fusion.
N7, labeled the country's tenth best restaurant in 2016 by Bon Appétit magazine, fits the last description.
The food speaks with a definite French accent, and the restaurant's name, N7, is a reference to the mythic road that ran from Paris to the border of Italy (now upgraded or replaced by the A77 autoroute).
Finding your way along a French road that was the equivalent of America's Route 66 might be slightly easier than finding the restaurant N7, tucked away on Montegut Street, off of St. Claude Avenue in the city's funky, hip Bywater neighborhood.
You might easily pass the entrance if you're not looking for the red stenciled sign on a wooden doorway leading to N7's courtyard.
Once inside, you can't miss the red Citroen taking a prime spot along the gravel driveway.
Much of the seating is outdoors, in a courtyard outfitted with casual style tables and chairs, surrounded by potted plants and vines.
But there is some seating indoors in a structure that at one time housed a tire shop, and long before that, a stable. Sitting at the bar now though, you might be convinced that you were in a bistro in Paris' Marais neighborhood.
The food whispers with other culinary accents too, like the oysters from Washington State, served with a sauce redolent of soy sauce -- not unusual since the restaurant is owned by Japanese born Yuki Yamaguchi, and her husband, filmmaker Aaron Walker.
Nearly half the menu is "can to table" seafood - which could be off putting to many. But in some European countries, particularly Spain, canned fish is a delicacy sought after as eagerly as fresh seafood.
We dug in with gusto to the sardines, swishing our bread through the can to glob on to every last bit of the sundried tomato sauce.
And after a squirt of lemon, the octopus in olive oil was gone in a flash too, accompanied by herb butter and a piquant red pepper paste.
The menu, although limited, does contain a few cooked items, such as the seared scallops with chive oil, pictured in the first photo. It was our favorite dish of the night (recipe below).
Another winner was the pork katsu with beet purée. The pork is dredged in flour, egg and finally panko (Japanese bread crumbs), then fried in hot oil and sliced. It rests on a luscious purée made with beets, apples, chicken broth and a little cream and yogurt.
We also tried the duck breast a l'orange, again prepared with a hint of soy sauce in addition to the more traditional ingredients such as orange zest and orange juice.
Desserts are very limited but seemed just right. Choose either French macaron cookies (not pictured) or the cheese plate, which contained three cheeses - a sweet gorgonzola, a sheep's milk cheese and a creamy cow's milk cheese. A few dried figs, cherries and nuts rounded out the platter.
As night descended and the tables filled, lights twinkled around the perimeter of the courtyard.
Is it really the most romantic French restaurant in the world, as Bon Appétit claims?
I'm not so sure I buy that moniker, but it sure won over our hearts and I know we'll be visiting N7 again the next time we're in New Orleans.
And if you'd like to take a real trip to Europe and a dreamy part of Italy, join me for a memoir writing retreat at Villa Monastero, in Varenna overlooking Lake Como. Only a couple of spots remain. You don't have to be a professional writer to participate. Life is short, so don't delay your dream. For more information, go to www.italyinotherwords.com or email me.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
Seared Scallops with Chive Oil
From N7 Restaurant, New Orleans via Bon Appetit magazine
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
- ½ cup heavy cream, warmed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- Freshly ground black pepper
Scallops and Assembly
- 16 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Finely grated Gruyère (for serving)
Purée garlic, chives, salt, and oil in a blender until smooth.
Do Ahead: Chive oil can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Place potatoes in a medium pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1". Add 2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender but still hold their shape, 15–20 minutes (boiling will cause potatoes to become waterlogged). Drain and pass hot potatoes through a ricer (or use a masher) into a large bowl (do this right away; cold potatoes will become gummy when mashed). Add cream and butter to potatoes and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined and mixture is smooth; season with salt and pepper.
Scallops and assembly
Pat scallops dry with paper towels; season both sides with kosher salt. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over high. Cook half of scallops, undisturbed, until deep golden and caramelized, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until barely golden on second side and just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Repeat process with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and remaining scallops.
Top mashed potatoes with Gruyère and drizzle scallops with chive oil.