When you win two James Beard awards a month prior to my visit, your restaurant is definitely going to be on my radar. Peche was named both Best New Restaurant of 2013 and their chef, Ryan Prewitt was awarded Best Chef: South. Peche’s menu was very similar to many restaurants in Chicago featuring shared “small plates” and that allowed us to try several different dishes from their seven section menu. Even though our reservation was at 10:00pm the restaurant was packed solid and filled with both New Orleans natives and tourists alike.
One of the first things I noticed about the restaurant was even though with its recent awards it felt approachable and unpretentious. Its brick walls and wooden beams gave it a warm earthy feel that complimented the rustic seafood menu. It was a pretty cool experience to dine at one of the current best restaurants in the country!
We started the night off with one of their specials for the evening, a raw tuna crudo with chili aioli and white beans; it was a generous portion for a small bites appetizer. Minced shallots and tiny jalapeno bits complimented the chili aioli and elevated the tuna without drowning out the natural clean flavor. When I cook, I know it can be difficult to get an even mince on shallots and peppers and was impressed that all the pieces were nearly identical and the right size for the delicate tuna.
We couldn’t resist the southern pull of the shrimp toast and we were not disappointed. Baked shrimp, fresh mayo and a thinly sliced pickle on top of fried toast tasted buttery and delicious, but you could still identify the high quality of the individual ingredients.
We picked two different fish dishes to share for the main portion of our meal. The first was another of the evening’s specials, a wahoo on top of a creamy puree and crispy peas and lardons.
The second was their smothered catfish that was literally smothered in delicious dark roux-based sauce that had New Orleans written all over it. I of course like anything that has bacon so I preferred the wahoo dish while Taste Tester #1 loved the comfort-food feel of the smothered catfish a little more.
For a side we decided to get the fried Brussels sprouts with chili vinegar which was the perfect sweet and sour combo to go with both of our fish entrees. Over the past few years I’ve learned to love the miniature cabbage and have had it cooked many different ways but never fried. The frying took away almost all of the bitterness and gave it the southern spin we were looking for from food in New Orleans.
Overall the meal was delicious and I can see both in the quality of the food and the presentation why it was well deserving of several James Beard awards. I wish we could have attended with a larger group so we could have tried more of the dishes, and particularly the specials that evening. We’ll just have to make a trip back in the future to see how this delicious restaurant evolves!