The Brussels Sprouts at Butcher, the casual spot by Donald Link in the Warehouse District in New Orleans, were so delicious that I ordered a second serving after I arrived at our table, having answered a call from John Currence. John my dear man is the other Southern Food God completing the Trifecta with Donald Link & Susan Spicer as far as DEEEEEEP South chefs go. Butcher is a sibling to Cochon. It is also easy to be at. Has a wonderful energy. Of course Charlie saw the operation and wondered how things would change if the chefs had Korin knives to use. I ate the Mac 'n' Cheese so quickly that I had none left by the time I felt inspired to use the iPhone to photograph. Charlie of course missed Gael Greene's favorite Mac & Cheese from American Masala that I make and gave me not-so-discreet hints about making it soon after our return to NYC. LOVE the energy, love the concept, and love the simple and honest feel. Also loved the very mixed customer base it was serving. Heaven to my ecumenical and secular mindset. Donald Link was in the kitchen, at least chatting and leading, and I got to say hello to him. Though neither one of us knew the other. Our lunchmate identified him for me. I had to say hello. He seems rather modest, kind and decent. It was stamped on his face. That alone makes him a man I would respect for long years.
The Black-Eyed Pea salad was tastier than I expected it to be. The peppers made for a nice contrast to the otherwise dullness of this salad. It took me almost back home to India and stops closer East and West of India. Of course, we would have thrown in fresh herbs and made it a tad more complex or shall I say fussy, or maybe even too much. But we have grown up with that "too much/too fussy/layered" cuisine and have been rendered useless as far as dining goes in some ways. I have worked very hard to get over that, and I think I have succeeded. Sadly, it is Charlie who now misses flavors, complexity and a layered and deeply nuanced flavoring in foods. His many trips to India he says have changed him and made him more appreciative of food in whole. Go figure! And so, here I was enjoying the salad whilst Charlie hardly had any.
Korin Knives would help the kitchen for sure. This salad did have flavor. But all the flavor was at the bottom of the bowl, way below the very large florets or the diner could catch them, enjoy them and savor them. After working hard with fork and mouth to break into smaller florets, I was able to enjoy the wonderful Japanese-inspired dressing. I had three florets and enjoyed them but by then I became too lazy to work towards the goal of dressing the salad with my own efforts. Charlie was convinced knives were needed. Kidding! He was enjoying his potato chips instead, if truth be told.
Coleslaw to me is one of the quintessential dishes of the South. I also assume Southerners know what to do with it. At least in the sense that one considers it a classic around here. Having grown up with simple coleslaw (close to what most Americans are used to) in India courtesy a neighbor that would make open sandwiches that used it, I have also very fond memories and associations with this humble side. Charlie and I are known in our circle as slaw makers of certain talents that are revered. We make it in many different ways. Even without mayonnaise. All versions are loved by xenophobes and the adventurous alike. That is the magic of good slaw. It brings comfort, regardless. This was a rather boring rendering of this so Southern a side. I did love the way the cabbage was cut. It clearly stated the obvious that the kitchen is not lacking for either good knives, or tools that can replace knives for production. The slaw was just uninspired. Sad... I had hopes for it. Since I love veggies, and had little else to savor and fill my belly with, I did what I should not have, and finished it anyways.
The potato salad has great potential here. How exciting to taste a potato salad that is NOT CLOYINGLY sweet and served in the DEEP South this way. Certainly I have enjoyed many such versions, but this is a rare one nonetheless. What failed the restaurant though was the Al Dente taters that veered on the side of raw. All I could think of was Maricel Presilla hitting me for taking second, third and fourth servings of potatoes that were raw (She says something . i am a HUGE fan of potatoes in all their many forms. The dressing of the salad being so well balanced and so tasty, had me keep wanting to find a potato that was cooked, so I could enjoy the salad even more so. Charlie gave up quickly after the first bite. I kept going back through the entire time we were there, but always found the pieces a tad too raw. Sorry to report. Again, this seems a bad day for trying what will certainly be a wonderful salad.
Charlie ordered a pork belly sandwich with cucumber and mint. It came with potato chips that were delicious and perfectly salty. The menu made a point of speaking of mint. It raised the bar for flavor in Charlie's head for this sandwich. Mint was there, but nothing that one would understand as a flavor that was being highlighted. Of course the cucumber made the sandwich moist and also texturally interesting more than it would be otherwise. The pork belly was moist and nice in the crisp sandwich. I love pork belly (even in the pea sized portions I will eat, when and if I choose to) and did enjoy the tiny bite I took from Charlie. More mint, more heat and more salt would have made the sandwich even more MORE wonderful than it already was. The Carolina style BBQ sanwich with pulled pork looked moist and fantastic. I shall have a yearning to taste it till our next visit.
The cocktail with the lime juice freshly squeezed was delicious. Lime-y for sure and also had a wonderful balance between alcohol hit, sugar hit and citrus. The sauce with the habanero and sweet potato (am I remembering correctly?) was too sweet and banal for me, but Charlie, the through-and-through-American found it fine. Funny that I felt around food we lost our differences, but lately in travels across the US, I am realizing that the bad economy may have made us even more radical. I have been told at one table in CA that I am NOT AMERICAN, since I do not look lily white and speak with an accent. That I cannot question America, American traditions and the American ways. So, who am I to speak, react, share or question. The cocktail left me so happy, even just the one sip I had, I would come back for it everytime I am in New Orleans. The chips were good as well.
Cochon Butcher, 930 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans LA 70130
mon-thu 10–10, fr+sat 10-11, sun 10-4