Address: 800 Magazine Street
Type of Meal: Dinner
Earlier in May 2014, Pêche Seafood Grill was presented with the James Beard Award for best new restaurant. It’s quite the accolade beating out three establishments in New York City and one in San Francisco for the title. Good news seems to travel fast as Pêche was definitely the busiest and buzziest restaurants we visited on the trip. Locals and tourists alike eagerly awaited for their tables with over a dozen individuals with no reservations sitting at the bar.
The dining room has a noticeably casual vibe with minimalistic wood tables and fisherman themed walls. Seafood is what Pêche is known for but does have skirt steak and chicken available for those who prefer ‘turf’ to ‘surf’. Being a seafood lover, I of course stuck to the surf based dishes which all sounded delicious and enticing.
Despite having gumbo twice during the week-long trip already, I gave it one last chance at Pêche to see if there’d be an improvement over the previous ones which I tried and found subpar. The verdict is I do enjoy seafood gumbo ($9) … but only to a point. Indeed the rich thick flavourful soup filled with seafood and spices is wonderful, but the pieces of oyster, shrimp and crawfish themselves are not the best after being stewed for hours - they develop a mushy powdery texture. It may help if chefs try using dried oysters and shrimp (often found in Asian cuisine) to develop their soup base first and then add fresh shellfish just before it's served. I'd imagine the soup would still have that wonderful essence but leave the fresh seafood cooked well. Nonetheless, the gumbo at Pêche was by far the best of the three I’ve tried so if you’re going to have it anywhere it should be here.
A dish that’s a phenomenal value was the gulf shrimp from the raw bar ($12). We were surprised how many came with it (believe there was a dozen) and each were such a large size. Simply boiled and served cold with horseradish laced cocktail sauce it's nothing extraordinary but for the price a great dish to share amongst the table.
One of the special dishes for the night was the chili tuna crudo ($10). The tender fish was cut into thick squares and served sashimi style. To jazz it up, it was topped with chili oil, a lovely chili salt (which I wish there was more of) and diced crunchy jalapeño. All this may sound dominating but it was actually well balanced and didn’t overpower the tuna at all. Pods of edamame added crunch and freshness to everything. Overall, it was a decent dish.
The best dishes were the hot ones. The first, crawfish and jalapeño capellini ($14), contained many pieces of sweet crawfish cooked in a simple garlic butter sauce with a bit of jalapeño for heat. I easily could have eaten a whole bowl of this myself! Admittedly, the pasta could have been more al dante but even when soft was still delicious.
Another good dish was the smothered catfish ($16). Two thick fillets were breaded and pan fried than smothered with a gumbo like gravy and served with rice. Despite being smothered in sauce the dish wasn't too salty and had just the right amount of flavour. You do want to eat this quickly as once the catfish sits in it too long the crust gets mushy, but really this is a matter of taste.
All in all, Pêche was the best meal of the trip and didn't disappoint. Our neighbouring table ordered a whole grilled fish which looked and smelled amazing. Alas, not for us as it was a fairly large portion and with only two of us and one visit we wanted to try more items. But worth a try on a return visit. The seafood was fresh and the staff laid back and attentive. A definite stop for those who are living or visiting the city.
Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!