The focus of the trip to New Orleans was Pêche, a seafood grill owned by partners Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski and Ryan Prewitt that beat our locals, Betony and Carbone, to become this year’s Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Foundation Awards. I had the pleasure of dining at Pêche twice. The menu is the same at lunch and dinner. The evening drew a packed, raucous crowd full of vivacious energy, and in the calmer lunch setting I was able to see the beautiful seafood dishes more clearly, both experiences equally enjoyable.
The raw bar selection is the way to start. Look out for the raw fish specials like the marinated cobia, in a citrus and chili-based broth, served with a butterbean purée that balances the acidity. As a shrimp lover, the shrimp roll at Pêche was a true highlight — the best I’ve ever tasted. Its freshness comes from local Louisiana shrimp, typically brown shrimp, but this changes seasonally, as white shrimp makes an occasional appearance as well. The shrimp, combined with a mayonnaise, mustard and raw vegetable-based sauce, are served on a soft cream roll with shredded romaine lettuce.
Spicy ground shrimp, flavored with curry and citrus, over fettuccini is an ingenious alternative to pasta Bolognese.
My husband and I devoured the two-plus pounds of whole grilled redfish with salsa verde, down to picking out the cheeks. It was simply too good to not finish. While there are excellent seafood restaurants in New York, Pêche is a game changer. Prewitt’s creative and innovative dishes, from the spicy shrimp noodles to the straightforward dishes like whole grilled fish, showcase the freshness of the seafood. Moreover, the restaurant’s focus on wood-fire grilling and classics, like the shrimp roll, are best in class. In New York, I know where to get my favorite lobster roll, crudo and seafood pastas, but each at a different restaurant. Pêche, on the other hand, has it all. The atmosphere is casual, closer to an upscale canteen. It’s a large converted warehouse that seats 165, including a bar at the front of the restaurant and an oyster bar in the back near the kitchen. Service is likewise a bit casual, pleasant but not overly detail-oriented. For each table, servers work in teams of two, so if the first waiter forgets an order or request, you can always ask the second to follow up.