by Andrew Chalk
Toups Meatery is the most enticing restaurant that I have dined at in the recent past. Several hours after the meal at a media event I am still taking it in and realizing, for example, that there is hardly anything on the menu that I have not had before. And, that it is the least Louisiana-esque (if you will widen acceptable butchery to include the English language) of all the restaurants on this trip to NOLA. And the heart of its menu is an execution of simple techniques, not the complicated, disciplined procedures of classic haute cuisine, or the incantations of molecular gastronomy.
What is so special about Isaac Toups creation is the precise pairing of ingredients of uncompromised quality. For example, Chicken Liver Mousse ($9), among the Small Plates, combines a mini country loaf with a crust firm enough to leave mouth lacerations that no knife wielding slasher graduating from New Orleans current crime wave could hope to manage severing the carotid artery, with a truly generous tranche of creamy, meaty, sweet chicken liver. The combination is ethereal. I challenge anyone to name a restaurant endorsed by a tire company that does it better.
In case you want to point out, as would be correct, that Toups leaves unsaid more than is said in his dish titles on the menu, this is served on a platter with fermented onions, fruit confiture, pickled pineapple, and apple chutney. To make his future menus more communicative, maybe Toups should write them in Morse code?
On a similar scale, and almost identical in ingredients, is Foie Gras Torchon ($25) which replaced the chicken liver mousse with an equally generous helping of rich foie gras that spontaneously dissolved in the mouth.
Another addictive sharing dish is Pork Belly Corn Dogs ($15). A funnel of two of them arrives with a skewer holding a thick, fatty slice of pork belly encased in smooth corn batter. The skewers invite you to grasp them and dip them in the accompanying housemade harissa ketchup and beer mustard. Each illustrates the Toups approach. You can’t buy ketchup or mustard like this.
Likewise with Cracklins ($10), which are essentially pork chicharrónes with rock hard texture that submited to moisture once in the mouth, and a lingering pork flavor. Full of other things, we decide these would come with us on Southwest Airlines as a pretzel alternative.
The beverages are split roughly equally into three strong categories of wine, cocktails, and beer. We found Chehalem Willamette Valley, Oregon Chardonnay ($12/glass) and Jucifer IPA ($8) from Gnarly Barley Brewing Company in Hammond, LA both great matches with the food.
One half of me wants Toups Meatery (for example, to Dallas). The other half of me fears that will break the quality control. Safest maybe to always put this on my rotation when in NOLA.