Smoke and Thyme in New Orleans: Patois

In the leafy uptown suburbs near Audoban park is a quaint, romantic, neighborhood restaurant that serves classic French food with a local accent: Patois.

On the last day of my New Orleans trip last year, I treated my brother, my best friend and our NOLA host to dinner at Patois. It had come recommended to me by nobody and it turned up in no research I had done about Crescent City culinary tableau, but Patois was a “can’t miss” destination for me for one reason: it was the filming location for Chef Janette Desautel’s restaurant in Treme.

I have her fictional menu memorised.

“We’ll lowball ’em. We start with the sweet potato, andouille shrimp soup. Then we get the rabbit kidneys out of the freezer – they’re tiny, they’re gonna thaw fast. We skewer them with some lardons of the Benton’s bacon. Then we hit ’em with sweetbreads and crawfish over grits. And how about this for the last plate: we still got the braised lamb neck from the staff meal?”

Janette Desautel- Treme: Season 1, Episode 5: Shame, Shame, Shame

Dinner at Patois was my treat to Taylor (second from left) as a thank you for hosting me (left) and Caitlin (fourth from left), despite our being perfect strangers who she only knew through my brother, (third from left) at her house for four days.

As it was my treat, and as I gave the bartender my card and told him to “run it until my bank manager starts screaming”, we had what was without a doubt the best meal I’d had in almost two weeks in The Big Easy – a meal that surprised and challenged me and even caused something of re-evaluation my perception of the New Orleans culinary scene. If a hidden gem like Patois had almost escaped my attention, what else was I missing out on in this town?

Put simply, the TV version of this place might be the biggest reason why I came to New Orleans in the first place, and the real thing is the biggest part of why I’m back.

On the street out front of the restaurant is a fixture that would look bafflingly out of place outside a small local neighbourhood fine dining venue in Paris, or Oxford, or really almost anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line: Patois’ immensely covetable beast of a smoker trailer.

Unrelatedly: if anyone in the New Orleans area has a vehicle with a tow hook that I can borrow between 1am and 4am some time this week, can they please give me a call from a payphone or an untraceable burner mobile?

On my second visit I came with Kandise and Mehmet, a couple of brand new friends I met on my first night back in town. As a result of coming with a party in tow not once but twice, I managed to get pictures of nearly every dish on the menu

 The cocktail on the right has a house-infused mole liqueur. I interrogated the bartender – cacao nibs, ancho grande chillies, nutmeg and allspice were all the ingredients I could get out of him. I’ve left a bottle infusing at home while I’m away – should be ready for when I get back to Oxford.

Since arriving in town I’ve been really impressed by the care, attention, variety and specificity of the bread that restaurants have served me. Patois’ bread offering, for instance, fits perfectly into a handmade ceramic bowl.

This was my starter – red prawns and pork confit with black turtle beans and plantain chips. What’s the green stuff? I can’t remember but it was delicious – and they’ve changed their menu so I couldn’t look it up

Sweet potato bread pudding, candied pecans, toasted marshmallow ice cream and a bourbon-cayenne syrup: still the best thing I ate in NOLA on my trip last year. This has been ruthlessly stolen and has appeared on several Smoke and Thyme Supper Club menus and a blog post since,

 

I loved the simplicity and freshness of the cherry tomato and burrata salad with bruschetta.

 Sweetbreads with basil Israeli couscous and lemon caper butter

Fried oysters are very New Orleans; putting them on a wilted spinach and panchetta pasta is all Patois


Gnocchi with peas, oyster mushrooms and vegetable “demi glace”

Osso Buco and Broccolini

Chicken breast wrapped in panchetta, with sprouts and carrots

I told Finn one time when we were thinking about dishes for our Soho pop-up that he was welcome to put panchetta-wrapped steak on the menu if he wanted to but he’d better be prepared to spend his whole damn day wrapping steaks in bacon cos nobody was gonna buy anything else that week.

Our bartender Conner REALLY likes Riesling

Beet salad with arugla and a poached egg

 

Rolling in the dessert cart:

  1. “Snickers” – Brown Sugar Cake, Caramel Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Sorbet, Salted Caramel and Peanuts
  2. Chocolate semifreddo with creme fraiche ice cream and popcorn
  3. Pound cake with strawberries at Patois
  4. King cake pain perdu with bruleed bananas and pecans.

That’s everything from Patois, at least til the next time I go back.

Cheers!

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