11:00 AM CST, January 20, 2012
What is to become Restaurant R'evolution is still under construction; there are gaping spaces for equipment yet to arrive and rubble yet to be removed. But chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto can look through the dust and see their vision coming to life.
"This will be a classic 1800s French Quarter bar," says Folse, waving an arm expansively in a wide-open space that, at the moment, is being fitted with custom-made, massive French pocket doors. "We're building the dining room to have the feel of the old Creole dining rooms. This will be what the past looked like."
There are few better authorities on Creole history than Folse, a chef, restaurateur and cookbook author whose prodigious output can almost be measured in metric tons. (His latest book, "The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine," weighs 11 pounds.) He's partnered with Tramonto, a chef renowned for his work at Trio and Tru restaurants in the Chicago area, but whose cutting-edge cuisine has always evidenced affection and respect for history.
Together, they're crafting a restaurant, due to open in early April in the French Quarter's Royal Sonesta Hotel, that will combine a historian's appreciation for 1800s New Orleans with a forward-looking approach to the region's cuisine — the next evolution, if they may be so bold, in Creole and Cajun cooking.
"Is it molecular Cajun? No, it is not," Tramonto says, with emphasis.
Soups will include seafood gumbo, and something called Death by Gumbo. Shrimp remoulade will be presented carpaccio-style, as will venison. The caviar staircase, a Tramonto signature presentation in Chicago, will include choupique caviar among its components. The dozen-plus steaks and chops will be available with such add-ons as truffle sauce, lobster bearnaise, foie gras butter and molasses barbecue sauce.
The Market room will have cases displaying whole animals; hanging hams will decorate the salumeria. "We want it hanging," Tramonto says, "so you can see it's real food."
R'evolution's various dining environments will surround a courtyard, where potted fruit trees will provide items bound for the table — or possibly the glass, as Folse plans for ratafia, a Creole infused brandy, to be among the bar features. (The wine cellar, Folse and Tramonto say, has more than 10,000 bottles, an outlay of $500,000.)
Tramonto and four other Chicago-area chefs have been down in Louisiana for months. "Getting our arms around the culture," as Tramonto says, working with Folse and four other chefs in Folse's Donaldsonville test kitchen. "Because when those doors open," he says, "we all have to be locals."
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