I religiously watch CBS “Sunday Morning” with Charles Osgood because I think it is one of the finest news magazine programs on the air. On Super Bowl Sunday, the program headed to New Orleans where a reporter told viewers about the history of Tabasco sauce and New Orleans-born-and-raised musician Wynton Marsalis found himself in a home kitchen making gumbo. I immediately developed a craving for it.
Fortunately for me, Redwood, a four-month-old restaurant on South Street, listed chicken and andouille gumbo on the menu. Edward and I discovered the establishment while driving down South Street. We decided to pay a visit on a bitterly cold night and warmed up immediately as we entered. The front room is brightly lit and features a long mirrored bar, tin ceiling, highly polished wood tables and brightly colored banquettes done up in sunny shades of gold, red and orange.
Cocktails ($7.50 to $9) were icy cold and expertly mixed. The menu features small plates, which were not small, like tapas, salads, sandwiches and entrées. Redwood has a cruvinet for those who appreciate fine, but not overly pricey, wines and a heft beer selection.
We nibbled on the house made potato chips ($5) to take the edge off our appetites. The chips were fried in duck fat, which imparted an indescribable flavor, dusted with five-spice powder and sea salt and arrived piping hot. The chips came with a ramekin of aioli whipped with cilantro and a hint of ginger.
Quite often a simple, fresh vegetable comes alive when it marries well with any type of bacon. Grilled asparagus ($7) is a good example. We received four spears of mid-thickness wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto, dusted with herbs and grilled just right.
Since Redwood is described as an American bistro, the cooks like to mix up the cuisines. I have not seen fried green tomatoes ($6) on a restaurant menu since our last venture down South. Three green tomato slices were dried of any excess moisture, dusted in flavorful crumbs and deep-fried to a golden brown. They were stacked up on the plate and topped with a dollop of homemade marinara and bits of feta cheese. I didn’t think these disparate flavors would work but they surely did. The marinara was obviously homemade and rich with tiny chunks of slightly acidic tomato along with the tang of the feta and seasoned crumbs. We could have eaten a second order.
Redwood might be the first new restaurant on South Street to become a wine destination for those of us who enjoy a glass with dinner. The installation of a cruvinet was a fine idea. Edward and I shared a glass of Domaine Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone ($6.75), which had a jammy flavor and a plum-like aroma.
Now to the gumbo, which must begin with a dark caramel roux. The combination of chopped onions, celery, green peppers and okra is a must addition to the pot. Those in the know in the Big Easy always add some seafood, such as shrimp, crab or crayfish. For me, sausage is a must.
Redwood serves a chicken and andouille gumbo ($6). The roux could have been darker and richer but it was tasty and included the proper addition of spice and heat. Tabasco sauce also is a must and although it packs heat, it was not too hot for me. Chopped tomatoes were added to the pot along with shreds of chicken breast and a tiny bit of andouille. I would have liked to have seen more sausage in the mix. Unfortunately, the long grain rice was way undercooked.
Steak frittes ($20) was a simple grilled steak, which arrived rare, and was prepared au poivre. Peppercorns were crushed and deeply massaged into the beef before it hit the pan or the grill. The peppers mingled with the pan juices, which produced a natural sauce. Shoestring french fries came with the generous entrée.
Service was first-rate. Our servers left us to our conversation and never interrupted to describe what we ordered.
Redwood is a fine addition to South Street. It is next to Copabanana, which serves some of the best burgers in town.
Three tips of the toque to Redwood.
340 South St.
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