Criollo Restaurant & Lounge
Criollo Restaurant & Lounge, located in the historic Hotel Monteleone next to the Carousel Bar, offers a diverse menu with a variety of Spanish, French, African and Caribbean dishes.
Criollo boasts an open floor plan that encourages foot traffic to flow right into the adjacent Carousel Bar and piano room. When the famously spinning bar is in turntable mode, the festivities can spill from the bar, to the baby grand, around the Criollo lounge and eventually to the dinner tables.
“I’m in an environment that goes from one bar into another bar and into the restaurant. You can’t get uptight with your food in this space,” said Joe Maynard, Criollo’s chef de cuisine. “The food should be fun.”
Criollo is part of an extensive renovation on-going at the 125-year-old French Quarter hotel. Knocking out walls, adding windows and painting the place a sophisticated slate gray has brought a little 21st century vibe to the 19th century building.
The piano room now leads into Criollo’s lounge, where a marble-topped bar spans the length (no one will go thirsty around here), providing a visual dividing line between the spaces, if not a physical one.
Windows at the far end of the kitchen encourage Royal Street strollers to indulge their voyeur tendencies.
The food at Criollo is a unique blend of Louisiana heritage, Caribbean flavor and modern handling. “I appreciate tradition as part of our culture,” he said, “but I want to manipulate my ingredients less and less and showcase really fresh food.”
In Maynard’s hands, that translates to: herb-marinaded chicken with a light slaw and fresh fig balsamic; oysters (when in season) baked three ways; and snapper with a tangy citrus butter, Marcona almonds and fat caperberries.
“That’s my riff on almondine,” Maynard said of the citrus snapper.
A Miami native with kin in Tennessee and Kentucky, Maynard spent several years moving around the South, from North Carolina to New Orleans, where he was senior sous chef at the Windsor Court. He eventually returned to Miami, where he most recently was executive chef for Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian Hotel.
Maynard expects Criollo — Spanish for Creole — will reflect his Southern excursions and his south Florida upbringing, with lots of regional ingredient sourcing. But he wants to take a light approach. Tropical flavors and Southern staples — like greens and beans — may make an appearance, but cream will be used sparingly and portions will be designed for human appetites, rather monster ones.
“I want people to say that was so good, but not feel like they need a nap when they get up from the table,” he said. “We’ll be using the grill a lot, and we’ll use a two-ounce ladle of sauce, instead of a four-ounce, and go light on dressings for salads.”
“It’s about lightening things up.” (source: http://www.nola.com/dining/index.ssf/2012/05/the_hotel_monteleones_new_crio.html)
Open for breakfast and lunch every day.
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