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At Nouveau Tavern, a Taste of New Orleans Hits River North in the Mouth

Chef Norman Hargrove’s upcoming casual fine-dining spot fills the Ai Sushi space.

Photo: courtesy nouveau tavern.

The design for Nouveau Tavern’s dining room. 

Currently scheduled to laisser les bons temps rouler in early October, Nouveau Tavern (358 W. Ontario St., 312-915-4100) will try to import the ethos of New Orleans, in food and atmosphere.

Photo: Marcin Cymmer of Smart Pixel Studio

Chef Norman Hargrove.

Chef Norman Hargrove’s menu is separated into Acts 1, 2, and 3, according to how it’s coursed out, rather than portion size. Act 1 actors include bayou wings with honey, sambal, crème fraîche, blue cheese, and chives, as well as crawfish fritters with corn, bell peppers, lemon-cayenne mayonnaise, and micro celery.

Ranging from about $19 to $33, entrée-size Act 2 selections include blackened catfish with Brussels sprout leaves, maple brown butter, and sweet potato purée. For poultry, Hargrove offers a half roasted chicken with cornbread stuffing and sweet bell peppers.

Among the Act 3 desserts: Bananas Foster, bread pudding, bourbon pecan pie, and the requisite red velvet cake.

The former Ai Sushi space will be renovated to a French Quarter feel, playing authentic New Orleans music, and eventually putting on a Sunday gospel brunch. Service will aim for Southern hospitality. “The waitstaff has this old-school French formality to its philosophy,” says Hargrove, most recently the chef de cuisine at the Peninsula Hotel’s Pierrot Gourmet. “They know how to serve food and share food, but not be off-putting.”



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