Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Happens When

Pork chop etouffee, What Happens When

Though Heraclitus is hardly a household name anymore, everyone knows the quotation that Plato ascribed to him: "You cannot step into the same river twice." This spirit pervades What Happens When, the nine-month restaurant "installation" helmed by John Fraser of Dovetail. Every month, the restaurant completely changes in response to a new inspiration (the blush, winter hunting, a Renoir painting). Naturally, a certain amount of pretense follows --- the iterations are called "movements" --- but the idea is intriguing and admirably ambitious.

Muffaletta, What Happens When

With a very special guest in town, we visited the latest version, inspired by the birthplace of jazz. We were greeted with miniature muffaletta sandwiches, delightful bite-sized evocations of New Orleans, as well as a pot of warm, soft, spicy garlic cheddar rolls.

Garlic and cheddar rolls, What Happens When

For our first course, spinach and artichoke dip with deviled eggs conjured the simple pleasures of summer picnics. The bacon and oyster po' boy, while not bad, broke that spell as it was too complex and disjointed to say much of anything.

Spinach and artichoke dip with deviled eggs, What Happens When

Oyster and bacon po' boy, What Happens When

Fried boudine, on the other hand, came in perfect simple spheres, like meat-and-rice hush puppies. Our only complaint was that there were three, as opposed to, say, twenty-seven.

Fried boudine, What Happens When

Among the mains, a pecan-crusted flounder with maque choux disappeared so quickly it seemed a mirage, while the massive pork chop etouffee and the jambalaya (with andouille sausage, shrimp, and Cornish game hen) satisfied, if not with the same verve as the flounder. 

Pecan crusted flounder with maque choux, What Happens When

Jambalaya with shrimp, andouille sausage, and Cornish game hen, What Happens When

Desserts included a take on bananas Foster, which originated in New Orleans, as well as a plate of cheeses, oat cakes, and rhubarb. Best by far was the bitter chocolate and strawberry bread pudding, its lovely notes of sweetness taking us out into the evening and beyond. 

Bananas Foster, What Happens When

Cheeses and rhubarb, What Happens When

Bitter chocolate and strawberry bread pudding, What Happens When


Kate (Embarrassment of Riches) said...

I really wanted to check out May's menu! I actually cancelled last Thursday's reservations because they weren't serving alcohol of any kind. (We hemmed and hawed over the decision, but ultimately admitted we like wine too much to forgo it at such a nice meal.) Everything looks delicious; thank you for the review!

Jess and Garrett said...

Thanks, Kate. The night we were there was the night they found out about the alcohol licensing issue --- John Fraser and his business partner were in furious discussions. Awkward! On the plus side, our meals were half-off.

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