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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.