Maypop-Hits and Misses

Since my last post about Maypop, I went twice more. Once for a quick bite and tried the Sweet Corn Tom Yum and their Bread Service. Starting this post off positively, the Tom Yum soup with egg noodles was a perfect blend of ingredients to make my mouth sing with pleasure. Not too filling, just perfect size for someone who isn’t too hungry. 

This would be my second time around trying the bread service. The first time didn’t impress me. But, perhaps it was a fluke, considering everything else was delicious. So, I tried again. Their bread was slightly different this time around because they added annatto seeds to the top. I am still not impressed. Come ‘on Maypop! Get it together! You are an award winning restaurant. I cannot believe you can’t get something as simple as bread to taste as heavenly as the rest of your food. 

I am sure many of you are wondering why I am fixated on their bread but for those of you who love this manna from the oven, it is the appetizer before the appetizer. It is the beginnings of a meal that sets the stage for what is to follow. It is the salvation for starving individuals who do not want to frighten off dinner guests with the rumblings of their empty bellies. It’s the Piece de Resistance that can make or break a sandwich. Side note *when I was deployed to Kuwait many moons ago, there was a bakery on the first floor of an office building that I had the fortune to be able to visit several times. This bakery created the most mouth-watering, decadent, handcrafted bread of many flavorful varieties. I would bring back to base several loaves for the rest of my crew. A slice of their volcano (cheese) bread with the homemade butter that was shipped to us was a Christmas morning miracle. So yes, bread, though it has developed a bad reputation on the food pyramid, is still a staple of the dinner menu for breadlovers around the world. 

The bread during this service was coated in so much oil and/or butter that it was oozing out when I pulled a piece off. This oleaginous mess coated my fingers, which then in turn collected a layer of annatto seeds that were shingled on top of the bread. Every bite resulted in the same messy fingers. I had to brush the seeds off my fingers after every bite, then wipe them on the napkin. I imagine there is a layer of annatto seeds littering the floors after nightly dinner service.

The next time I went to Maypop was for brunch with family and friends. Since there were four of us, we ordered several different menu items and ate tapas style. 

I didn’t imbibe on your typical brunch drink of choice. Instead, I tried the Café Hoodoo Sua Da which is expresso, hoodoo chickory liquor, and mole bitters. It is a frozen delicacy that is now probably my new favorite drink. Be forewarned, drinks that taste like dessert can be dangerous because the alcohol sneaks up on you!

For starters, we tried the pork and cane syrup sausage stuffed sesame balls, crispy calamari with tamarind fish sauce and Thai chili, “the Baodin” which is a pan fried, cheesy boudin bao bun with citrus mustard. These were the perfect blend of Asian meets New Orleans. We enjoyed the sesame balls so much we ordered it twice. 

Next we ordered the crispy fried oysters with bourbon barrel soy aioli, manchego cheese and spicy cucumber. I wasn’t sure what to expect from fried oysters, but the coating was delicate and it wasn’t greasy at all. The braised lamb made with harissa spice, coconut milk, fried egg, ginger marinated green tomatoes. It is presented in a serving dish with roti bread in accompaniment.  For me, lamb could go either way, super delicious or too gamey tasting. This lamb dish was superb. The roti bread, however, was not. The first time I ever came to Maypop, I had a different dish with roti bread and it was very good. This time, however, I was sorely disappointed. It had been sitting out under the heat lamp for too long and was hard. Roti is a type of bread that is meant to be used to pick up food and eat it. Can’t do that if the bread is too hard to even be folded in half. Maypop, you are not impressing me with your bread skills. 

We also ate some of the Head Cheese and Blue Crab soup dumplings. It is little dumplings with soup inside. Impressive, flavorful and honestly, I am running out of adjectives. That’s how delicious is the food. Now if they could just get on board with the bread, you’d have one happy camper here. 

Maypop is a Maybe

My son is down visiting for the summer, waiting to go back to school. I wish I could say he took a job simply because he is a good son and knows couch potatoness in the house isn’t allowed. I’d also like to take full credit for his desire to be a productive member of society but the fact is, he has a passion for cooking. A passion that is obvious just listening to him speak about food. So while he is whittling away his time here in NOLA, he is putting his time to good use and found a job working in the kitchen of Maypop Restaurant.

Being the great and supportive foodie mother that I am, I just had to drop by unannounced one night and try the place out for myself. I brought a friend along to keep my bias in check and help sample the flavors. We didn’t go all out, ordering everything off the menu but instead sampled/shared a few different items.

First off, I want to give kudos to the wall map decoration. I truly don’t know what style you would call the design, but it is similar to 3d illusion. Imagine triangular wedges all grouped together with two of the sides representing two different maps. When you view from one side, you see one map and when you view from the other side, it is a different map. It is better viewing from a distance because you get the whole picture when your eyes blur the individual wedges together to make one picture. Am I making sense here? I hope so. Better yet, go view for yourself!

Everyone on the staff was pleasant and the atmosphere was friendly and inviting. There was a gentleman standing near the bar who could have been either a bodyguard for some important VIP or a bouncer to kick out the unruly. He was keenly aware of everything happening within the restaurant, without making you feel like you were being watched and I’ll wager nothing gets past him. I could view the kitchen from where I happened to have been seated (strictly a happy coincidence, I assure you). From my vantage point, the kitchen staff worked efficiently and cheerfully.

We ordered the bread service, which is simply four pieces of annatto sesame rolls served in a small cast iron type dish with coconut butter and shellfish pepper jam as an accoutrement. I am a huge fan of delicious bread but I have to be honest, this just didn’t do it for me. The bread was too hard. I think it was left in the oven a little too long so instead of crusty bread with a soft interior, it was closer to a rock hard crust with a dense thick interior. The coconut butter didn’t have even a hint of coconut in it and didn’t taste any different from regular butter, except maybe creamier. The shellfish pepper jam was an interesting combination of flavors though. If you have been following me, you’ll know I don’t do spicy. However, this was flavorful but I was sure happy I was eating it with bread! Whew!

The second item was a Roasted Bone Marrow and Louisiana Crawfish in smoked paprika curry. I was hesitant to try this because I have never had bone marrow and it just sounds like something Hannibal Lector would dine on BUT you only live once so why not try something new? There was a warm, roti bread served with the dish and I am a huge fan of roti. I am almost completely won over to bone marrow by this dish. The hesitancy isn’t due to taste at all but the texture for me of the marrow. It is gelatinous in nature once cooked. I tried eating it straight off bone and the jelly texture didn’t do it for me, but after I scraped it out and mixed it with all the wonderful flavors of the curry sauce, I was a fan.

Next we tried Black Cardamom Glazed Beef Belly with cheesy curried potato stuffed roti (again with the roti, I know! But I like what I like). The flavors in this dish were delicious and the stuffed roti was a knock out of the park. A real winner to me!

For dessert we tried the Mousse Rouge and Dark Chocolate Cremeux. I had to send the chocolate dessert back but the Mousse was delicious. Full of flavor without the heaviness an overpowering sugary dessert would have. The mousse is housed in a circular tower of white chocolate. The red and green strawberries are floating in a summery marinade of interesting herb-infused flavors. The greek yogurt sherbet, which sounds like an ice cream imposter, was a splendid accompaniment to the mousse. A perfect way to end a meal.

I ordered an Espresso Martini to go with the dessert but the waiter only heard the word espresso and brought a cup of that instead. It took me a few minutes to gain his attention again but once he learned his mistake, he quickly corrected the order.

Overall, there are many great qualities of Maypop and still many items on the menu left to explore. I didn’t leave the restaurant feeling “wow, I can’t wait to go there again!” Though I am not totally sold on the place, I believe it deserves a second go ’round, and not just because my son is working there!