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3143 Ponce De Leon St
New Orleans, LA, 70119
United States


swirl and savor

Global Mexican Cuisine at Canal Street Bistro

Beth Ribblett

eco cafe/canal st. bistro, 3903 canal st. 70119

Our plan on Saturday night was to head down to the Bywater to see our friend Fatma at Fatoush for some of that local, grass fed, delicious lamb they serve but our friend Phil called with a plea to join him at Canal Street Bistro/Eco Cafe (I'm still not really sure what the dual name is about...).  We've been twice before for breakfast and lunch, but this was our first go at dinner since Chef Guillermo Peters began serving on weekend nights.  Both of our previous experiences were excellent; great, fresh, creative food at good prices in a pretty comfy spot on Canal Street not far from our house.  So we decided to meet Phil, a regular at the place, and see if deserved all of the hype he'd been giving it.

We've been fans of Chef Guillermo for years, back before Katrina when he was in a stripmall in Kenner turning out the best Mexican food in the New Orleans area.  Cheap, fresh, delicious food in a funky atmosphere, the salsa bar alone at Taqueros made it worth the trip.  In 2004 his hugely ambitious plan to open a two floor restaurant in the city brought him to St. Charles Avenue where Taqueros Coyoacan just never seemed to take off despite his talent in the kitchen.  So we were happy to see his name come up in association with this small, nicely renovated spot in an old house on Canal Street.  What an asset to the neighborhood!

First off, I do really like the atmosphere in the place, comfortable, laid back, casual, but elegant with white tablecloths and nice lighting. We came in jeans, but there were groups of people more appropriately dressed for a Saturday night out and neither of us looked out of place. So we like the vibe, we're fans of the chef, we've had two good experiences previously, needless to say we were pretty excited about what the evening would bring, but...we got off to a bad start when we asked about the price of a corkage fee for the one bottle of wine we had brought.  We were told by the host that Chef Guillermo personally chooses the wines on the list to accompany his food and does not allow guests to bring their own wines...period, end of discussion...ugh! Ok, so I look at the list (the wine list online is not current) to see what Chef feels is worthy of his culinary efforts and I see the word Estancia multiple times accompanied by the words chardonnay, merlot, cabernet, pinot noir...there were at least 6-7 different Estancia wines on the list accompanied by a few other California wines and a few Spanish wines.  And even though the Spanish wines were decent, I was so turned off by the response to my corkage question and the makeup of the majority of the list that chef was so convinced matched the quality of his food, I couldn't even order any wine. So we reluctantly decided on cocktails and the satsuma margaritas were nice and priced well at $7.50.

satsuma margarita
On to the food, we ordered quite a few of the small plates that are priced $6-$18. The large plates ranged from $22 to $34 and since our original plan was the totally affordable Fatoush, I couldn't mentally make the move into fine dining price mode.  Guacamole with tostados was a decent size serving, but at $9 it should have been; shrimp chipotle $9, was 4 gulf shrimp sauteed with red onions and chipotle chiles, served with tostadas and cotija cheese and was just short of being over cooked, but had a nice spicy, sweetness to it; tequila shrimp $9, was 3 gulf shrimp sauteed in a delightful creamy, tangy tequila chipotle sauce that made you want to dip anything you could find onto the plate; esquites $6, featured corn kernels sauteed with red onions, cilantro, jalpeños and a splash of lime juice, served with again with tostadas.  By this point we had been over served with tostados and I was starting to feel like they loaded them on the plate to help make up for the small portions of their "small plates".  We also ordered one of the specials which was grilled cojita cheese served atop a bright red slightly sweet piquillo coulis and scattered with capers; nice texture and good combination of salty/sweet with the piquillo sauce and the capers.


grilled cotija cheese

Kerry and I ordered the petite chipotle steak $18, that was a petite filet, grilled and served over an open faced quesadilla, topped with chipotle tomato sauce and queso fresco.  The rare meat was fabulously cooked to perfection and would have been an excellent match for the 2007 Cuvelier Coleccion Malbec blend from Argentina that was in my wine bag. Though delicious and cut it-with-a-fork tender, it was a bit overwhelmed by the sauce and the quesadilla underneath got soggy, giving the dish a bit of doughy finish.

petite chipotle steak
Phil ordered one of Guillermo's signature dishes that we've seen different versions of on a few of his menus, the diver scallops $28, poached in olive oil, served over rice and topped with poblano cream sauce. Again, perfectly cooked, slightly translucent with a firm texture, they had a wonderful sweetness that paired beautifully with the poblano cream sauce.  He has mastered this dish many times over and it shows.

So overall impressions:  good, creative food but a little on the pricey side for the portion size; nice, cozy comfortable atmosphere with attentive service but a disappointing sub par wine list that doesn't anywhere near live up to quality of his food.  And the attitude about not being able to bring a bottle for a corkage fee?  I'm not sure we'll be back for dinner, but lunch and breakfast rate high on our list.