A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Greg Sonnier toiled as a line cook at K-Paul’s, honing his craft from Chef Prudhomme while courting his co-worker wife-to-be. Since then, Sonnier has gone to the Riverbend (as sous chef at Brigtsten’s), Faubourg St. John (as chef/owner of the wildly loved Gabrielle) and to Uptown (where NIMBYs—not-in-my-backyards—stifled his attempt to reopen a relocated Gabrielle after Katrina). Today, Sonnier finds himself manning a stove just a half-block down Chartres from where his career began.
At Kingfish, Sonnier revives a few of his signature dishes and debuts a few new innovations. His partner in crime is Chris McMillan, a veteran local bartender who learned the proper way to muddle mint and mix a Sazerac before anyone ever heard of a mixologist. Together, the two have been entrusted with a restaurant whose prime location requires enough approachability to attract tourists with enough audacity to keep locals interested.
And so there is gumbo, but not yo’ mama’s version. Instead, smoked rabbit is matched with a caramel roux and sausage flavored with trace elements of sorrel. Oh, and ditch white rice in favor of basmati. Shrimp wraps around a delicate seafood stuffing that’s ensconced in a thin sheet of prosciutto. The effect is crispy fried saltwater.
Alligator shakshuka in another’s hands may turn out gimmicky from a chef’s tendency to over-think the dish. But here, an alligator sauce piquant of sorts is enriched with an egg that has gently cooked in the bubbling mixture. Rich filets of pompano are seared on a Himalayan salt brick and topped with rich pecan butter and sweet red onion marmalade.
Duck has always been a specialty of Sonnier’s, and at Kingfish that continues. Here, breast is honey crab-boiled and cooked down with roasted red peppers and tomatoes in an intense broth soaked up by ramen noodles. On the appetizer side, a tempura-battered deviled duck egg is the centerpiece on a bed of arugula tossed in candied pecan vinaigrette. Luckily, this dish qualifies as a salad for your summer diet-down.
The short dessert list features a strawberry shortcake, a rum-laden bread pudding and a chocolate pot de crème that unfortunately did not come together, its flavors masked by a grainy texture. Service is a work-in-progress, as staff can be overbearing and inexplicably absent at times. But with two seasoned professionals firmly at the helm, one can hope that some of their old-school charm will help this ship stay the course.Kingfish
Address: 337 Chartres St (map)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (lunch), 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (dinner)
Phone: (504) 598-5005