In Chapter 47 of the Bywater’s Post-K metamorphosis, a veteran of the venerable Mission Chinese Food serves his own Creolized interpretations of inauthentic Southeast Asian cuisine on St. Claude Avenue. Before he worked alongside Danny Bowien at the New York outpost of Mission Chinese, Tobias Womack was a loyal patron of the tongue-tingling dishes that Bowien served in his original pop-up in the Mission District of San Francisco. Years later, a chance meeting with Bowien led to his six months behind the wok, before a disagreement over Szechuan peppercorns served as the beginning of a journey that ended in New Orleans, where Womack and Amy Mosberger, his partner in life and love, opened Red’s.
A fire engine-red square is the only signage marking the location of Red’s, which occupies the low-ceilinged bottom level of a building that houses a convenience store on the second floor. The hot air blown into the street from the fan standing outside the kitchen door foreshadows the searing spiciness of the Kung Pao Pastrami, the calling card of Bowien’s Mission Chinese. At Red’s, Womack personalizes and localizes his version with a base of holy trinity and a supplement of soft rice cakes that absorb the heat of the peppercorns.
In a battle of South vs. Far East, General Lee prevails over General Tso in a reinterpretation of the Americanized classic featuring a half chicken deep-fried and dressed with bourbon soy, chilies, cilantro and crushed, smoked peanuts. Spare ribs are tender and the multiple options of fried rice (the Hawaiian style with pineapple and fried chicken being a favorite) prove that fluffiness can be retained even after time spent in a wok. For a welcome dose of acid to cut through the spicy richness, try the chilled Who Don Noodles tossed with ground lamb, mint and coconut vinegar.
Service is welcoming to all comers, whether those are neighbors from the Bywater, Metairie mid-lifers interested in checking out the hype, or Uptowners with a new baby in tow. The counter facing the kitchen offers the best opportunity to interact with the chef, and the small patio out back allows for a breath of fresh air before the summer heat turns up. Thankfully, the daily frozen fruit drink is served year round.
3048 St. Claude Ave., (504) 304-6030, Wed–Mon: 12p–3p and 5p–11p (Closed Tuesdays), redschinese.com.