In recent history, dining options in the French Quarter could be represented by a reverse bell curve, with most restaurants falling into two categories at opposite ends of the spectrum. Over the last few years, several newcomers have filled the vacuum between the tourist traps and fine dining stalwarts in the Vieux Carre.
Sylvain has successfully attracted the attention of locals by offering a menu that drifts away from typical Creole fare. Still, the Southern region is well represented. Pickled vegetables—mirliton, cucumbers, collards, and more—appear as both accents to certain entrees as well as a stand-alone appetizer. Traditional legumes are common as well, such as the creamy black-eyed peas paired with duck confit, or the field peas served underneath braised beef cheeks that fall into lip-smacking hunks with the slight pressure of a fork. Even more modern Southern cuisine is recognized, like the “Chick-Syl-vain”—an imitation of the popular fried chicken sandwich served by those outspoken cows.
Outside of the realm of Southern flair, the menu reads like a “best of” list of New American classics. Sweet roasted beets are piled high along a thick cross-section of toasted baguette smeared with goat cheese. Pappardelle Bolognese has thin, soft, tender pasta, but the sauce has varied on multiple occasions between too dry and too oily. The roasted pork sandwich is sublime. An overload of juicy shredded pork is stuffed between crusty bread slathered with spicy chili aioli, with pickled collard greens providing both crunch and acid to cut through the fatty goodness of the pork.
Although the menu draws influence from outside the South, the beautifully restored building creates a local ambience not often available to those who don’t live in an early-19th-Century cottage. A stroll through the long and narrow entryway opens into a small courtyard that offers the interesting dichotomy of being in the middle of the action, yet removed from it.
Patrons lean toward a younger demographic, and correspondingly the dinner rush does not start until closer to 8 p.m. The bar is popular among Quarter residents who enjoy local and craft beers as well as a strong cocktail program that is both innovative as well as rooted in the classics. Servers are informed and professional but also relaxed. Perhaps they take their cue from the manager, who has been known to crank up the volume when Dr. John hits the speakers. Just to let you know that you’re in the right place.
Sylvain. 625 Chartres St. (504) 265-8123. Monday – Thursday, 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. – 12 a.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.