“We had a blank sheet of paper,” Chef Rick Tramonto says. He and Chef John Folse are showing off R’evolution, the restaurant that they will open in the Royal Sonesta on Monday, and a restaurant they had a free hand in creating.
The two announced their partnership at a press conference in the Cabildo in August 2010, talking about their relationship and Folse’s role as a mentor as Tramonto searched for peace, despite his success with the restaurant Tru in Chicago. Now, about a year after their projected opening date, they’re explaining the restaurant.
According to Folse, everything in R’evolution takes inspiration from Louisiana between the 1730s and the 1860s, including the copper hood and white tile that dominates what they’ve dubbed the Market Room. In glass-doored coolers, skinned hogs and salumi hang in view of diners who’ll sit at communal tables whose table tops come from 200-year-old cypress logs unearthed on the show Ax Men.
The restaurant is the first in New Orleans designed by acclaimed restaurant architect Bill Johnson. “He married a New Orleans girl, but he’s never done a New Orleans restaurant,” Folse says. Tramonto shows off the era-appropriate pocket doors used to give the Courtyard Room privacy, done with modern fixings that make it possible to close the doors with a pinky while Folse points out the dusted glass light fixtures—purchased in England because they would have been purchased there in the era that inspired R’evolution.
“Nothing we do at R’evolution is without a reason,” Folse says. The Storyville Room doesn’t reference that Storyville; its four murals tell the story of Louisiana’s food as a series of cross-cultural encounters, bringing together Native Americans, French, Spanish, Germans, English, Africans and Italians.
To help tell the story, the restaurant’s staff is taking part in a weeks-long training session while Tramonto points out the flat-screen televisions in the bar that withdraw into the ceiling, Folse explains the indigo staining process, and we see a wine cave so extensive that the list comes on an iPad.
The staff studies as we go to a kitchen the size of OffBeat’s office—likely necessary to prepare a five-page menu that includes Tramonto’s signature caviar service, an lengthy steak menu, and a number of fish, game and pasta entrees in addition to hot and cold appetizers, soups, gumbos, salads—and another two pages of small plates that will be served at the bar and in Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse. Many of the appliances were custom-made in the restaurant’s own R’evolution red, but while we could look, we couldn’t taste. That will have to wait until Monday.