One of my favorite meals in New Orleans was dinner at GW Fins.
It is a high-end seafood restaurant but runs like a high-end steakhouse. Tables draped in white tablecloth, dark wood accents, dim lighting and waiters in neat uniforms with professional yet no nonsense approach to get my order. The star ingredient – fish in this case, instead of steak – has to have the best quality and presentation, and service and ambiance should follow suit as well. Along the way, they have tapped the wealth of seafood from the Gulf and a creative, often innovative approach to create a truly distinctive New Orleans restaurant.
We were greeted by Chef Mike Nelson and passionately talked about his and the restaurant’s mission to try to be as sustainable as possible with the fish they cook by using most parts of the fish. The team tries to make those so called undesirable cuts of the fish delicious by roasting it over a wood fire, deep fry, etc. and usually pairing it with a sauce.
When my table received all of the dishes for our first course, we were flabbergasted that Chef Mike sent out the extra dishes of tempura fins (a favorite of the customers) and Red Snapper fin wings with a sweet-savory sauce and slaw. Originally we ordered the seafood gumbo and the off-menu special of wood grilled Cobia collar with jalapeno butter. This spread could easily be a dinner for two or three people but we had more coming soon.
The seafood gumbo was arguably the best gumbo I’ve had during this trip. Incredible depth of flavor with the spices. It had a good ratio of perfectly cooked shrimp and crawfish that made it slightly sweet.
The cobia collar was the statement piece of the courses. When it was carried over to our table or when guests passed by our table, everyone had to pause for a second or two and stare because of its size and this cut of fish isn’t often seen in an American cuisine restaurant. Anyway, it had the minimalist treatment of having it cooked over a wood fire with garlic and jalapeno butter letting the firm, slightly fatty parts of the meat around the collar resonate. The fun is really digging and scraping off the bones to get the meat even though we’re in an upscale restaurant and no one minded that you’re getting messy.
The tempura fin wings are arguably their signature sustainable appetizer since it has the appeal of a fried chicken drumstick that a diner could hold on to the fin and nibble on the sweet-savory glazed fried meat. The red snapper dish had a similar sauce to the tempura fins wings but instead of deep fried, it was seared and it’s lovely as well since the snapper’s meat was silkier.
For our main courses, we had their signature Scalibut, wood grilled Louisiana pampano and fried soft shell crabs.
The Scalibut is a signature of sorts for this restaurant the chef figured out that scallops and halibut have very similar firm textures and flavors that instead of serving the two separately, he might as well try to fuse the two by slicing the scallops thinner, possibly added transglutaminase (aka “meat glue”) and place it onto the filet of halibut. That dish was really good and unexpected that it actually works. The small bed of Royal Red shrimp risotto was cooked well and the snow peas and pea shoot butter added some vegetal sweetness to the dish.
The wood grilled pampano has a rich mild flavor that is sweet and has a firm texture like a mackerel. The blue crab fritters complimented the sweetness of the fish and the house pepper jelly and citrus chili oil added some needed subtle sweet acid to the dish.
The large fried soft shell crabs were incredible. It’s fried perfectly yet crisp on the outside.
When our table was cleared of our main courses, the chef came out to check up on us and was surprised that we (as in my friend and I) managed to eat most of what was placed in front of. He playfully dared us to have one bite of this tall, salted malted ice cream pie drizzled with caramel sauce and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. We took up on that challenge and honestly we were surprised how good it was that it’s hard to stop eating it and managed to eat about two-thirds of that slice on top of all the food we ate.
It was an excellent seafood dinner and I would seriously come back for dinner when I return to New Orleans.
808 Bienville St
New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: (504) 581-3467