In March, chef Alex Harrell opened Angeline in New Orleans’ legendary French Quarter. Harrell, who was formerly the executive chef at the city’s popular Sylvain, is taking a clean, straightforward approach to Southern food, fusing the cuisine of his Southern upbringing with northern Italian influences. We spoke with Harrell about the concept, his influences, and the most exciting dishes on the menu.
The Daily Meal: In a nutshell, what is the concept?
Alex Harrell: Angeline offers a contemporary, refined approach to Southern cuisine in a warm, hospitable atmosphere.
What inspired the concept?
The concept behind Angeline was inspired by my mother, who embodies grace, elegance, charm, and hospitality.
Are there purveyors of specialty produce that you’re going to be serving that you’d like to highlight your relationship with?
I’m really happy about the relationships and partnerships we have built for Angeline. To name a few, we’re working closely with Pelican Produce, an urban grower in the Ninth Ward that does specialty growth for a very limited number of area restaurants. They’re providing Swiss chard, collard greens, and all of the bronze fennel we’ll be using. They also grow our edible flowers and shoots. Our local pork is coming from Chappapeela Farms — they’re known for their Duroc and Berkshire cross sows and boars — and Covey Rise provides our seasonal produce from their Northshore farm.
If you were asked to name one dish that people need to come check out at the restaurant, what would that be? Why is it important and how is it made?
The butterbean tortellini exemplifies the philosophy of Angeline’s kitchen, which combines European traditions and Southern ingredients to compose unique dishes. We blanch butterbeans before puréeing them with Bellwether Farms ricotta, lemon zest, and parsley, which we then put in a durum wheat pasta and form by hand. It’s served in a broth of red eye gravy.
Why are you passionate about this food?
Angeline’s food represents the type of food that I grew up with, and what was cooked for me by my parents and my grandparents — Southern food that isn’t heavy or overdone, but that allows the true flavors of the ingredients to shine. In the Angeline kitchen, we’ll be using a Northern Mediterranean approach to cooking, which I love and respect for its seasonality and simplicity.
Is there a bar program and, if so, what is it all about?
Angeline’s bar program reflects a collaboration between the bar manager, Jeff Grdinich; the bar staff; and the kitchen. The drinks at Angeline are complementary to the menu from start to finish, making them a part of the overall experience. Drinks will often incorporate ingredients from the kitchen to create these complementing flavors, and the drink menu includes non-alcoholic options. We’ve also put together a curated wine list with an emphasis on sherry and other fortified wines, and sparkling wines as well.
What do you want to be known for? What experience are you looking to create for your patrons?
First and foremost, I want to be known for serving well-balanced, well-crafted, satisfying food in a gracious atmosphere; one of total hospitality. I want to make sure that our guests feel welcomed from the moment they walk in and know that we appreciate the fact that they’re here.
What sets you apart from your neighbors or competitors in this location and cuisine?
Angeline serves more regionally inspired cuisine, instead of the traditional cuisine of southeast Louisiana.
Do you have an idea in your head of what kind of star-rated restaurant this will be? What star rating are you going for?
Wonderful ratings and accolades are always appreciated, but that’s not what we’re thinking about at this stage. Right now, we’re focused on introducing ourselves to New Orleans and providing the very best experience possible.
Who designed your décor? What were you going for with the space and were there any particular trying obstacles in the process?
I really wanted a clear distinction between Angeline and the former space, which I think we achieved. I worked closely with Nathan Drewes and Patrick Dunne from Lucullus on the aesthetic of the space. I had very distinct ideas about what I wanted Angeline to be; Nathan and Patrick helped to refine those ideas with color selections, furnishings, and other décor details. Luckily, the process was a pretty smooth one. We had a great team working on it.