There’s no question that Baton Rouge’s 3rd Street has morphed into one of the city’s best-kept dining out secrets. A new addition to the 400 block of North 3rd is Restaurant IPO. With a nod to Wall Street, and world-class Louisiana cuisine, the restaurant is a great spot for those who like sophisticated dining in a well-designed, yet casual, setting.
Entering the restaurant, customers can quickly spot specials of the day posted on a large slate wall. Walk further into the interior and enjoy the creative architectural features including exposed brick walls, lofted ceiling, bare lighting and natural wood. We especially admired the beauty of handcrafted cypress furniture created by a local artisan. Menus for wines and food are handed out as soon as you’re seated.
The menu focuses on tapas, the small plates favored in Spain’s cafés. Customers can order two, three or more dishes and share selections. Some 14 or 15 selections range from Bayou eggs and curried mussels to buffalo bruschetta and bleu wings. One tapa selection is best for a light meal; six to 12 easily create a feast for a crowd seeking a new taste experience.
For more traditional dining, IPO offers an excellent selection of entrées, such as ribeye steak served with boursin potatoes, pecan smoked duck, and shrimp and grits. For a light meal try the soups and salads, including a strawberry salad with a sugarcane vinaigrette dressing. Emphasis here is placed on locally produced ingredients and the intriguing combination of flavors that you don’t usually find in many restaurants; for example the hand-cut fries are topped with Maytag bleu cheese and served with truffle gravy.
The roasted duck tapas ($9) gives new meaning to dining. We were especially delighted with the thinly slices pieces of tender duck and earthy wild mushrooms folded into a substantial crepe and accented with a garlic herb boursin. The crepe could easily be sliced into several portions for sharing. The crispy pequeno tacos ($9) were filled with a delicious chilled mixture of tiny cubed bits of redfish ceveche, a piquant avocado relish and andouille bacon bits. Each pequeno (tiny in Spanish) was truly small. While very flavorful, they are a pricey indulgence.
Offered as a special of the day, the pulled pork pizza ($14) was a delightful blend of succulent slices of lightly seasoned pulled pork, grilled onions and red pepper and melted Italian cheese atop thin, crispy handmade dough.
As a main entrée, the Gulf andouille ($22) simply melted in the mouth. The delicate redfish was crusted with fine coating of Louisiana andouille sausage and bread crumbs and sautéed until golden. It was served with a smooth and creamy rosemary risotto, finished with a citrus and dill beurre blanc sauce. It was better than any risotto we tasted in northern Italy. As a side, the dish was enhanced with a generous helping of tiny, garlic roasted tomatoes bursting with flavor.
The restaurant’s lunch menu differs slightly. Midday dinners will find an array of sandwiches, soups and salads as well as the regular tapas and entrées. Salads can be turned into more hearty meals with add-ons of grilled steak or shrimp ($6) and grilled chicken ($5).
We highly recommend the delicious smoked sweet carrot bisque ($6), a slightly sweet, warm soup accented with just a hint of curry. Equally wonderful is the roasted corn and crab bisque ($7), filled with crab meat and fresh corn kernels in a thick, creamy base. The California chicken sandwich ($10) comes with a large, lightly seasoned grilled chicken breast and melted Swiss cheese on a large toasted bun. It was served with fresh spinach leaves rather than usual lettuce. The aioli dressing accented with lime and cilantro lent a South American touch to the sandwich. We missed the avocado that according to the menu was supposed to come with this sandwich, but there’s always a next time. The sandwich is very large, so try sharing it with a lunch partner along with soup or simply alone.
All sandwiches come with hand-cut Idaho or sweet fries. We opted for the Idaho fries that were outstanding. Tender on the interior and crispy outside, the fries were lightly dusted with salt and pepper.
The shrimp and grits ($11) surpass any we’ve enjoyed in New Orleans or anywhere else in the South. The grits are extra creamy with a delightful ground corn flavor and the shrimp were cooked in a yummy garlic butter sauce accented with Abita beer.
Restaurant IPO features a well-stocked bar, and wines are designed to be paired with foods. The wait staff is very helpful on providing information on food and available wine.
We skipped dessert, but ask about the chef’s sweet creation for the day or try the sweet potato bread pudding with praline sauce. It’s “so” Louisiana.