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At a Haitian Restaurant in New Orleans, a Flavorful Thread of Creole Unity

mcnulty fritai.png
Ian McNulty
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The fritai sandwich at the New Orleans restaurant Fritai combines classic Haitian flavors, with pork, pikliz slaw, plantain and mango sauce.

At a glance, you can tell the namesake sandwich at Fritai will gush flavor, with rough-hewn chunks of fried pork between discs of crisp plantain and an earthy-yellow sauce oozing out. It might also look a little daunting to just pick up and eat, like it might come apart on you.

But lift it up, take a confident bite and you’re rewarded with a two-fisted primer on what chef Charly Pierre is building at his new Haitian restaurant.

Taste the spicy-crisp slaw rippling between the pork and plantain; wipe some of that tangy mango sauce off your chin; take a sip of your cocktail and let the rum tangle with the spice; now look up and gaze around a dining room filled with Haitian art and New Orleans faces.

Fritai is a new restaurant bringing something different that also feels like it belongs here and is perhaps long overdue.

Chef Pierre is twinning the flavors of his Haitian heritage with his own vision, coming up through the modern American culinary scene.

This is a restaurant with something to say, and it’s coming along at an important time to say it.

The spiraling turmoil of Haiti right now is making global headlines, its history and situation up for renewed attention.

Here though, the imprint of Haitian history and culture is a deep running if not always recognized facet of the New Orleans story.

The food at Frittai makes this plain, and in full, flavored fashion. It is half lens, half mirror to a notion of Creole identity, and a reminder that long distances of time and short distances over gulf waters, do not erase what we share on this journey.

This food draws a thread of unity through Creole flavor, and points to its future trajectory as the next generation explores and frames it on their terms. That compulsion Fritai is about the only thing stronger than the rum drinks.

Fritai
1535 Basin St., 504-264-7899

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.