New Orleans’ Premiere Fine Dining Seafood Restaurant
By Hope S. Philbrick
Do you keep a running mental list of the Top 10 meals of your life? Before you eat at GW Fins, get prepared to say goodbye to one of your list’s current occupants. Because a meal here will definitely push one of those others off the list and may well force several re-rankings.
It’s that good.
Finding a good meal in New Orleans is easy. Finding a great one isn’t difficult. But this one impresses on a whole new level.
Executive Chef Tenney Flynn is considered the reigning expert of seafood in Louisiana. The Wall Street Journal wrote that he’s “widely acknowledged as the fishmonger czar of the Gulf region.” This fact was pointed out by the emcee of the 6th annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off on May 25, 2013, held during the Grand Tasting Event of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE). Chef Flynn was seated at the judges’ table and, by way of introduction, the emcee said, “It must be intimidating to cook for Chef Tenney Flynn since nobody in Louisiana knows seafood better!” Chef Flynn shrugged off the compliment. (Besting 10 other competitors, husband and wife team Chefs Cody and Samantha Carroll went on to win the cook-off and will represent the Louisiana seafood industry at events throughout the year.)
Despite his reputation and celebrity status, Chef Flynn is not an intimidating guy. I first met him years ago at a Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, seated beside him as a fellow judge. It was my first stint judging a food competition and Chef Flynn offered friendly advice and helpful tips. When my husband and I recently dined at GW Fins, he wandered out from the kitchen with a cup of coffee and sat down at our booth to chat. Much like the food he prepares, he comes across as warm and approachable, interesting and enjoyable—so much so that we were disappointed when he retreated back into the kitchen.
GW Fins opened its doors in 2001, which makes it a relative newcomer to the New Orleans’ dining scene. “We’ll always be the new kid on the block,” says Flynn, pointing out his restaurant’s front window across the street to Arnaud’s, which opened in 1918. It’s never easy to open a restaurant and success is never guaranteed, but New Orleans is especially competitive, home to many long-standing restaurants, renowned cuisine, and a community of diners with sophisticated palates. That GW Fins and Chef Flynn have become so highly regarded in a decade in New Orleans is really saying something.
GW Fins built its reputation on fresh seafood. Location helps: a staggering 66 percent of all fin fish available in the U.S. swim in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to local catch, Flynn sources recently landed seafood from around the world—the goal is to get it from water to plate as fast as possible. “One of my favorite aspects of our restaurant is that we print out menus daily,” he says. “So we don’t have to have any specific item on the menu. That way we don’t have to accept any seafood that isn’t pristine. I only accept the absolute finest seafood and have developed a reputation among purveyors as being one of the more discriminating buyers in town.” He works with dozens of suppliers, buying only top quality fare.
Flynn, who previously worked as executive chef at Chops in Atlanta and the director of operations for Ruth’s Chris Steak House, runs GW Fins’ kitchen using the steakhouse model. He works with a small team of two other chefs. “Our preparation methods bring out the true flavors of each variety of seafood, rather than masking them with heavy sauces and overwhelming spices,” he says.
Although the majority of GW Fins’ menu changes every day, some dishes have become so popular they are offered frequently. We ordered two such items: lobster dumplings with fennel and tomato, and scalibut. “Scalibut” (top photo) is an original creation that marries Nantucket sea scallops and flaky Alaskan halibut, which is sautéed and served with Maine lobster risotto and pea shoot butter. Each decadent forkful of these dishes had us swooning.
Our meal was one of those rare dining experiences when each sip and bite of whatever was newly presented seemed to top even the thing we’d enjoyed right before.
GW Fins is an impressive new favorite.
GW Fins has been named one of Esquire Magazine’s “Top 20 New Restaurants in America,” earned a “four bean” rating in Times Picayune and Chef Tenney Flynn has been selected as New Orleans’ Magazine’s “Chef of the Year” twice. He hosts weekly cooking segments on the syndicated “Big Fish” television program, and has appeared on “Live with Regis and Kelly” and “Fox and Friends.”
808 Bienville Street
New Orleans, LA
-Photos courtesy GW Fins