Mopho may not be authentic Vietnamese, but it’s 100 percent pure New Orleans. The neighborhood restaurant, which opened a few weeks ago in mid-city, is run by three Restaurant August veterans who fell in love with the immigrant-owned restaurants that crowd the city’s West Bank. “We’re a French colony, they were a French colony,” says Chef Michael Gulotta, who grew up in New Orleans and worked as John Besh’s chef de cuisine for six years. “They have brackish water, we have brackish water.” Ingredients like shellfish and pork are central in the food of both the Mississippi and Mekong Deltas. And besides, New Orleans cuisine has long been driven by the best that newcomers have to offer, whether it’s French technique or African ingredients.
“None of us are Vietnamese, so we obviously can’t make it authentic,” Gulotta says. “We have to put our spin on it. We do what we like to eat.” One dish he especially likes is Mopho’s pepper jelly braised clams, which combines bright ginger and lemongrass with the richness of lardo. How seductive is it? The chef often made this recipe at home when he was courting his wife.