New owners transform a familiar Quarter restaurant location with a swank makeover and a menu offering both Thai and Chinese dishes.
- story and photos by Kim Ranjbar
The building on the corner of Decatur and Gov. Nicholls, with its multi-paned windows and divey, diner-like vibe, has gone through several incarnations over the past few years, including the late night, pizza-slinging Angeli to hamburger joints Lee's and Big Mouth. But now there's something completely different.
The last week in June, co-owners Peter Zhang and Lily Rueangnuy hung out their shingle, softly opening a new Asian-influenced restaurant dubbed Zhang Bistro. Zhang – a seasoned restaurateur who co-owns Geisha Sushi, Royal Sushi and Haiku Sushi – is going in a different direction in his collaboration with Rueangnuy. The menu offers dishes from their respective home countries, China and Thailand.
Classics from both cuisines make an appearance: walnut shrimp and Mongolian beef share menu space with dishes like pad Thai and Tom Yum Soup. A plate of buttery roti served with a spicy red curry sauce for dipping can be devoured alongside an order of pan-fried pot stickers.
Perhaps most interesting are their signature dishes, from the highly-Instagrammable Peking duck to their own New Orleans twist, a Thai-style version of BBQ shrimp with bok choy and a “special” curry sauce.
The food isn't the only change at this familiar corner location. The decor has changed drastically, from an uber-casual pizza or burger joint with booths and rickety tables to a more modern feel, elevating the atmosphere considerably. Golden drum lamps suspended from the industrial beam ceiling illuminate natural wood tables and chairs, and an upholstered banquette lined with small tables stretches down one exposed-brick wall.
Although they're still getting their pots dirty and working on a liquor license, Zhang Bistro is softly open daily for lunch and dinner.
1141 Decatur St.
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Though she was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kim Ranjbar felt New Orleans calling her home as soon as she hit puberty. A graduate of granola U (a.k.a. Sonoma State University), Kim took her passion for the written word and dragged it over 2000 miles to flourish in the city she loves. After more than seventeen years as a transplant — surviving hurricanes, levee failures, oil spills, boil water advisories and hipster invasions — Kim hopes to eventually earn the status of local and be welcomed into the fold. Check out her blog at http://sucktheheads.com/ or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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