Ian McNulty: Formulaic and foreign in the French Quarter

A pair of new French Quarter restaurants recently opened within two blocks of one another, each inside a significant historic property in need of redevelopment.

That’s where their similarities end, but a comparison is still striking as one channels a familiar French Quarter formula and the other introduces something new, intriguing and even a little edgy.

The first is the Oyster Factory (510 Toulouse St., 504-218-8945; theoysterfactory.com), which serves lunch and dinner daily. It took over the address that was the rambling old O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel Pub but had sat vacant since Hurricane Katrina.

The menu runs through fried seafood and po-boys, an array of oyster preparations, blackened fish, some Italian dishes and cocktails with tacky names (“Mid-City flood,” for instance). There aren’t many surprises, but at least the old building is back in commerce again.

Around the corner, the new Doris Metropolitan (620 Chartres St., 504-267-3500; dorismetropolitan.com) is shaping up as quite a promising prospect. It’s the second restaurant of the same name from a pair of globetrotting, Israeli-born restaurateurs, Ital Ben Eli and Doris Rebi Chia (his first name is pronounced dor-e).

They operate their original Doris Metropolitan in Costa Rica.

Their restaurant literally puts steak on a pedestal, with large cuts on display inside a glassed-in dry aging room. But calling Doris Metropolitan a steakhouse doesn’t tell the full tale. It is much more of a contemporary, international restaurant, mixing very Old World techniques with cutting edge culinaria.

Sweetbreads are cooked sous vide style. Four tomato varieties are joined in a salad by dried tomato skin, which is salty and crisp like vegetable cracklin’. And panna cotta is garnished with ribbons of candied eggplant and balsamic vinegar captured in a taut, bouncy bulb.

The restaurant’s only obvious connection to New Orleans is its address, now stylishly and tastefully remodeled. But there’s something about this place that runs a little deeper.

These restaurateurs intended to open their second Doris Metropolitan in Miami, where many of their well-heeled Costa Rican customers have homes. After months without finding just the right fit there, however, they had a weekend getaway to New Orleans. Suddenly, everything suddenly clicked — the people, the dining culture, the upswing they sensed happening in the French Quarter.

They traced their business plan over beers at the essential Chartres Street dive the Chart Room and hung with a renovation that stretched on for more than a year. With a start like that, you don’t need gumbo on the menu to see a New Orleans restaurant in the works. Doris Metropolitan serves dinner nightly.