Fresh rice paper, raw fish combine for one-of-a-kind rolls

Photo by Ian McNulty -- A rainbow spring roll at Jazmine Cafe.
Photo by Ian McNulty -- A rainbow spring roll at Jazmine Cafe.

WILDCARD

Rainbow Spring Roll

Jazmine Café

614 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 866-9301; jazminecafe.com

Jazmine Café has been around for a while, quietly plugging away in the Riverbend with casual Vietnamese standards like pho and rice noodle salads. But then part of the dining room was converted to a special prep station turning out sushi roll/spring roll hybrids. The menu now lists more than 30 of them, from vegetarian versions to others with cooked meat or fish. The flagship is the rainbow spring roll ($11.95), which layers slices of raw salmon, tuna and yellowtail over a stretchy, translucent rice paper wrapper filled with crabstick and bound by dark green lettuce. It does raise the question of what to use for dip — soy sauce with wasabi, like a sushi roll, or peanut sauce with Sriracha, like a spring roll? My answer: alternate. This menu is all about experimenting anyway.

UPSCALE

Crawfish Carbonara

Allegro Bistro

1110 Poydras St., (504) 582-2350; allegrobistro.com

This CBD standby is a place for business lunches when you don’t want any surprises at the table, though you might want a glass of wine. In the lobby level of the high-rise Energy Centre, the dining room gives a ’90s throwback vibe without irony, and the reliable menu follows suit with entrée salads, burgers, croissant sandwiches and pastas. The crawfish carbonara ($15) stands out as an easy order with distinct local flavor. Penne is studded with fat crawfish tails, peas and thick-cut nubs of smoky bacon in a cream sauce. A pile of shredded parmesan melts down into the sauce and while the chopped parsley garnish doesn’t add much flavor, somehow a dish like this wouldn’t feel complete without it.

CASUAL

Guacamole

El Gato Negro

elgatonegro.com

81 French Market Place, (504) 525-9752; 300 Harrison Ave., (504) 488-0107; 3001 Ormond Blvd., Destrehan,

(985) 307-0460.

Some cantinas guard their guacamole recipe jealously. El Gato Negro, on the other hand, practically gives a how-to lesson. Order the guacamole ($9.75) at this local mini-chain and your server will return with a tray of sliced avocado, Roma tomatoes, jalapeno, lime, onion, cilantro and sea salt and proceed to mix it all together by hand.

Pay attention and you could easily replicate it at home, though watching someone else do it while you sip this restaurant’s specialty carrot margarita is just more fun.