Chef Ana Castro, third from right, and her staff at Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans on Wednesday. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Chef Ana Castro, right, chats with sommelier Ryan Plas at a table inside Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Dinner at Lengua Madre restaurant in New Orleans brings a chef’s tasting menu of modern Mexican flavors. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Cups of caldito, a shrimp broth, nestled into dried corn, begins a dinner at the modern Mexican restaurant Lengua Madre in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
The illuminated hallway, left, leads toward the dining room at Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Chef Ana Castro, third from right, and her staff at Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans on Wednesday. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Lengua Madre is a Mexican restaurant built around a tasting menu format and devoted to contemporary cuisine through chef Ana Castro’s own personal lens on Mexican culture and heritage.
“To me, it is Mexican food, even though my grandma might not recognize it,” Castro said in an interview around Lengua Madre’s opening. “Every dish is here for a reason, and there’s usually a memory behind it.”
Now, Lengua Madre and its chef are getting national recognition for that approach.
Chef Ana Castro, right, chats with sommelier Ryan Plas at a table inside Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Food + Wine named Castro to its 2022 list of “Best New Chefs,” an annual national honor she shares with 10 other chefs this year.
Lengua Madre is a Mexican restaurant that can make you rethink what that term means. This doesn’t happen through fusion, nor does it stake any claim to regional authenticity. Instead, it starts with cornerstones of masa, agave and chiles and a narrative of memory, suffused with craft, vision and care.
Cups of caldito, a shrimp broth, nestled into dried corn, begins a dinner at the modern Mexican restaurant Lengua Madre in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Lengua Madre serves its meals as a “blind tasting,” with a printed menu only presented at the end.
Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Castro developed the restaurant with Michael Stoltzfus, chef-owner of the standout modern bistro Coquette. It’s tucked along a Lower Garden District side street, in an address that was previously home to Thalia, which had also been a sibling to Coquette.
The illuminated hallway, left, leads toward the dining room at Lengua Madre restaurant on Constance Street in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Castro was born in Texas and raised in Mexico City. She’s cooked in high-end restaurants in New Orleans, New York and Copenhagen, Denmark. During her time as sous chef at Coquette, Castro was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef award, a national accolade.
Dinner at Lengua Madre restaurant in New Orleans brings a chef’s tasting menu of modern Mexican flavors. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Food + Wine’s annual list of best new chefs is considered a high honor in culinary circles.
Over the years, it has identified some luminaries of the industry early in their careers, including Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, David Chang, Nobu Matsuhisa and Daniel Boulud.
Among New Orleans chefs, Frank Brigtsen was in the first-ever Best New Chef class in 1988, followed a year later by Susan Spicer.
Other local chefs to receive the honor include Michael Gulotta (MoPho and Maypop), Sue Zemanick (then of Gautreau’s, now of Zasu), Greg Sonnier (Gabrielle), Ian Schnoebelen (then of Mariza, now of Rosalita’s Tacos), John Harris (Lilette, Bouligny Tavern) and Nina Compton (Compere Lapin, Bywater American Bistro).
Lengua Madre
1245 Constance St., (504) 655-1338
Dinner Wed.-Sun.
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Email Ian McNulty at imcnulty@theadvocate.com.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to acknowledge and celebrate the history, traditions and contri…
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