"We started specific planning for R'evolution in 2010," Tramonto says. "This is the first restaurant we've done together. It had to tie into the culture of New Orleans and John's Louisiana background. The restaurant's mission is to pay homage to the seven nations that contributed to New Orleans' culture and cuisine: Native America, Africa, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and England, and present classic Creole and Cajun dishes in a way that showcases their evolution."
R'evolution's historically inspired architecture and design by The Johnson Studio melds the antique architectural details of the grand homes and properties in the historic French Quarter with contemporary accents. "Throughout the restaurant, the interior design details reference the history of the city," says Brian Finkel, AIA, NCARB, principal of The Johnson Studio, which also designed Tru. Finkel worked with his associates Bill Johnson, AIA, senior principal/partner; Randy Miller, AIA, project manager; and Anna McGrady White, NCIDQ, interior designer, on R'evolution. "We've brought the French Quarter inside by bringing the sidewalk flagstones right into the entry and bar, where a long floor-to-ceiling curio cabinet displays historical items. From the bar, you can access the flanking dining porches for a more casual setting, or continue into the main formal dining room, Storyville Parlor, which features an 1830s chandelier, cut-glass pendants and hand-painted murals by Grahame Menage, depicting scenes of Louisiana's rich culinary and cultural past."
Additional features include custom gas lanterns, cypress wood ceiling beams, pecky cypress and black cypress swamp woods and intricately detailed crown molding. Folse's collection of antique culinary implements are prominent throughout the space. Custom pocket doors open to reveal seven unique dining spaces, each depicting a different room within a Creole mansion. The design of the Market Room, which contains an exposition kitchen, reflects aspects of Solari's Delicatessen, an institution in the French Quarter for nearly 100 years. A table built of very old cypress brought up from a swamp allows customers to dine while observing the kitchen activity.
Another notable feature in the restaurant, near the kitchen and a private dining room is the custom-built wine storage cellar that contains a $500,000 inventory of 10,000 bottles, including hibiscus and ratafia wines hand-made by Folse. Bar R'evolution offers seasonal cocktails, reinterpretations of classic drinks and local, seasonally rotating craft beers. A pre-Prohibition-era cocktail menu features fresh produce and herbs grown at Folse's White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge.
The story of R'evolution is one of star chefs' collaboration on an inspired menu and their work with distinguished architects and interior designers. It is also about challenges to equip a space to meet the chefs' high expectations and complex needs to produce a unique dining experience while also adhering to New Orleans regulations for renovating historic buildings.
"We got involved in the project in February 2011 after the chefs contacted us about custom salumi cases that they had seen in another restaurant," says Dustin Bennett, facility designer and partner of NOLA Restaurant Supply, which is a division of Louisiana Foodservice Equipment Inc. "We then negotiated an opportunity to price their entire kitchen package. Several meetings later we were successful. Loubat Equipment Co. did the initial drawings, and we tweaked them. Since these chefs are so incredibly detail oriented, this was not an easy task. We began making additions and changes to several of the elevations and design aspects of the project, including redesigning walk-in cooler layouts, equipment locations and detailing all the custom stainless equipment."
Due to challenges in fitting equipment into the spaces allocated and meeting the city's codes for historical buildings, the project was finished late in March 2012. The restaurant officially opened in June 2012.