At the Parish, communion comes on the half shell. 

It's a pun, see?

This New Orleans-inspired bistro from Tobias Hogan and Ethan Powell, the owners of North Williams Avenue's EaT: An Oyster Bar, takes its name from Louisiana's equivalent of counties. The Pelican state was created from former French and Spanish colonies, and has kept the colonial designation out of a proto-hipster love of antiquated nostalgia.

But the Parish, which opened in May in the Pearl District space formerly occupied by the In Good Taste kitchen store, also embraces the ecclesiastical connotations of the title: the booths have a gothic geometry to them, the host station is a salvaged pulpit, and the menu, divided into six categories, is parsed as easily as Leviticus. 

For all the churchiness of the space, the Parish worships only at the altar of the almighty oyster, and up to a dozen varieties are available raw, baked or fried by the dozen. Get them raw, for $14 a half-dozen (or a buck apiece at happy hour). They come well-shucked and sparely dressed, with only some lemon to offset the brine. For the best view, grab a captain's chair at the bar and watch the shuckers at work while you sip a glass of bubbly or a 9-ounce mug of Pilsner.

The other oyster preparations are good, but not great. The baked oysters with Parmesan and butter (three for $7) are nice enough, but inferior to baked scallops; the fried ones (three for $6) do nothing to convince me that bivalves should ever be battered.

Seafood dishes at the Parish are invariably enjoyable. The creamy shrimp étouffée ($14) has a peppery kick, though its crab broth could be fishier. The soft-shell crab on a soft roll ($15) is what every fast-food fish sandwich aspires to be, dressed with mayo and pickles like a Big Mac but with a delicious, crisp-fried crab in place of a soggy tilapia patty. Grilled jumbo shrimp ($11) are excellent, crisp but still tender, with a pimento bite. All were improved by a glass of white from the restaurant's surprisingly affordable wine list, which includes a number of sub-$30 bottles.

Non-fish dishes are less consistent. The jambalaya ($12) is fluffy, with respectably spicy housemade andouille, but the Creole sloppy Joe ($14), a moist midden of pulled rabbit on a soft roll, is a disappointment. It might have been a nice change from the usual, heartburn-inducing beef version, but the kitchen seasoned the meat with a fistful of clove. The tongue-numbing mess was pleasant at first, but eventually grew unbearable, like making out with Roger Rabbit at a goth bar. At least the fries were good.

Rabbit fares better in a warm, tart salad of black-eyed peas and octopus ($12), a highlight of the meal. The sausage is well-seasoned and grilled crisp, complementing the chewy tentacles and soft peas. Order two of these and some oysters and you'll have plenty of room for dessert.

There are really only two options here, whatever your waiter tells you: the heavenly bread pudding in whiskey sauce ($6), which tastes the way clouds would if they were made of gluten and sugar; and pecan pie ($6), which is definitely unearthly, but must come from some lower realm.

Chase it with a Sazerac. Ite, missa est. 

  1. Order this: Raw oysters, octopus salad with rabbit sausage.
  2. Best deal: The $25 prix fixe offers savings equal to getting a free dessert.
  3. I’ll pass: Avoid the high two-tops, which have unpleasant chairs that dig into the thighs.

EAT: The Parish, 231 NW 11th Ave., 227-2421, 11 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday, 3 pm-midnight Saturday, 3-10 pm Sunday; brunch 10 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$.