NOLA on the Square
I haven’t had much Cajun or creole-inspired food in my life. Not because I don’t like it. Mainly because the options are limited in this area. NOLA on the Square has brought a little bit of New Orleans to the ‘Burgh.
I’ve been there twice now and have been impressed both times with not only the meal but the service. Executive Chef/Owner Yves Carreau knows what he’s doing. He now has three fairly successful restaurants featuring three different cuisines (Sonoma – California farm-to-table; Seviche – Latin tapas; NOLA – Cajun/creole). Beyond the food, the service at each restaurant is fantastic. The waitstaff is attentive, informed and truly add to the dinning experience. Kudos to your attention to that, Chef Carreau.
The facade of NOLA would make you believe it was cozy and had limited seating. Not the case. Its spacious and would almost benefit from a smaller space. Something more intimate with dark lighting and a rich aroma perforating through that leaves you salivating at the thought of its food hitting your lips. Throw in some jazz and I am sold forever.
Despite my wishful thinking, I’ll be back. Mainly for the food. I saw at least a handful of dishes I wanted to try. The first time I went to Nola was for dinner. We started with the Crab Ravigote (Blue Crab, Spicy Papaya Ravigote, Belgium Endive). It was a perfect portion for two. The bitter endive and subtle blue crab was a nice refreshing starter. I followed that up with the Scallops Mac Daddy (Fresh Cornucopia Pasta, Sea Scallops, Mornay, Spicy Toasted Breadcrumbs). This is the best “adult mac-n-cheese” I’ve ever had. I know seafood and cheese is a no-no but I like breaking the rules. The scallops were delicate and creamy, the pasta was al dente and the Mornay sauce had a spicy kick that made each bite feel really bad in that really good way. Plus it’s served in a cast iron skillet that comes out bubbling and oozing.
The other time I went to NOLA was for happy hour. It was filled to the gills with your typical Friday Downtown happy hour crowd. The difference was despite the number of good-time seekers, the bartenders were on point. They were asking if I needed refreshed even before I finished my drink. Naturally that was good and bad news for me (And my friends).
To combat their attentiveness I had a Blackened Wedge of Romaine (Firefly Farms Black & Blue Dressing, Candied Bacon, Egg, Tomato, Red Onion). This dish was recommended to me the first time I went to NOLA so I had to give it a whirl. It was meh. Very descriptive I know. I was really looking forward to the candied bacon. I can’t even remember tasting it. The dressing was watery and lacked any real flavor. The blacked “wedge” (doesn’t look like a wedge to me) was tasty though. Putting it on the grill really brought out some unique flavors in the romaine and made the white stalk almost sweet.
I won’t let a little salad stop me from going back to NOLA though. I have some Seafood Jambalaya and Frog Legs to try!