Sunday, June 24, 2012

NOLA Restaurant - New Orleans


As with GW Fins the night before, I decided to once again wander down memory lane and revisit another New Orleans stalwart for lunch. This time the vague recollection came from NOLA, the most casual of Emeril Lagasse’s trio of New Orleans restaurants.

It’s hard to know where to begin with Emeril and his restaurants. Although I never really enjoyed Emeril Live, his much more low key show, The Essence of Emeril, and his cookbook, Louisiana Real and Rustic, have been some of my favorites, particularly when exploring cooking in college. Today it’s a shame to see that one of the original Food Network faces has been largely marginalized, but I suppose things have to change.

While dwelling on memories of Emeril, I couldn’t help think about the last time I ate at NOLA. Recalling little more than a good time with family and a taste of scotch, I thought that I could treat this lunch as a clean slate. The short walk through the quarter over, it was time to see if Emeril’s NOLA was worth a repeat visit.

Although there was a variety of intriguing entrees, to me, it all came down to two appetizers, the first of which was Miss Hay’s stuffed chicken wing.
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Nearly the size of a turkey drumette, these chicken wings were massive but still had a perfectly crisp skin and a deep dark seasoning.
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Looking inside the wing was like taking a peek inside a Vietnamese egg roll and the ingredients list only reaffirmed it. Lemon grass, pork, shrimp, black mushrooms, egg white, cilantro, and bean thread noodles contributed to a dish that almost embodies modern New Orleans. The flavors of Vietnam have been instilled inside a humble chicken wing and the result is superb.

If the chicken wings had shown the Vietnamese influence on New Orleans then the New Orleans style crab cake was a look at the Cajun side of the city.
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Perched on a bed of spicy corn relish and crystal butter sauce, this crab cake needed a strong flavor to stand up to the potency of the accompaniments.
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Dense, dark, and spicy, this crab cake had a rustic flavor that was well complimented by the vinegary heat of the crystal butter sauce.
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Although this crab cake was lacking any real lump crab meat, the heavily seasoned binder worked with the corn relish and butter sauce to make a stick to your ribs crab cake that had me wishing it was 40 degrees and raining outside.

Did this quick lunch at NOLA revive my fond memories of past dinners? That’s hard to say. I’d love to try Emeril’s other New Orleans outposts just to see how NOLA compares, but between the two dishes, it was clear to me, which was the winner. If I needed a reason to come back to NOLA, it would be for the chicken wings. Apparently the chicken wings are quite the popular plate at NOLA, so popular that it was their star dish at their French Quarter Fest booth. Festivals aside, while I feel there are better meals to be had in the city, it’s hard to deny that NOLA was a fine lunch.

Nola Restaurant Address & Information
NOLA Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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