New Orleans Dining: Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA Restaurant
This casual and funky restaurant offers an eclectic menu of New Orleans Creole and Acadian cuisine with an occasional ethnic twist, the rustic style of cooking showcases Southern Cajun, Vietnamese and Southwestern influences using Louisiana products.
We walked into an absolutely packed house with the kitchen in a flurry of activity and the patrons in clearly a festive mood.
After snapping this photograph of Chef de Cuisine Josh Laskay and his team in action, General Manager Averriel Thomas welcomed us and showed us to our reserved table.
Chef Emeril Lagasse received his first culinary experience from his mother, Hilda, when he was a boy growing up in the small town of Fall River, Mass. As a teenager, he worked at a Portuguese bakery where he mastered the art of bread and pastry baking.
Upon high school graduation, Lagasse was offered a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music, but decided to pursue a career as a professional chef. He earned a degree from the respected culinary fortress, Johnson and Wales University, and later received an honorary doctorate degree from the university.
Lagasse then traveled to Paris and Lyon, France, where he polished his skills and learned the art of classic French cuisine. Returning to the United States, Lagasse practiced his art in fine restaurants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia before heading south to the Big Easy.
Lured to New Orleans by Dick and Ella Brennan, Lagasse established his stardom at their legendary restaurant, Commander’s Palace, where he was executive chef for seven and a half years.
Today, Lagasse is a house-hold name, is the chef-proprietor of 13 restaurants, has earned “Best Southeast Regional Chef” by the James Beard Foundation, and is a regular national TV personality.
With that background, let’s get on to the business of sharing our remarkable experience with you.
Our gastronomical journey began with Bronzed Gulf Shrimp (tomato braised peppers, fried okra, buttery popcorn rice, and smokey tomato jus). Most excellent. We figured that if this was a hint of things to come, then we were in for a most memorable evening.
Next up was Crispy Soft Shell Crab (wasabi napa cabbage slaw, rock shrimp fried rice, ginger soy sauce).
Carol’s notes on our menu read “Yea Baby!”. Until recently, neither one of us had the privilege of enjoying soft shell crab. The idea that one would eat a crab, shell and all, wasn’t very appealing to our midwestern sensibilities. However, now that we have been initiated into the soft shell crab family, we are huge fans. And, this soft shell crab was some of the best we’ve ever had. Major Yumminess!
Moving to our next dish, we enjoyed Aged Allen Benton’s Country Ham (moonshine spiked watermelon, arugula, feta cheese, and citrus-herb vinaigrette).
Now, who doesn’t enjoy a little moonshine spiked watermelon once in a while. 🙂 Completely delish!
Our bellies were starting to get full, so we asked GM Averriel Thomas if we might move along to the dessert. However, he insisted that we first sample Miss Hay’s Stuffed Chicken Wings (homemade hoisin dipping sauce).
Now, we don’t pretend to know who Miss Hay is, but just let me say that her stuffed chicken wings were simply brilliant. Yum. Yum. Yum.
It’s nearly lunch time here in Arizona. I wonder if NOLA could somehow fax me a few of these. Hmmmm.
For dessert out came NOLA’s Banana Pudding Layer Cake (graham cracker crust, vanilla wafers, fudge sauce).
Clearly, dessert is a big deal at NOLA Restaurant because they also brought out Upside Down Pineapple Flan Cake (tasted macadamia nuts, pineapple-star anise sorbet), and NOLA’s Daily Selection of Housemade Ice Cream.
So that you don’t think we’re complete gluttons, I’m only going to show you the banana pudding layer cake. Please trust me, however, all were VERY good. And, you should know that we only sampled and didn’t completely eat all three desserts. Really. We didn’t.
Well, what a marvelous experience. The staff was attentive, the food was awesome, the atmosphere was festive, and we enjoyed great conversations with our neighboring tables as they marveled at all of the food that NOLA was lavishing upon us.
And, if you dont’ mind, I’m going to quote Emeril and say, “BAMM!”, that was a wonderful dining experience and we highly recommend it to you.
Link: NOLA Restaurant
Disclosure: our dining experience was provided by the kind folks at NOLA Restaurant. Thanks! We had a blast!