Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NOLA on the Square

Last weekend was show #5 of our PNC Broadway Across America season: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It was a fun show and afterward, on a warmish day, we headed over to Market Square where we wandered around checking everything out and then sat at a table and people watched. The sun didn't seem to be shining on Market Square, so I got kind of chilly and wished I had brought my gloves. And earmuffs. Yes, my ears were cold.
Soon it was time for us to meet R&S at NOLA for dinner. You might remember that about 51 weeks ago, on St. Patrick's Day Saturday 2012, we made the mistake of trying to go to dinner at NOLA after seeing La Cage Aux Folles . It was not a very good day and we failed to dine at NOLA. We meant to try again at some point during the year, but somehow we never got there. Until last weekend.
I was excited to try NOLA. I've always wanted to travel to New Orleans, but for some reason it's a place that is always on our travel list and then it loses out to other places and we never manage to make it there. Upon entering, I felt a little crammed and small in the bar area, like people were about to literally trip over me, most likely because it appeared all the bar tables are high pub tables and there are not any lower tables. I soon discovered that NOLA was bigger than I expected as we were led to a back room with lots of space between tables (good for the wheelchair). There were exposed brick walls, red walls, pictures of New Orleans, fleur de lis decor, a huge chandelier over a round table... I liked it. It felt welcoming. What did we eat?
I knew SP would not be able to resist the Crispy Fried Alligator. I didn't try any. He and R both had the alligator bites and enjoyed them, but they both noted that pretty much anything would taste good coasted in the slightly spicy breading and deep fried the served with the spicy aioli.
SP knew I would not be able to pass up the Fried Green Tomatoes. Looking at the menu description now, I realize I should have figured out these would be deep fried because the description says 'abita batter' but at the time, I was very disappointed because in my experience, fried green tomatoes are not dipped in batter and deep fried. They are coated in bread crumbs/cornmeal/flour and fried in some oil/bacon fat/butter in a skillet. I've always had breaded fried tomatoes, not battered & deep fried. I thought this dish was just OK, kind of disappointing. I am still so very much in love with fried green tomatoes after our honeymoon in the south and I get very excited when I see them on a menu, but these were a letdown for me. Plus, they were incredibly filling. I didn't have much room for my meal.
And of course I knew SP would try the Crab Bisque. I expected a light pink kind of color, not this dark red-brown color. He liked it, said it was spicier (more heat) than he expected, it was good, but that overall, he prefers the creamier, lighter colored versions.
SP chose Seafood Jambalaya for his entree. Cajun rice, shrimp, scallops, chicken, andouille. He liked it but didn't love it. The scallops were cooked nicely, but the chicken was dry and tough. It was pretty spicy. He ate a bit more than half and took the rest home.
Not too surprisingly, I chose another dish that I fell in love with on our honeymoon: Shrimp & Grits. I didn't really like this version. There were only seven shrimp and they were not especially large shrimp. In fact, we used larger shrimp in our shrimp risotto this past weekend. I personally do not like when shrimp are mixed into a dish while still wearing their tail shells because I hate trying to eat shrimp and remove the tail shell bit but still look like I have some semblance of manners. I am just not very good at it! There were a lot of bacon bits. The grits were nice and creamy. But I could swear our server mentioned that the barbecue like sauce was more sweet than hot and while I am a spice wimp, I found there to be just too much heat for my liking. I drank all my iced tea and some water, which rarely if ever happens, and when it does, it's because something is too hot for me or too salty. I ate half of it and took the rest home.
Beignets. I love donuts. I dream of going to New Orleans and enjoying beignets at Cafe du Monde. And then enjoying beignets everywhere else I can find them. So of course we decided to share the beignets.
They are very liberally coated in powdered sugar. That means I ended up covered in powdered sugar, even after shaking a bunch of it off. They also were served with three scoops of ice cream (coffee, cherry, and carrot). I don't know if I was just too full or if I found the beignets a bit bland or a bit heavy, but I ended up enjoying the ice cream much more than the beignets. Except for that carrot ice cream - interesting idea and I could taste a bit of cinnamon, I think, in the tiny taste I tried, but overall not a flavor I would suggest. The coffee ice cream was my favorite and everyone else thought the cherry was the best. I took my second beignet home. SP ate both of his.

Of the four of us, three of us had never before dined at NOLA. I had the impression from a previous restaurant conversation that the person who had dined there before thought it was just OK but was willing to return so the rest of us could try it. After dining there, I can see why that person thought it was just OK.

While we were seated right away, a few minutes before our 5:45 pm reservation, it took a while for our server to make an appearance and we did not get out of there until 8 pm. R&S had to ask for their check when dessert was served to make sure they had enough time to get to the show at 8 pm. They rushed through dessert and left while we lingered a bit over dessert. Maybe it was poor planning on our part, but we were surprised at the pace of the service.

Our server was fine. He offered lots of suggestions/opinions on several menu options. I thought that was nice, although it seemed to take quite a while, and others felt it was too much and unnecessary.

Nothing was glaringly awful, well maybe the slow service which was kind of annoying, the food was all just sort of fine or kind of disappointing, but for what we spent ($100+ after tax & tip, no alcohol) it was very disappointing. We can easily name other places where we like the food more and will spend less, and so for that reason, I have to say I doubt we will ever return, but it's possible after we exhaust the other post-show dining options and see where everything rates, but with only two shows left and us not sure if we will renew for the next season...

Oh, also, we both chugged a heck of a lot of tea and water later that night. That's a sign that the food was way saltier than what we usually eat.
NOLA on the square on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I've been there twice - the first time my husband and I went and we were sorely disappointed in our entrees - we have been to New Orleans and this food is nothing like it! However, I did go there for lunch once and the shrimp po boy was wonderful - I would order that again if I had to go there for work.