Friday, May 27, 2011

NOLA on the Square -- a taste of N'awlins in the Burgh

As loyal readers of this blog know (all 6 of you), I'm a huge fan of the city of New Orleans and Cajun cooking. So it has een with a great deal of anticipation that I've been looking forward to the opening of NOLA on the Square in Market Square downtown.

NOLA on the Square is the latest entry from Yves Carreau (Sonoma Grille, Seviche) to the Pittsburgh dining scene. DB~ and I were originally supposed to go a couple of weeks ago when my parents, sister, and brother-in-law went before the Mozart/Beethoven concert. All four of them, especially my dad, raved about it. Secretly I was disappointed that we didn't go, but we were pushed for time that day as we were moving DB~ from her place into mine.

Of course The Squiggle realized this and filed it in her head that the two of us should go. She surprised me today by telling me that tonight's dinner was a surprise. As soon as she told me to dress up a little bit (from my engineering chic outfit), I guessed where we were going.

We got down there at 6:15 and the bar scene was packed. Looks like a lot of the people (mostly in their late 20's/early 30's) were there since work ended. The restaurant itself was probably half full. We were seated right near the open kitchen so we were keeping an eye of the line of cooks and chefs. No one seem stressed out or rushing around. Everyone had their job, did their job, and did it well. No arguments, collisions, or extraneous movements.

The decor of the restaurant is tastefully done to reflect New Orleans. There were some painting of jazz musicians, exposed red brick, some Mardi Gras masks placed in strategic spots, but the walls were a mellow shade of red and a soothing yellow.

We decided to splurge a little bit. Usually DB~ will have 1 glass of wine and I don't usually have a mixed drink, but tonight she had 2 and I had a well-made Sazerac (whiskey, rye, bitters, and absinthe).

*SIDE NOTE -- A few years ago, I had an Absinthe Phase. I was fascinated by the culture of it around the turn of the 20th century over in Europe. A bottle of real absinthe, not the diluted crap sold in the U.S., was given to me as a gift from someone who got it from France. I got into the whole scene...bought a slotted spoon, got the sugar cubes to strain ice cold water over to generate the louche effect in the absinthe...everything. I wanted to chase the Green Fairy, but not get too goofy to carve off my ear like Van Gogh did after an absinthe binge. Nothing. I had a bunch of it, too. Absinthe, distilled from fermented wormwood, has a licorice taste that eventually you find off-putting. Before tonight, I had not had it in 3 years.

We got an appetizer of "BBQ" shrimp, which was actually shrimp with the shells on sauteed in a stock with a large amount of paprika and red pepper for spice and scallions for flavor. They were excellent, especially using the French bread to soak up the broth at the bottom of the bowl.

We had a great waiter named Greg. Greg knew the menu back and forth, made suggestions to fit our tastes, and shied us away from certain items in favor of others. Enthusiastic without being fake. He also had a killer Rollie Fingers-esque mustache with mustache wax and everything. Good guy.

For our main courses, DB~ went with Shrimp and Grits (sans bacon -- she hates the stuff). The grits were smooth and creamy and the flavor base was the Trinity of Cajun cooking -- bell pepper, onion, and celery. There were some scallions as decorations that were curled up on themselves, which was a nice touch.

I had the Roasted Quail that was stuffed with oyster stuffing. The stuffing had a fantastic flavor, but I found the chunks of oyster too big. Maybe if they were chopped smaller or instead was stuffed with andouille sausage. The quail itself had fantastic flavor and had just a tiny bit of char on the crispy skin -- made me think of an outdoor barbeque.

NOLA on the Square, a bulky name that is probably in place so that Emeril doesn't file infringement against them, is a fantastic place that I would like to go back to check out for lunch. They have a nice selection of po' boys, muffalettas, paninis, and salads for lunch. And if you go, stop and observe the action in the kitchen. They don't mind.


  1. You met a guy with a Rollie Fingers moustache and didn't get a single photograph to attach to this post?

    Dude. Blogfail.

  2. It was tremendous. I think the one wisp of it spends its off days working on the Large Hadron Collider.

    DB~ didn't know who Rollie Fingers was, so I Googled his image. She almost lost it.