A Lot of Nola

November 2011

Their website hypes up the restaurant’s energy amidst the vibrant downtown Pittsburgh urban renewal.  The reality on a Tuesday evening was a dead downtown and a decently populated restaurant (however one REALLY loud pair made the restaurant seem absolutely packed).  Though Nola on the Square might be a far cry from the Decatur vibes it channels in its dishes and decor, the food did have us jazzed from course to course.  Oh what a shameful pun!  The joys of sharing and doggie bags meant we sampled quite a bit from the menu.

The Ambiance
A little over the top and chincy in places.  The tin tile ceiling adds a bit of vintage class though.

Nola Cocktail
Bourbon, Simple Syrup, Absinthe and Lemon Juice

Louisville: Bourbon as New Orleans: _____________
That was the question I posed to our waiter who then proceeded to tell us the merits of all the cocktails on the menu.  He didn’t really understand my SAT intentions or my drinking intentions for that matter.  When I said I was drawn to the menu items containing bourbon, he tried to sway me to fruitier rum choices.  He conceded to bring me the cocktail of my choice, and I sipped it with satisfaction.  Be strong bourbon lovers!  It’s worth defying the recommendations.

Nola Salad
Petite greens, romaine, candied pecans, tomatoes, red onion, sweet potato chips, Firefly Farm Chèvre, vinaigrette

I am a sucker for both sweet potatoes and chèvre, so this was an easy choice to incorporate some greens into our menu compilation.  The sweet potato chips were only lightly fried or baked (chipped?  crisped?), so they still retained a lot of flavor and still a bit of the soft texture I seek.

Gumbo Ya-Ya
Organic chicken, Andouille, okra, filé, steamed rice

“We have to get gumbo, right?” Jono said while we were creating our menu line up.  He was right.  I had to admit it.  I don’t have a huge gumbo resume of experiences, but I do have quite a history with sausage, and that was some good sausage!  Also, I appreciate the decision to use organic chicken.  I don’t recall eating that chicken, so maybe they skimp since organic chicken is more costly, or maybe I was just more focused on the sausage?  Very likely.

Grilled Eggplant and Chèvre Wood Fired Flatbread
Spinach oil and garlic, soppresata, Firefly Farm Chèvre

Overall, I enjoyed this combination.  The crust, though a bit yeasty, had a thin, soft texture.  For my tastes, cooked soppresata develops a less preferable texture than its original state, but the flavor still worked to spice up the other flavors.  Flatbread doesn’t really strike me as a Cajun or southern staple (correct me if I am misguided), so since I’ve tried their wood fired work, I’d probably skip it if I dine there in the future.

Pork Shank BBQ
Homemade corn pone

Order this one for sure!  I want it again just thinking about it!  The corn pone was really buttery, dense and moist and really sweetly paired with the fall-off-the-bone pork shank.  This is all I can write because the more I think about it, the more I want this dish again!

Grilled Catfish
Spicy lemongrass beurre noisette, citrus, mashed potato, grilled sweet peppers and onions

Our eyes were pretty big when planning this meal, so most of my fish consumption happened the next night, which doesn’t equate to an accurate review.  However, the potatoes really absorbed the combination of flavors, especially the butter.  The potatoes were probably the most flavorful part, and my fish memory is failing me.  Is that a bad sign?

I believe this little bit of lovely was a brandy bread pudding with a salted caramel ice cream.  Whatever the combination, it was a delightful conclusion.

Nola isn’t going to fill a Southern void in my heart, but it was an overall pleasing meal.  If it weren’t for the pork shank and bread pudding, I probably wouldn’t feel any major pull to return.  Most likely, I’ll just feel inspired to slow cook a shank of pork for days and let some bread go stale in my own kitchen.

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