When we briefly met Emeril at Publican in March, we connected with his culinary assistant, Alain. Alain was incredibly helpful in giving us a list of places to try and hit while in New Orleans, as well as being amazing and getting us a reservation at NOLA for our first night (and only night alone) in the Crescent City. Located in the French Quarter, NOLA is completely inconspicuous from the outside. You'd never know you were about to walk into a large, two-story, industrially constructed restaurant. The decor is a lot of steel, with tasteful touches of bright, New Orleans, flavor thrown in. It's very, very large...but the way the staff took care of us, from check-in through exiting, makes you feel like you're dining in a 4-top tiny restaurant.
Drinks? J went with Abita Turbodog (remember, this was the beginning of the trip, when Turbodog was still exciting) and I had two glasses of a delicious Albariño that I can't remember the name of. We ordered the lobster cake with tropical salsa and plantain chip (incredible) and the bbq shrimp (unreal) for appetizers. Both were prepared with an elegance of fine dining, while maintaining the down home GREATNESS of New Orleans' food.
Entrees were the shrimp and grits (which everyone and their mother, including Alain told us we HAD to order) and the prosciutto wrapped grouper, topped with fried basil. Again, everything was beautifully presented, but at the bottom of that bowl of grits, there was nothing but good, southern love. It was delicious.
Dessert rounded out the meal with the banana pudding cake, which honestly, rocked my world six ways from Sunday. Our servers were incredibly instrumental in helping us decide between the insanity of the dessert menu, and we eventually went with the banana cake because of the awesome description of one of them. (Plus, it had banana in it. Which is healthy.) :)
We left NOLA feeling full, happy, slightly spoiled, and blissed out. Though we had to make a stop at the room so I could change into slightly less constricting jeans before venturing out to happen upon a fantastic home-grown second line jamming in the quarter, that meal was such a highlight of our trip to NOLA. It was our first night, my first night in New Orleans, and absolutely a meal I would recommend to anyone venturing into the quarter for a night of debauchery.
After all, you will want to be well fed before you pound those Hurricanes, right?
*No, we did NOT ever have a Hurricane!