Last night, my family and I were on a quest for something exciting to eat. Something new. Something different. And of course, something delicious. Yet, every restaurant name that popped up in our heads made us think, “Nah! been there, done that”. Then, suddenly I had an “aha moment”. NOLA Oyster Bar in South Norwalk. I have been meaning to check it out for the longest time. And so, with a promise of fresh seafood and creole inspired menu, the choice was suddenly rather obvious!
Situated at the corner of Washington and Main, with a big neon sign hoisted outside, NOLA is not hard to find. The interior is huge. They have taken the entire space previously occupied by Wasabi Chi. I loved the table we were seated at, right by a huge wall of clear glass overlooking the street. It was almost like enjoying al fresco dining without having to deal with bugs or street noise.
Though a small menu, it looked like a lot of thought went into bringing together a little taste of the south, with a dash of creole while celebrating the wondrous bounty of the Connecticut coastline. The raw bar menu options are supplied by local business named Bloom Brothers in Norwalk (we love buying raw oysters from them for our parties at home – so fresh and delicious).
Pulled pork sliders are a must try on this menu. So full of flavor and delectably moist.
The butter poached lobster and cornbread waffle was delicately balanced in flavors. The lobster was juicy, the waffle added a gentle crunch and texture. The sauce on the top was mysteriously sweet. Executive chef Daniel Kardos told me that it comes from reducing this sherry based sauce. I really appreciated the beautiful balance of savory and sweet on this plate and I felt it complemented the lobster in a really fun and unique way.
The spicy seafood gumbo is an absolute MUST TRY on this menu. It tastes like the soup had been simmering for days. With a phenomenal depth of flavor its was the show stopper at our table.
The cornmeal fried catfish and seafood jambalaya was another really flavorful dish. Seafood was delicate and moist. The rice had just the right amount of broth in it. The catfish was so crunchy on the outside and really delicate inside. Although I felt the catfish lacked a bit of seasoning – in comparison to the beautiful flavors of the jambalaya.
To our surprise, we saw blackened shrimp and pork fried rice on the menu. It almost seemed like it did not belong on this menu. Curiosity made us order this dish. And we loved it. It was a perfect execution of an asian staple. The pork and blackened shrimp added such depth of flavor to the rice. Chef Kardos told me that this dish is on the menu simply because its his favorite thing to make at home for family meals. Love that he was bold enough to add it to the menu for everyone to enjoy.
The pricing on this menu confused me a bit. The pork fried rice was a small plate at $15 while the jambalaya was an entree at $23. Yet they were both quite similar in serving quantity. And for the pork sliders, on small plates menu, our server told us that it comes with three sliders – but it actually showed up with only two. Maybe this confusion made me feel that at $10 a plate for this dish was a tad bit expensive.
I love that chef Kardos is breaking the rules, and not worrying about maintaining a strict theme to the menu. He clearly has ever lasting influences from various cultures and cuisines, and he is taking this opportunity to celebrate them all. Which make this menu and food a true representation of what chef Daniel Kardos is all about. Different. Refreshing. And it almost feels like this is exactly what he would serve you, if you were ever invited to his home for dinner.
So … note to self: if I ever find myself at Chef Kardos’s home for dinner – I must try to steal his gumbo recipe. Psst….. don’t say a word.
NOLA Oyster Bar, Norwalk CT | http://www.nolact.com/